Treatment Update - Taxol

I have now had 4 treatments of the drug Taxol.  These treatments are weekly and I will have a total of 12.treatments.  So, I am 1/3 of the way through my Taxol treatments and 1/2 way through all of my chemo treatments overall.

Taxol is reported to have less of an effect on the digestive system, and less of an effect on the immune system.  This is a good thing because it also means I don't use the Neulasta with these treatments - and that caused by far the most significant side effects for me.

As the A/C drugs have had time to be processed out of my body, and the Taxol has a more cumulative effect - it means at the moment, I feel remarkably normal (minus the lack of hair!).  My energy isn't quite where it was before chemo, and heat and sun still have an enhanced effect, but I have the energy to spend time with the boys, the pets, and in the garden - all things I absolutely love.  And, not to mention time to spend writing - even if it is at odd hours of the night/early morning!

One of the most common side effects of Taxol is neuropathy - tingling and numbness - in the fingers and toes, as well as drying effects on the nails.  So far, I have been able to avoid these effects.  I am hopeful that will continue.  Some have told me that they felt these efffects right away, others didn't feel them until close to the end of treatments, and some never got these side effects.  I am hopeful that the Prayers, positive attitude, nutritional supplements and vitamins, and essential oils I use specific to neural protection will keep these side effects to a minimum.

My attitude has stayed positive, this journey continues on and I am making the best of it.  I am embracing using head scarves (mostly) and occasionally hats as accessories, and slowly even becoming more comfortable just simply being bald.  (My boys like that so they can rub my head!).

I am so incredibly thankful for all the prayers that people are sending my way.  I truly believe that these prayers have made an incredible difference in my strength, my energy, and my attitude.  Prayer is a very powerful thing.  I have said that from the very first signs that this may be cancer, I have felt a strong sense of peace thet God's got this, and it will all be OK.  This is one step in my journey, and while it may be a long road, this too will someday be behind me.  So, if you are one of the many prayer warriors for me out there - keep up the prayers, I am doing great, but I still have a long journey ahead.    But with a positive, humorous attitude, my Faith, the power of Prayer, and my Family and Friends, I will persevere on.

Silver Linings

Silver linings exist in all situations that we go through.  I'll admit, I would prefer to not be going through this battle against cancer, however, if I am going to go through it, I might as well find some positive aspects, Right?

I somewhat joked with family and friends when I was first diagnosed that I was OK with getting a "boob job" (paid for by insurance) and a new hairstyle in the form of a wig through this process.  I wasn't totally joking, those are some things I immediately saw as advantages to this whole journey.

In all honesty, I have found some pretty awesome silver linings.

1. From even before I got an official diagnosis, I received a level of support from my co-workers that was incredible, and endearing.  From management down, they have been supportive of me.  They have come to me with cards, hugs, jokes, smiles, offers to shave their heads in solidarity (ok, only 1 person mentioned this), anything that they felt would lift my spirits.  In my former career, I watched a co-worker go through this battle.  She received support, no doubt, but I don't think it compared to this. 

2.  The courage to try new things - like a short hair cut!  I have had my hair a minimum of shoulder length for nearly 30 years.  Ever since my mom cut it to chin length when I was 8 and I thought my life was over.  I had never considered cutting it truly short.  But with chemo approaching, knowing I would be losing my hair anyway, I cut it short.  AND LOVED IT!  This is not an "oh it will work for now" feeling. I truly love the short hair.  Will I ever grow it back out again?  Probably.  Will I wear it short again, (by choice)?  ABSOLUTELY!

3.  Along with the new hairstyle comes the courage to try new head accessories.  Since the diagnosis, I have found some adorable hats and beautiful scarves.  I am not typically a hat wearer, so I don't even look at them in the stores typically.  Yes, I have the typical baseball hats, but I also have several other cute styles.  I already have a few gorgeous head scarves and will likely buy more.  And finally, thanks to the wonderful organization "Strands of Strength" and Studio 409 in West Des Moines, I have a wig that I am truly excited to wear.  It is in my favorite hair color (Dark Red) and has long thick loose curls - a style that my hair has never been able to do naturally (it holds no curl at all)!

4.  I saw the true value of Facebook.  Yes, Facebook - the sometimes thought of "evil" social media site that people love to hate.  The same social media site that my former employer used to exaggerate a post I wrote that was hacked and made public without my knowledge to then fire me.  The same social media site that I received death threats against myself and my precious kiddos on after my former employer chose to release my confidential personnel records to the press after firing me.  Yep, that Facebook.  I wrote a heartfelt post to inform distant family members and friends who didn't already know about my diagnosis.  I received a huge outpouring of support.  People who were friends of friends contacted me to wish me well, and added me to their prayer lists. Some of these people were survivors themselves and gave heartfelt advice.   As people read my post about being diagnosed with breast cancer, they poured out their love and support.  Yes, Facebook may have its issues, but this journey has shown me the positive power of Facebook as well.

Back to the prayer for a second,  If you haven't figured out by any of my other posts on this website, I am a HUGE believer in prayer.   This was one of my reasons for being so open about the diagnosis so early on.  While not everyone who knows me on Facebook is a believer in prayer, many are.  I truly believe that you cannot have too many people praying for you!  I credit this prayer with the sense of peace that has enveloped me through this whole process.

5.  There are some advantages to hair loss from chemo (besides #2 & 3 above).  No waxing, no shaving my legs for about 5 months - through the summer!  Ok, men, you may not see the point of this - but women out there, you know that is a dream come true - especially over the summer!

6.  My chemo treatments give me a scheduled roughly 2 hours every 2 weeks (or eventually every week) where I am sitting in a chair.  I call this - guaranteed time to write!  Whether it will be working on this blog, some other blogs I have planned, or the book I am currently working on - I plan on using this time to write.  Of course, I have already accepted that I am pretty sure my family is going to make sure that I never attend a chemo treatment alone (even though I can drive myself to and from them).  But, they may be just watching me write some of those times.  :)

7.  Yet another life experience to write about - hence this blog.  Enough said.

8.  A renewed interest in getting back into research in human genetics.  Many know that I have struggled to find a new career after a former employer destroyed my reputation with lies in the press.  Learning about possible genetic reasons I have been afflicted with this disease at such a young age, makes me want to go back into studying human genetics.   It doesn't have to be breast cancer genetics, just genetics in general.  My peace with walking away from my former career and starting something new has increased tremendously during this process.  After nearly two years of significant emotional turmoil, this renewed sense of peace is definitely welcomed.

9.  This may be the last on the list, but it is certainly not the least.  A chance to live out my faith in God.  I have already had people comment on my positive attitude and faith during this process.  Doctors have been baffled by my sense of calm and peace, as well as my humor so soon in my diagnosis.  I have no other way to explain it other than my very strong belief that God is with me through all of this, He has a plan, and He has this under control.  It WILL be alright, because God's Got This.  For non-believers, this may seem cliche, and truthfully, I can't explain exactly why I have the sense of peace and Faith that I do, it is just there.   And boy, I wouldn't want to face this journey without it.

Finding these little silver linings has turned what could (and rightfully should) be the most terrifying time of my life into an adventure that has brought me smiles, laughs, and shown me a strength within myself I didn't even know was there.  

I hope that these are only the first silver linings in this journey, and I believe there will be many more to come.  In addition, I hope this ability to find silver linings in the midst of tough and scary circumstances will continue throughout the rest of my life, long after this journey is just a blip in the rear-view mirror of life.

Breast Cancer Prayer

This prayer was given to me by a member of my church congregation.  It is beautiful, and inspiring.

MY PRAYER DURING BREAST CANCER

By Judy C. Kneece, RN, OCN

 

Lord, I have just received the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Still my anxious heart as I seek to understand why.

Teach me to transform this suffering into growth,

My great fear of tomorrow into faith in your presence,

My tears into understanding,

My discouragement into courage,

My anger into forgiveness,

My bitterness into acceptance,

My experience with cancer into my testimony,

My crisis into a platform on which I can learn to help others.

God grant that one day I can embrace this time as my friend,

and not as my enemy.