My side effects

I’m almost done with my second cycle of chemo pills and today was day 12 of 20 (maybe 25) radiation treatments. So far, I have been incredibly tired but doing well. I knew to anticipate side effects and they have finally begun. 🙂

I woke up early Saturday to some intense heartburn and a sore throat. I knew from the last round of radiation that it was only a matter of time before it started again so I had started with one of my prior heartburn medicines but switched to taking both now. I also use the liquid Carafe every day in the hopes of it helping as well. If it gets bad, I have the “Magic Mouthwash” to numb my throat so I can eat (yeah…it hurts that bad). I know it’s a result of the radiation so at least there is an end of it in sight!

This morning I woke up and felt a horrible pain in the soles of my feet. I would equate it to walking on needles – it hurt! Thankfully, I lotioned up my feet, added socks and slippers to help. Walking barefoot was definitely not an option! The slippers and cushions of my shoes helped massively today so it made walking much easier. One of the biggest side effects of the Xeloda (chemo pill) is hand and foot syndrome, so it sounds like I have the foot part. No sores, just redness. A quick text to my oncologist’s nurse and she confirmed that it would get better on my week off – which starts Friday! I see my oncologist next week so I see if he has any tips or tricks.

My skin is turning into a sunburn, though it is happening later than expected! Today my armpit started peeling as well so I am moving past the lotioning only and using the lotion, silvadene cream and xeroform pads to keep my skin hydrated and bandaged up. I can’t apply anything before radiation so the early morning appointment works well. The peeling doesn’t feel awesome but I know it is a necessary part of the process. I am curious, for anyone who has gone through radiation treatment before, what was your process? I’m wondering if there is a better way to bandage myself up or something different that I should be using. 🙂

My headaches are starting to get better! I’ve been fighting some pretty intense headaches for the last week (since the Gamma Knife) but today they have lessened significantly and for that, I am grateful.

I saw the radiation oncologist yesterday for my weekly appointment. Everything looks great!!! My skin looks better than expected two weeks in (the nurse even commented about how beautiful my skin is). The cancer on my skin is almost entirely gone and my lymph nodes are “melting away”!

So despite my side effects, I can’t help but SMILE! Everything that I am doing right now appears to be working against this horrible disease. I will continue to fight for NED!!! And from the sounds of it, I have to smile at the possibility!!!

I’m still here! 

Here I am! Life is keeping me busy as always. We spent this weekend checking out different beach houses and dreaming of waking up to the sound of the ocean. At one point, we drove up to the beach and Jacob’s excitement was adorable! “Beach! Beach! I go beach! Water at beach!” Needless to say, Jacob is a bit of a beach bum – and I would not have it any other way! 😎💚🌊

Visiting the beach, my happy place, made me start thinking about where life takes us. I grew up visiting the beach in Connecticut & Rhode Island since my Dad’s family lived there. When I moved to Florida, I visited the beach often. I took a few years off from it (crazy to think, right?!) but the beach was calling my name all along. I learned that although I enjoy the summers at the beach on occasion, my true joy is winter here. There is nothing quite like walking the beach with a long sleeve shirt and searching for sand dollars. I could spend the day living life just like that. 

So why did I wait to explore this option? Well, I think I’ve realized now that it’s time to make all options a reality. Because…well, why not? Now is as good a time as any. I know that my timing is not actually mine but His. And that although I may not realize it always, His timing is perfect.

So today I ask you, what are you waiting for? What dreams do you have that need (yes, need!) to be a reality? What are you holding onto that is a life goal and yet you can accomplish it now? 

For me, it’s the beach. It’s waking up and feeling the salt air on my face. It’s leaving work and walking the shore. It’s sunsets and sunrises that never get old. It’s seashells and sand dollars everywhere. It’s relaxation. It’s my happy place.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

It’s Friday! 

Yesterday was a tough day. I was tired, fighting a headache all day and radiation was moved around because of the machine being down. Jacob had an allergic reaction to cereal and we had to take him to the doctor. Thankfully, he is completely fine! It was a tiring day but I am so grateful everything worked out ok.

A year ago yesterday I had my port put in. A year ago tomorrow I started my very first chemo session. Fear of the unknown has been a regular for me now and although uncomfortable, I am growing accustomed to it. I took 3 days off from xeloda for the Gamma Knife and started back again this morning. It’s interesting how you grow anxious about taking the pills. They are strong and working hard on my body to fight this disease and yet I worry when I take days off. I am glad to begin again today.

I decided to take the medicine prescribed to me to help me sleep last night. Although tired today, I slept most of the night uninterrupted and I am so grateful for that. I needed sleep! 

I am still fighting the headaches from Gamma Knife today but overall, I am a bit swollen and that’s all. I feel better than I expected and I’m glad for that. My skin is turning a nice shade of red from the chest radiation so I know the skin reactions will come but I am lotioning up in the meantime! In all of the chaos this week, I forgot to mention that when I met with my chest radiation oncologist Tuesday, she remarked about how great everything looks! Though she is mostly crediting the xeloda, my chest and lymph nodes are significantly smaller and looking great. Such wonderful news to hear!! I am currently slated for 20 days radiation but depending on my reaction, she may keep me an additional 5 days to hit my lymph nodes harder to keep the cancer away from there. We will play that by ear and see how it goes.

So today friends, is a good day. Each day may not go as we plan and things will continue to pop up and surprise us. What we can do is embrace the changes and remember that God has a plan…whether we know it or not. Be well, friends!

My GREAT day!

Of course I have pictures to share, if you’re interested in seeing the head contraption! 😉

Today has been great! Joe & I ventured to the hospital downtown and the process itself was amazing. I had 2 nurses assisting and one other patient, so the nurses were incredible. I filled out some paperwork and the nurse explained the process again and I headed back. Joe stayed out of the room until the last hour for discharge.

They accessed my port, which took a minute but thankfully they were able to because it’s easier and my veins are scarring a bit. The neurosurgeon came in, explained the procedure again and I was given versed, the twilight medicine. Thankfully, this was done through my port so it was pretty quick to act. I was sitting straight up and the nurses & neurosurgeon used lidocaine injections on the 4 different spots that they secured the headpiece to (2 in front, 2 in back). It felt like bee stings. Then they secured the headpiece in place. They screwed it into my head, versus my skull which I was curious about. There was a little pain from one of the sites but overall it was not bad! I am grateful for the versed and the lidocaine to numb me up beforehand. The process was super easy and not anywhere near as painful as I expected. The headpiece was made of lead so a bit heavy but nothing crazy.

Next, I was wheeled down for a CT scan and had a square piece secured to my head for them to measure against. I did a CT with and without contrast and the 100s (literally!) of scans were sent immediately to a physicist to confirm they were sufficient for my treatment plan. Confirmed within about 10 minutes, I was wheeled up near the Gamma Knife room where I waited for the neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist to put together my plan. During this time, the nurse used a roundish piece to measure my skull in the headpiece. The neurosurgeon popped in within about 30 minutes and confirmed everything looked GREAT! There is no cancer in my brain – I cried. This is SO exciting!

Next I was wheeled across the hall to the Gamma Knife room. The table is quite similar to a CT scan and I was fixed in place laying down with another piece of lead. My head was heavy but I was secured in place. I could eventually feel a little of the pressure from my head resting in place but nothing unbearable. The door to the machine opened and I slid inside until about my abdomen. The entire radiation was only 30 minutes (yay!) and was completely silent. I could only hear the machine moving every once in a while. Oh, and Pandora which they tuned to a Rascal Flatts station for me! I was strapped in lightly so I remembered not to move my arms and given lots of blankets to keep warm. The time went pretty quick, especially listening to music!

Once done, I sat up and the radiation oncologist came in to remove my headpiece. I could feel the pressure but it wasn’t bad at all. I was wheeled back to await discharge and Joe was invited in to see me.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about the nurses and doctors who stayed by my side all day. They made the process amazing and I am so grateful to have them in my corner!!!

I am tired now and my head hurts pretty good but I’m hoping the Tylenol will help with that. Today was a great day and I am so happy about my CT scan! Time to rest and thank God for the goodness in my life, friends. Stay well!

The Gamma Knife Rad

I slept almost 8 hours last night! Yes, interupted but I feel better already. 😊

Thinking about the fact that one month ago today, I was headed to brain surgery is crazy to me. Fear of the unknown, my recent cancer re-diagnosis and the possibility of defects was overwhelming. My trust and faith did not waiver despite all that seemed lined against me. Your continued prayers have been priceless in getting me through these times.

Tomorrow, I venture into the unknown world of the Gamma Knife Radiation. It is targeted radiation therapy to the section of my brain that had surgery versus whole brain radiation. Joe & I will arrive for check-in at 530 am for a 6am setup. I’ll receive IV fluids (though I will likely use my port because I learned last Friday at genetics testing that my veins are starting to scar over) and twilight medicine (versad) to help relax me. I’ll have a CT done (normally an MRI but I have tissue expanders and cannot have that done) to confirm the area that they are treating. The neurosurgeon that did my brain surgery and the radiation oncologist that I met earlier this month (not the same as my chest radiation oncologist, though partners) will partner on my plan. Once my plan is confirmed and in place, they will let me know the length of the procedure. Typically, it is about 45 minutes but can take up to 4 hours depending on what they find and treat. I am anxious for the CT scan to confirm there is NO active cancer in my brain!

I’ll have a “head piece” secured to my head with 4 different screws, 2 in my forehead and 2 in the back of my head. They will use lidocaine to numb the 4 areas and I understand each will hurt like a bad bee sting. The head piece itself is not going to feel awesome going in but I know it’s worth the process. I suppose my Halloween costume of Frankenstein has been picked out? 😉

Once I’m secured and my plan is in place, they will treat me. I understand that I will be sitting up because of the area but I imagine that depends on the treatment area. After treatment, I’ll be moved to the discharge area, where Joe will finally be able to see me (he has to hang tight up until then!). I’ll be given some food and water at that point (should be interesting on a raw diet!).

The process should take most of the day and I imagine that I’ll be ready to sleep afterwards. The side effects are mostly headache for a few days, possible nausea and the loss of hair around the treatment area. The benefits of the radiation will last significantly.

So tomorrow is a big day! I’ll take the day off from my chest radiation tomorrow to rest and be back to it Thursday. Never a dull moment for this chick! 😉 Have a happy Tuesday, everyone! 💚

Some days are hard

I started this blog with the intent of being honest and truthful – and that is what today’s post is about. I’m tired today. Bone tired. Head tired. Body tired. Mind tired. I am just all around tired. I started my second dose of chemo pills last Friday and felt fine with the radiation combination. Saturday I was a little tired but nothing crazy. Sunday I was exhausted despite a nap with little man in the afternoon. I fell asleep quickly last night but woke up at 1245am and couldn’t sleep. I think it’s time to adjust my melatonin dose, as I have been taking the lowest dose so far. It’s not so much cancer that keeps me up as the inability to shut off my head. Apparently I want to solve all of life’s – and the world’s – problems in the middle of the night. 🙂 With an 8am radiation appointment that’s 45 minutes away, you can imagine just how tired I am.

I know my body needs sleep. I know it needs to heal and I know it has a lot happening right now. I was expecting more of a gradual push towards the fatigue than a full on attack of it. But that’s ok. Know why? I have an incredible support system that ensures I rest. My sweet husband is on his way home now with little man to cook dinner while I rest and head to bed early. Tomorrow my in-laws will watch little man after daycare so that Joe & I can travel to my Gamma Knife radiation appointment bright and early Wednesday morning (leaving at 430am!). How incredibly blessed that I am is not lost on me. And who knows, maybe the twilight medicine they give me Wednesday will knock me out for most of the procedure?! One can hope, right?

Anyway, that’s all for now. A short post with a small update about how tired I am…and I’m off to rest. 🙂

I’m just me.

I updated the “Me” section of this page today. Reading what I wrote mid-February was hard and yet rewriting it today felt right somehow.

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around since August 15th of last year. I started it in the hopes of sharing my story, my journey, with breast cancer. It was a chance for me to express myself – my highs and my lows. It was an opportunity to be me and share my updates & experiences with the world. I had been procrastinating on starting a blog for years and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. So I started.

The last year has been one of the hardest, most challenging and yet most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I have grown as a person, a friend, a mother, a wife and so much more. I have cried more than I thought possible, felt worse than ever and sat up worrying about the future. And yet, those tears have been filled with more love than I have ever felt, I’ve made my body stronger than it once was and I no longer live in fear of the future (well, I try!).

This last year has taught me more than I learned in my 30+ years of life. I have laughed harder, smiled bigger and hugged longer than I ever thought possible. The love that I feel wrap itself around me on a regular basis is nothing short of amazing. It is nothing short of a miracle. This experience, this blog, this journey…no, I did not ask for any of it. But it is here. And it is mine. And I will embrace it for what it is and make the very best of every moment that I am granted.

I often hear people ask me about being brave or inspirational. My reply is simple…I’m just me. I am the me that I thought I once was and yet am somehow completely different. I am the me that I feel I am in my heart. I am the me that is true to myself. I am the me that I once dreamed of being. I am the me that will continue to be brave and strong and inspirational. But I am just that – me.

I hope you all continue to follow me and my journey. I hope that you find my posts to be inspiring or insightful. I hope that you all continue to inspire me, the way that you have continuously throughout this last year. We don’t know what the future will bring us but what we do know is that we can love hard now and always. Keep spreading that love, friends. It is what keeps me – and the world – going.

My products

Products

I’ve been slowly transitioning to all-natural and organic products this year but made it a top priority after my recent diagnosis. Looking at labels has become quite horrifying so I have been focusing on researching different products and reviews. I’ve received lots of questions about the different products that I’ve adapted to so I thought I’d share a list below. Most I have bought on Amazon (thanks to my sis for having Prime!) but some I’ve found at Target or the actual website for the product. I like to compare prices with shipping but honestly, Amazon’s 2 day shipping typically wins out. Yes, I had massive sticker shock initially! Some of these products cost a small fortune but when I compare the ingredients, it is completely worth the cost – especially when I learn about how well they all work and the research behind using those products versus others.

Feel free to reach out with any questions and I am happy to help!

    • Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant – I have a tendency to sweat a lot so I’ve used my fair share of prescription and deodorant/antiperspirant combinations in the past. I’ve been using this particular deodorant since before my initial radiation and I love it. It received excellent reviews and I am happy with the scent! There is research to suggest that antiperspirants cause breast cancer and although I don’t know the validity of it, it is something that I prefer not to risk. Living in Florida, I usually only apply once a day but if it’s a full day of heat then I may use it twice. I carry it in my purse and keep it at home. I love this stuff!
    • Lindi Skin Soothing Balm – I use this to ward off hand and foot syndrome with chemo pills. I’ve only started using it this week but I’m in love with the softness of it. It seeps into my skin and makes my hands and feet feel wonderful. It doesn’t stay on top of my skin like many of the creams that I have used.
    • PEDS Women’s Socks and Sakya No Show Premium Cotton Socks – I use these with the lotion above. I read that lotion and socks may keep in the moisture and help keep feet hydrated throughout the day. So I have recently adapted to lotioning up and wearing these socks all day long under my shoes. I also lotion up and wear regular socks at night to keep my feet hydrated. I just started my second dose of chemo but I am hopeful that this combination will work. I also wish I found these socks a long time ago because I am completely obsessed with them!
    • My Girls Skin Care Cream Radiation Burn Care – I started using this cream on my radiation areas this week. It is much lighter than the Eucerin and calendula cream that I was using previously. I mix Calendula oil in with this cream and it seems to hydrate my skin quite well. I’m hopeful that it will continue to work!
  • Herb Pharm Certified Organic Calendula Oil – I’ve been using this Calendula oil since I started radiation and I love it. I originally mixed it with Miaderm, then Eucerin and now My Girls. Although My Girls has Calendula oil in it, I like to mix it in since it is supposed to work wonders.

 

  • California Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash – I have been using this body wash and shampoo on Jacob for a while now. After brain surgery, I was advised to use baby shampoo for a while and switched to this. I love it! It feels great on my head and lathers nicely. I will definitely keep using it.
  • Lush Retread Conditioner – I have been using this conditioner since May I am in love with it. It works amazing and smells wonderful. I wish I had found Lush sooner!
  • Lush Dream Cream – I have been using this lotion on my skin since May also and it smells like key lime pie. I love it!
  • Simply Organic Wax Pomade Hard Wax – The airport threw away the hair gel that Jacob & I have been sharing recently so I was forced to do some research on a new product. This is a little thicker than I normally use so a little goes a long way. My hair is less hard and has a lot more curls now – which I love!
  • Castile Bar Soap – Gentle Unscented with Organic Cocoa Butter and Organic Olive Oil – I started using this soap a few weeks ago when I ran out of Dove. I did some research and it received excellent reviews. I love the way that it makes my skin feel and it lathers nicely. I will definitely be using it going forward!
  • Antibacterial soap – I purchased all-natural soap yesterday and it will be arriving tomorrow. I am anxious to give it a try but it received great reviews so I will keep you all posted!

That’s all for now. Are there any other products that you all can recommend?!