My Breast Cancer Journey, Part 2- How I Prepared for Chemotherapy

blog imageEditor's Note: It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’ve teamed up with patient advocate Nicole Schweppe and local businesses to raffle off care bags stuffed full of essentials to bring comfort and entertainment to patients currently going through chemotherapy. Read to the end of this post to find out how to participate!

I like to prepare for the worst but hope for best. When I started chemotherapy for my breast cancer, I knew what it meant for my hair and body.  I was aware of the side effects and what each cycle could bring.  To physically get my body ready for chemo I did a few things that might sound trite or shallow, but I knew they would help me feel somewhat normal.  

  • Being young and in the middle of building a family, I had to preserve my eggs because  the chemo I was administered suppresses the ovaries and essentially makes your body think you are going through menopause. There is a chance that my reproductive system might not return to normal. While I hope we won’t have to utilize the preserved eggs, we have a backup plan just in case. That thought alone is what gets me through every day.  If this is something you are facing, I highly recommend you look into the Livestrong Foundation.  They have amazing fertility preservation options for both men and women and saved us tens of thousands of dollars.  The Livestrong team was nice, helpful, and understanding. 
  • I did get a few wigs and a scarf in case I wanted to feel a little bit more like myself. I considered using cold caps (a tightly fitting, helmet-like hat filled with gel coolant that may help some women keep some of quite a bit of their hair during chemo) to try and keep my hair but eventually I decided they weren’t for me and I was just going to own the situation and rock a bald head.
  • I cut my very long hair short so that when it started falling out the process was not as dramatic and the transition to going bald was easier.  Once my hair started to fall out, I had my husband shave it.
  • I also got my eyebrows micro-bladed, a form of semi-permanent tattooing, before I started chemo. I was told I could not do this after chemo so  I had to do it two weeks before chemo started.  I’m so glad I did this. While I still have to draw in my eyebrows every morning, the micro-blading gives me a perfect idea of where my eyebrows used to be, so they look as natural as possible.

Another thing that’s been helpful to me is packing a bag full of everything I might need while getting my infusion. Here’s what I pack in my bag every week to stay comfortable and entertained:

  • My Essentials: a phone charger, headphones, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and lotion 
  • Entertainment:  cards, magazines, and anything else I might want to do 
  • Comfort: I’m always cold, especially without hair, so I always pack socks and a hoodie. I go to a treatment center that has warm blankets, so I don't have to bring one.
  • Extras: One of the scariest side effects of my particular chemotherapy is neuropathy, which is weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, and is one symptom that may be permanent. I am very careful to do everything I can to combat it.  I bought ice packs to wrap around my wrist and ankles, which helps to restrict blood flow to the extremities so the chemo radiation reaches those parts of the body in smaller amounts. Talk to your doctor if this is something you want to consider.
  • Emotional Support: Find someone you can trust that will be there for you and be honest with them. Complain to them but also go to them with  good news as well. My husband has been so supportive and amazing through this all. I have been able to lean on him and he has kept me going. I tell him when I am having bad days and good days. 

Being emotionally and physically prepared has made this journey much more manageable. You can’t control your diagnosis, but you can control how you handle it!

If you or someone you know is currently going through chemotherapy, I’ve teamed up with Ambry and some local sponsors for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raffle off 25 totes full of chemo essentials like the ones I mentioned above! Follow these steps to enter:

  1. Follow @ambrygenetics on Instagram
  2. Follow me @nicole_schweppe on Instagram
  3. Like the contest photo below on my Instagram page, and leave a comment telling us what kind of support has been most helpful to you during your diagnosis/treatment.

 

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The contest ends October 20th at 5pm, PST. This is for U.S. residents only, apologies to our international friends. The 25 winners will be announced on Ambry’s Instagram page on Tuesday, Oct. 24th at 10am PST. Thanks for joining!

 

 



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