Kim B. on April 30, 2013
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage 1c ductal carcinoma in situ her2 positive
At time of diagnosis... Childcare Home
Type and Description of Treatments:
Lumpectomy followed by infusion of Adriamycin and Cytoxin every two weeks for a total of four treatments. Then I had 12 weekly infusions of Taxol and 27 toal infusions of Herceptin and 33 rounds of radiation. Total treatment time was 15 months after which I had a total hysterectomy.
How do you feel today?
It has been ten months since my last herceptin infusion. I thought I would bounce back in a short amount of time, but that wasn't the case. It has been a slow process getting my strength back. I am feeling much stronger now, but at first I tired very easily. After I gave myself permission to let my body tell me what I needed, and not beat myself up about the exhaustion, I felt better. Over the last few months those days of feeling really tired have gotten fewer and farther in between. I let myself rest when I do feel tired, but am happy to know that it won't last too long. I have a little bit of neuropathy left in my fingers & toes, but am confident that will subside with time.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?
So much...my career, my financial situation, but a good change is my attitude. I was always a positive person, but had a tendency to worry about a lot. I don't waste energy on worry now. It's a waste of time and time goes too fast to spend it concerned about things that I have no control over.
What is going well for you right now?
How I feel. It has been a rough two years, but now I feel healthier and more energetic and it feels awesome.
What is not going well for you right now?
Finances and career. I had a chilcare home at the time of my diagnosis and because of the chemicals/ chemo I was unable to continue caring for infants and children. The effects on children from the chemicals that would be seeping from my skin is unknown, therefore I had to quit my job. No job and expensive chemo treatments don't make for a good financial situation.
What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?
Paying the bills and having no energy.
When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?
When I was at my lowest I utilized the free counseling services offered at the cancer center where I had my treatments. I only went for a handful of counseling sessions, but I did feel better afterwards.
How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?
They really haven't. My life goals have always stayed pretty much the same since I was young. To raise happy, healthy, successful kids. Done. To not be a negative person when dealing with other people, because even if they are not nice or rude to me, I don't know what is going on in their life to make them that way in that moment. I would like to travel more though. I also want to do a cancer walk/run.
What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?
I am a part time assistant manager in a retail clothing store.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?
I had to close my daycare. I was unemployed for 18 months. I tried to reopen my daycare, but was unable to get enough children. I only work part time now and am looking for either another part time job or a full time job.
What has helped you continue to work the most?
Needing the money for bills.
What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?
Don't fight feeling awful. Give yourself a break and know that it will eventually pass. Take the meds, they do help some. Let others take care of the house and especially the cooking. Cooking will make you feel more nauseas, making it harder to eat. Rest, rest, rest.
This advice is not about working, but about your mammograms. I had a mammogram 5 weeks before I found my cancer. The mammogram had been clear. Trust your mammograms, but if you notice ANY change in your breast get it checked. I noticed a bloody spot on my bra and didn't think too much about it until it didn't go away. I had it checked out a few weeks later and that started the whirlwind of ultrasound, biopsy, surgeries and treatments. It was an aggressive cancer and in the few weeks between diagnosis and lumpectomy a second tumor had already started to grow. If I had not been aware of my own body and not had it checked, since I just had a mammogram, it would have spread quickly and I would have had a much harder battle.
How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?
I just kept telling myself that it wouldn't last, that I was stronger than cancer and the treatments. Epsom salts and pain meds for the body aches. Be careful with pain meds. I was on them for 18 months and had to ween off of them very slowly and still had some withdrawal symptoms, which is not fun at all, but can be conquered. Benedryl for the constant runny nose. Rest for the exhaustion. A gel called Trumeel for the neuropathy. It is available online. l don't have any advice for the nausea. I did not eat very much for about 9 months and went from 145 to 118 pounds. My appetite did return and I have gained the weight back now. The best way I have dealt with all of this is with my faith in God. If I had not found the cancer early I probably would not have much longer to live now.
If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?
You will come through this a changed person, knowing how strong you are and that nothing can defeat you and your spirit. Your faith will bring you through.