One year OUT.

One year ago TODAY, September 1, 2015, I called my doctor to book an appointment to check out this lump I found in my breast. 

It has been both the shortest and longest year of my life. I feel like I have been waiting for September to hit so I can officially call it ONE YEAR OUT!

Life for me now is just getting back to my new normal. I've noticed some days stress and anxiety hit me really hard over little stuff or not at all in comparison to how I had reacted before. I feel pretty normal, just trying to work off my chemo carbs and get endorphins rolling. I've come to the realization that my boobs will never be normal, but I am now so comfortable with them, I can't remember my old ones. They are now a part of me. My battle wounds. 

This week has felt a little bittersweet...as I think I have been counting down the days to say it has been ONE year. And September marks the spot of my finding and diagnosis. So lots of emotions have been flying this week. All those crazy panic emotions of when something like that shocks your whole core and your just trying to figure out something. 

Even more so since I've been in touch with a few recent amazing women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer over the past month. I feel so honored and happy that my story and my experience can help prepare them on their journey ahead. My first comment has been....

Well welcome to the pink sister club...it isn't a very popular club but the membership seems to be rising exponentially. But once you are in it, you have a greater appreciation and outlook for life than you could ever dream of! And you instantly become bonded with some immediate friends and support by those who are in it. 

I am also participating in the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler this Saturday. The race benefits Breast Cancer Care at U.Va Hospital. I'm so happy to walk this with my whole RPS team (minus our one boy, who will be cheering us on the sidelines) and extremely happy to raise money and be a part of something that could help others catch their breast cancer early. This will be my second "race" benefiting breast cancer over the past year. The last one was kind of emotional as I still looked like I had chemo left over hair and kind of the first time I've been put in that public "survivor" label. This one will be equally emotional as I celebrate one year of my diagnosis. I hope that feeling will eventually fade, but I have a feeling it won't really. Nor do I think I want it to fade...seems to make me feel more alive. You can donate to our race if you can or just cheer us on or just raise awareness to this cancer and all cancers that seem to becoming an epidemic. 

And for those who are currently battling Breast Cancer, I hope and pray you have your One Year soon so you too can rejoice in...

NEW HAIR, NEW BOOBS, NEW LIFE!

xoxo
Dani and all her amazing pink sisters

All clear for take off

I got the official go ahead from my plastic doctor this week. I can wear and do what I want! (well with small limitations). So I went out and used a very generous gift certificate from two good guy friends at the local lingerie store Derriere de Soie. And treated myself with some new pretty "lady holders." I finally feel like a lady! The new owner and sales ladies there made me feel extra special too! 

Here is to new adventures with the new tatas!

xoxo
Dani and her lovely wrapped ladies

PS: Over the next week I have check up appointments with my Oncologist and my Breast Surgeon and hopefully long spans of time for the next check up! Wish me luck! 

test drive

First time the new girls were seen in a bikini. Not bad. Not bad.

Had a quick get away trip to the Outer Banks, NC and granted it was still pretty chilly out, I was determined to get some sun action...and test the new girls out. They are still "ridin' proud" (as my plastic called it). But they are gradually dropping and becoming less swollen and getting to their final "look." I've had to wear an elastic strap across the top of them that wraps around back under my arm pits. It helps push 'em down. Luckily, I only have to wear that for a few more weeks because it is getting hard to find freakin' shirts that cover it.

Other breaking news...I'm officially out of menopause! (I'll let your mind get what that meant - sorry dudes).

See ya later hot flashes (which I'm dreading going through that again...but yeah, probably not forever so yeah, see ya....in 5-10 years if I decide to get my ovaries & tubes removed or 20+ years for it naturally to hit me). Now I also have to be preventative and screen my ovaries on the reg as well. I just had an initial screening. She also recommended for me to remove my ovaries and tubes at 35. I'm like....thats when my oncologist said I'm able to start having babies...can I have a shot at that before you start cutting more things out of me? She laughed and said of course. 

Even though I'm out of menopause it doesn't mean that we are sure my eggs have survived and are undamaged. Which is why we still got those eggs in the bank! Hollaaa at my eggs!!! 

More good news...people comment on my short hair CUT! I have officially gotten out of the "chemo head" phase and into real hair...to quote Pinocchio "I'm a real boy!" I chose that correctly, because yes, I have boy hair right now and I'm wrapping my boobs like Christina Ricci in Now and Then when she use duck tape to stop them from growing...

Honest Thought: Let me preface that I'm so very insanely happy with my new healthy smaller breasts. I have had the best doctors and the most amazing outcome. And I also am excited to expand my wardrobe and also buy smaller dresses and shirts. Good things come to smaller boobs. But as things are slowing down and coming to an end and I realize "Holy Sh*t, I just had cancer" I've had serious boob envy. Especially over my old ones. So I want you all to squeeze your ladies for me. (meaning your lady boobs or your lady friend's boobs) Because you do miss them when they are gone. And I realized I had some great ones. While your in there check yourself too for crazy lumps. 

Oh well, moving on...time to make new memories with the newer model. Complete with high jacks, full inspections, tire rotations and replacement engines for the rest of my life. 

Test Drove. and APPROVED.

xoxo
Dani and her proud ladies
 

Give and Go

So battling cancer I have realized is a lot of a control balancing act.

In one moment, you are the only person in your corner, being your own advocate, researching like a bandit, trying to look up and pronounce every freakin' term/method/drug that your doctor threw your way. Double checking what they said with some online blog/website of the latest and greatest. Making sure they are doing everything in their power and knowledge to protect you, make and keep you whole again. And with the fast moving technology of today, that they are up to date. 

Really - YOU are the only one who knows what your breast surgeon said, what your plastic surgeon said, what your oncologist said, what your dermatologist said, what your gynecologist said, what your fertility doctor said, what your friends say, what online says and more importantly what your heart, head and gut tell you. (Yeah I've met a lot of them) You still have to be in control and listen and make sure they all are flowing together for your best benefit. Because in the end all of the decisions are still yours. I chose to have a double mastectomy. I chose to have chemo. I chose to push out chemo a few extra weeks, so I could freeze my eggs. I chose my final breast size. And I also chose to keep my head up through it all.

All of these specialist doctors that I have visited over the past 8 months (wow can you believe this has been 8 months) all are amazing at what they do and there is a reason why they are specialists. They give you all their recommendations and options. But when it comes down to it, you have to decide...which is kind of the scary part.

So you do.

And that is also when you get to the other moment...when you just throw your hands in the air and let go and trust in your doctors, specialist, technology, god, universe, faith, whomever. If you don't have that, that is when anxiety hits. And let's be honest....ain't nobody got time for that...especially when your battling something like cancer. (Ativan can only take you so far...)

I feel like I always kept an open dialogue with all my doctors to the point I trusted them to help make the best decision for me. 

I kind of put this all together recently when I realized I was fully comfortable going into my final implant surgery. This was my last surgery to make me look normal.  My blood pressure was low and I was really calm. As my plastic surgeon marked me up, I remembered the first time I walked into his office and being so nervous, my blood pressure was high. The highest it was the entire time. Higher than the day my breast surgeon sat me down to go over my cancer. Higher than the day my oncologist told me she recommended chemo. Along with the cancer part, I was also highly nervous at what I was going to look like in the end...let's face it...I was 30 and single. And also the anxiety that I was having more anxiety over the appearance part of it. I should just be happy with what I get right, I have cancer. I shouldn't be worrying about the appearance of it. Stop being vain Dani. But my doc was the best, and listened and cared to the point I was so comfortable with him before the surgery, I completely trusted him. So I let go and just knew I would wake up with the best outcome for me at that exact moment. 

And then Andie Anderson from How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days popped in my head. That movie has always been a favorite and guilty pleasure. I mean first off, their names are Andie Anderson and Benjamin Barry...names just roll off your tongue so well. But anywho - aside from Love Ferns and symmetrical names. I was always drawn to the quote while she was learning to drive his motorcycle..."A little give, and a little go." Which obviously was referring to the clutch and break, but also their relationship and life.

And well, now I'm using it for my life. Not only for cancer but everything in life. You can't give it all up, and you can't press go all the time. You have to find that balance. And sometimes when you think you have control in your life and a plan in place, life throws curve balls at you and you have to go with it. Like how I had plans to save money to buy a house and rebrand my business over the past 8 months...but then I got cancer. So you just have to go with it. And find your own balance to battle life. Well not necessarily "battle" life but just live life. The middle ground of control and faith....

of give and go...

xoxo
Dani and her balanced girls  
(mentally + symmetrically)

Dope lines

I like that I now am not a chemo head and people comment on my rockin' do. I say well chemo gave me the shortness and I added the design flair.

Why not right?! As they say....when life hands you lemons...

Stay tuned to what comes next.  

xoxo
Dani and her dope girls

Miss New Boobies!

I HAVE MY BOOBIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And yes I couldn't be more excited! Surgery was Friday, April 15th at 7:30 am. To explain what this one is, they are taking out my Breast Expanders - the bags of saline that my Plastic Surgeon put in back In October during the Mastectomy and that he has been pumping up with saline. And replacing them with my Breast Implants. The ones I will keep for 10-15 years. (I will probably have to replace them 2 more times in my life, which is standard)

The expanders were dreadfully uncomfortable things that felt hard as rocks. Literally hard as rocks. People would hug me and be gentle and would be like, oh I'm sorry, did I hurt you. I'm like no, I'm not sore anymore, but did I HURT YOU is the question?!!! They were boxy, flat and aesthetically not pleasing. Which is a hard thing to live with for 6 months, especially as a woman of 30. 

All week I was nervous and excited. Flashbacks of my feelings during my first surgery would hit me. Like the fears of going under anesthesia and not knowing what you are going to look like when you wake up. Hoping everything goes well. Even just those initial nerves of the whole first month were floating back. But isn't that what happens a lot at the end, you think about the beginning?!

Wanting my breasts to try and get back to some kind of normal was important to me. Obviously I need to preface, that making sure we killed Cancer and it never comes back has been the FIRST priority. But as a 30 year old, non married woman with a lot of years left on this body and boobs, I still wanted them looking good. 

So the nerves also leading up to this surgery were a little bit different. 

Truth is I had extreme faith in my plastic surgeon. I knew I had the right man for the job. 

So I go into surgery, they initially say only like 1.5 hours, then a few hours of recovery and then I should go home since it was an outpatient procedure. Well apparently I underestimate how much a perfectionist my Plastic Surgeon is because he spent over 3 hours in the OR with me. I knew he would be doing some more "twerking" things out since my breasts were pretty uneven going in. My right was bigger than my left to begin with and since my tumor was in my left, more tissue and skin was taken off of my left. So he definitely twerked it out to some pretty even looking breasts. 

When my plastic surgeon talked to my parents while I was in recovery and myself when I was out of my groggy phase, you could tell he was extremely proud of the work he did. He just had a baby a few weeks before, so in my mind I imagine him walking around his colleagues, and showing pictures of his adorable baby girl and oh yeah check out these amazing breast cancer survivor breasts I just perfected. Well I like to think of it that way anyways. (Which I am fine with that if he did by the way)

My good guy friend is in Medical Device Sales and he actually sat in on the surgery and watched it all. And all he kept on saying to me after was "perfection." This is a good guy friend who I have to say now knows my breasts better than anyone else (other than my plastic surgeon of course). It also felt good to have him there as a little protector of said breasts. 

You can already tell how natural they look just under the surgical bra and shirt. And I have peeked and am amazed. Everything is still swollen, but no bruising, no drains, definitely more squeezable and definitely more natural. I CANNOT wait to show them off! 

Swelling will still take 1-2 months before they completely go down so I won't know for sure until then. I told him to go bigger, so they will probably be like a F and have Dolly Parton a run for her money!

JUST KIDDING!!!!!! 

We totally went down in size so I will probably be like a big C or a small D. They are perfect. Not too big, Not too small. Shape looks great! Nipples are perfect (I know you were worried). 

xoxo
Dani and new NEW BOOBIES!!! 

Oh yeah and definitely a final relief as this was the last big step! And now to get back to my "new normal"

Curing hot flashes in Puerto Rico

with Puerto Rican Rum and Cokes. 

In all honesty, the alcohol is more than likely the culprit for the hot flashes (along with the Caribbean weather and myself still in menopause). But yes this was at least an immediate cure for this particular hot flash. 

Usually through the week, I would just run into the ocean, since we just spent most of our time on the beach. 

It was a kind of last minute trip and I asked my Oncologist right before my last chemo if it was okay to travel to Puerto Rico 3 weeks after my last chemo transfusion. She said "Of course!! Have fun!" I think since my blood levels and overall reactions to chemo have been pretty well, she knew I would be okay, and like she said, now good therapy treatment for my mind. 

I sunscreen my bald head pretty good, even if I did burn it slightly...I mean it did need some sun, lets be honest. I also was pretty good about trying not to burn too much because I wasn't sure what all the Chemo chemicals would have made my skin more sensitive. And I felt that my energy levels were really good and my taste buds were getting back to normal. 

But I survived. I mostly just wore scarves, floppy hats and sported my bald head when we went out. Too hot for wigs and a lot of the time too hot for anything on my head. First time I really felt comfortable enough to just go without anything. I didn't know anyone and you are on an island....no one judges anything when your on an island....well to an extent. I did learn, especially in airports, I just kept my eyes low and didn't make eye contact with people because I learned I would more than likely meet someone's eyes that were staring at me. 

Also while in airports, I was nervous about setting off the alarms because I still had expanders in, they have magnets in them so I thought it would set something off. So I just carried my little Mentor Expander Implant Gold Membership Exclusive Club Card with me and walked through the x-ray machine without a hat or anything on my head. I figured if they did see something in the machines in precisely those two exact spots where my breasts would be, the bald chemo head would have cleared up their questions. Which it did, I was never stopped or questioned. 

Bathing suits were also tricky since my breasts were not the perfect specimens either. But I really didn't care. My bald head was a good excuse for them. The one really good thing about the beach and these messed up boobs... I created an easy "bed" for my boobs in the sand so I could lie on my stomach for the first time in 5 months! Presenting my Boob Bed! 

All and all it was an amazing trip. Amazing company. Beautiful Views. Relaxing Vibes. And was a great celebratory trip that revitalized my soul, confidence and cells that the chemo had killed off. 

 

xoxo
Dani and my tanlined girls and burnt head

I got 99 problems and chemo aint one.

IMG_7757.JPG

Well my final Chemo Day February 22, 2016. So of course I had to wear my rainbow bright wig. And the rule was that everyone had to wear wigs who joined in the fun that day...my mom, my friend Kelly and even my friend Sean who stopped by while he was at work at the hospital. It was a good day, they gave me a yellow smiley face balloon...you know one of those balloons, you only give to 5 year olds. I got one, and was damn proud of it. It floated in my room for weeks.

Throughout the whole process I try to pass as normal as much as you can and even through chemo, you don't quite get it until a few rare occasions. And when I was done with my transfusion, they walked me over to a bell and I had my doctor, all the nurses, all the volunteers in that day surround me and cheered me on as I rang the bell. I remember asking, am I supposed to say something special. They said no. So I just rang it loud and clear and shouted. "FUCK CANCER! and a huge Thank You!" It was definitely one of those moments that hit me emotionally...

Holy Crap I just went through Chemo. 

We went out to eat for lunch to celebrate downtown. And it was mandatory that we all had our wigs on...even Momma Korry. The restaurant we went to were a little unsure of us at first, of course judging and thought we were going to be rowdy hoodlums as I walk in with the above outfit and a smily face balloon attached to my wrist like a 5 yr old that may run away. But once they realized the occasion, they obviously couldn't be sweeter.

I've learned a lot about judging and stereotypes and peoples first reactions through this. Which is another blog post. Seeing people and even innocent children react to me and my bald head, I have been that person of interest and stares. I've been given strength because of it and empathy for anyone going through anything they cannot control - especially on the outside.

Anyways, back to chemo week....this was probably my worst week. I had no appetite for anything. My poor mom just kept on trying to feed me similar things that I had eaten the past infusions, but would immediately refuse them all. All I had the stomach for was Eggos (which compared to a pregnant friend of mine - we shared this immense craving that we probably were not so proud of). I also slept more and have more body aches and it lasted a few days longer.

But overall there was a sense of relief that it was the last time I would have to feel this way so it (knock on wood). 

Bald is Beautiful

THERE. You have it...the infamous bald photo that I know you have been waiting for!

Your Welcome.

This was just as about as nerve racking to post as when I first told you I had cancer. So sorry it has taken awhile to get around to! 

As you can tell I still have hair on my head, not much, but there is still some there. Yeahhh...I'm reaching... Enough that I got a haircut 3 days ago. What hair I did have was growing so it really looked like a "rat head" - as I was so delightfully called. So I buzzed it shorter, so I now feel at least groomed. You can also tell my eyebrows thinned, my righty seems to have a small chunk missing (its your left in the photo). 

So this is 5 weeks after I shaved my head the first time and I've noticed my hair (what I have left) hasn't really been falling out for weeks. Let's hope that this all doesn't fall out and it just starts growing since I only have one treatment left. But we will see... 

Everyone seems to tell me I have a nice round head...I'll take that as a compliment! I guess we never know until we are bald. 

Update on the chemo...Cycle 3 week (last week) was the worst of the 3 but still bearable. I just had some dizzy spells, nausea, more joint pain and just more exhaustion. This week, I'm working away and working out some too and feeling pretty good and normal!  

Oh and less hot flashes! Alleluia!! The medicine freakin' works! 

xoxo
Dani, baldy and the girls

 

Half way there & definitely living on a prayer

Chemo Cycle 3 Day 1. HALF WAY THROUGH CHEMO! 

Had some great chemo buddies today, even 2 surprise buddies.

My fabulous business partner and good friend. Then one of my friends is in Medical Device Sales and happened to be free at Martha Jeff and came by to hang out. And I told him about my open wound from a bowling alley this weekend and he said no we can't have that...so he rushed out and grabbed some derma-bond for me and my poor finger. Worked like a charm! No more dirty bowling alley germs for me! 

Then I ran into my Great Uncle who also had his fusion today as well...we have the same Oncologist! Small world right! Feels good whenever I see him there...just makes it a family affair and also a little bit better knowing we are both going through this together. 

We ran my Taxotere 45 minutes shorter this time because I hadn't gotten any reactions from the previous transfusions.  (usually it has been an hour and 45, so this time was only an hour). So I got out of there a lot faster. I also got prescribed some meds that will hopefully help my hot flashes. They are in like WHOA! (please say like Joey from Blossom)! The hot flashes are from my medically induced menopause. I haven't really slept a full night in weeks and get them pretty badly throughout the day. So I'm really hoping this will help!!! 

xoxo
Dani (aka Frenchie today) and the hot flashy girls

PS Loving the pink wig way more than I thought! 

 

CHEMO Cycle 2

Second chemo treatment done with my chemo buddy Kelly. And with blue hair. Why not? It is the wig that Martha Jefferson Hospital's Marianne's Room had given me....so I figured I needed to rock it there. We also found my wig identity....just call me Daniqua! 

Oh, and my white blood cells and everything else looked really good last go around, so I again won't need the Neulasta shot after treatment and I won't need to come in weekly for labs to check out my white blood count. My doctor from the beginning decided not to give me the Neulasta shot - which is given the day after chemo to stimulate white blood cells. It usually makes you incredibly sore over your whole body. And figured since I'm young and healthy, I didn't need it and then she just monitored my blood count and things every week after the first treatment. And it was good. 

Week following this treatment went fine. Still a little nauseous, I did get a little more sore and achy in my joints and tired but still manageable. 

Changing up a few eating habits to see if that has any changes on my stomach and broth from MAS has been a little saving grace this go around. Sipping on this delicious broth during the day (just out of a mug) cuts on the nausea. Tomas gave me mushroom, turkey and chicken this round. The chicken tastes like it just has MAS infused in it. Like it just tastes like MAS smells. AMAZING.  A nice treat! I also found that watermelon is great at nipping that metal/bad taste in my mouth. There are times it is just so gross to drink more water because it taste like metal, I pop a watermelon in and it refreshes my tastebuds. Sometimes I will put lemon oil in my water (or lemon juice - but I like the oil better - its less acidic and sour) and that helps as well. Also trying to snack on gluten free items more. Cancers feed off sugars and starches, so I'm trying to limit that in my diet. But also making sure I have a lot of fiber in my diet...for ummm regular purposes. Seriously FIBER is my BEST FRIEND THESE DAYS. Maybe too much information, but hey you get what you get! A friend recommended Psyllium Husk as a good natural fiber source and it has been pretty good so far. 

I'm definitely trying to eat healthier and organic every chance I get, but I also am still living life. I had a minor freak out thinking I was going to gain all this weight on Chemo because I was snacking so much to kill the nausea. Reached out to my sister who is a registered dietician, (who also knows how I currently eat now during chemo and how I ate before...since she was born...so I trust her thoughts than Joe Schmo - who don't know me) she said "You eat healthy, you need to focus on getting better and through this and eat what your appetite allows you too. And don't add more anxiety to your life with changing your diet too much. Better to gain weight than loose it during chemo. You eating one potato every few days isn't going to make the cancer come back." I'm sure there are those out there that will lecture me to the hills, (who have already) about what foods I should and shouldn't eat and how I should be on strict diet in life. Yes, I will follow it to some degree, but I'm also going to let life happen and live it. Before this I ate pretty healthy in life and was a healthy person (compared to majority of America - not the 1% of health nuts who exercise everyday and count their food - no offense to you either - I just know I won't be that person - wish I could). I'm rambling and not making sense and probably pissing off people. But the moral of this rant...I'm not letting this cancer/chemo rule my life...I still will live it the way I want to...just with some small reforms. 

xoxo
Daniqua and her back up dancers

PS: My girls got their final pump up last week. So at least my doctor visits are limited during chemo. Even though I love everyone at my Plastic Surgeon's office, so I'll miss them. But will be back soon enough! My final implant surgery will be around a month after chemo is finished. I can't wait...these expanders feel like 2 hard rocks, especially now that they are "fully expanded."

 

 

BUZZ CUTS ARE SO IN right now

Pretty much how it went down when I started loosing my hair. It started falling out slightly on Monday morning. I completely got ready (showered, blow dried my hair, etc.) didn't notice anything and then all of a sudden I looked down in the sink and saw all the hairs. They had told me 2-3 weeks after first treatment, but for some reason in my head I was hoping for another week. I was feeling great that morning and ready to go to work this week to catch up on work life. So it totally caught me off guard. But then I was like it isn't coming out that much, maybe I can hang on to it for a few days. So I brushed it off....literally the hair on my shoulders...and headed in for my lab work. I go in every Monday to check my blood to make sure my white blood count and other things are looking good. Which they did. I asked my nurse, it started today and how long do you think I had and she was like, I would just shave it now, if your like me I would be more emotional seeing it fall out for days. I got a bit teary eyed, but headed to work. 

I park my car in the Water Street garage and was texting a girlfriend and told her it started falling out. She texted "Are you ok?" Then I reached up to my head and pulled out a chunk. Literally a chunk of hair (that wasn't even happening that morning at 9 am, and this was at like 1). I started balling in my car in the parking garage. I really didn't expect it to hit me that hard. I had been preparing for it and expecting to shave it when it happened. But I realized I was kind of expecting a few more days, so it hit me by surprise. So I cried and was super sad about. (Mostly because I only rocked that adorable pixie cut for only 2 weeks). 

So then I said out loud to myself "F**k this, I'm taking control back" and texted a few friends to come over the next night to shave my head. When in doubt, surround yourself by amazing people when times are tough...and throw yourself a party. 

I know you all see me joking and smiling faces and just want to say, I have my moments, and it is okay to have my low moments.  Monday was a high anxiety day. And in all honesty, I wish I shaved my head that night. Because all day Tuesday I was worried I was getting hair everywhere and every time I saw a little hair somewhere I got emotional (also blame menopause I am in). But I did wake up on Tuesday feeling much better and back in control of the situation.

The shaving head party was great! I prefaced by saying "no crying" allowed...which is why my mom was not allowed (love you mom). And I had a few people over (didn't want a lot) to help me shave my head. I sported a mohawk for a few minutes and quite frankly loved that do too. Maybe I'll rock that a bit when my hair starts growing out. 

Head rubs feel so good right now. My head is a little sensitive. So it just felt phenomenal. 

What I do know, is that I have freaking amazing friends and family. I feel insanely blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people. I feel every text, message, like on Facebook, prayer and just everything. One lesson learned too for me, it is okay to lean on friends, that is what they are there for. I feel like I'm usually the one friends lean on and don't ask for help too much, so that part has been hard (asking for help) but now I get it. Help is good. Family and friends are great. And laughter well, that is freaking amazing.

So THANK YOU for having my back during all of this.

And I know I haven't said this in awhile - but still keep feeling those TATAS! The main reason I'm being so open is to keep awareness...of not just breast cancer, but all things. Know your body and just be aware. 

AND try and pull the positive out of what life gives you. We all got somethin' and we all need to get through it our own way. 

not really sure how we ended up being gangster...but it happened. 

not really sure how we ended up being gangster...but it happened. 

xoxo
Dani and her girls and a buzzed head

I've met another doctor...

So the day after my first chemo, I started getting a rash. It just started to look like a bad case of acne, but acne that had started overnight. I had a regular scheduled "pump up" appointment the day after chemo (Dec 22nd) with my plastic surgeon. He looked at the "rash" and said, yeah, I'm not sticking you with a needle today. I'm going to send you back over to your Oncologist. So I go back over to my Oncologist and a nurse looks at it, yeah, it looks like a rash from the Chemo. Let's just have you stay on your steroids this week. I usually am just required to take them the day before and the day after chemo to prevent a rash from Taxotere. So I stay with the steroids for the rest of the week. Which they turn out worse. 

I go in on Monday, the 28th for blood work to check on my white blood count (i'm good!) and had my Oncologist looks at it (not the nurse) and she's like, yeah thats not from Chemo. Looks like acne. 

ugh. 

I go back in to see my Plastic on Tuesday, the 29th for my LAST pump up. I'm so excited, to have one process done at least, but nervous he won't do it again because I still have this "rash." He's like "yeah, I'm not going to stick ya. Mostly I just want to confirm what it is, since your Oncologist didn't tell you. And I don't want it to be an infection and get the expanders infected." So he rushes me over to a Dermatologist right after his appointment.

As I sit in the waiting room at the Dermatologist, I have to fill out yet another 5 page patient copy of my health and this time I had to list all my medicines. Lord this took a long list. I had just cleaned out a shelf in my kitchen to put all my 10+ pill bottles and 5+ vitamins. Plus as I'm sitting there, I was thinking hey, it could have been the menopause shot, or something else from reproductive shot. So I even put all of that mess on there. My gut theory was that it was from the steroids and it just kept getting worse from me taking them. (I googled somethings...I know I'm pretty usually careful about googling)

I walked back there, and told the nurse my life over even just the past 3 weeks. I've had so much crap put in me, from egg stimulation injections, hormone blocker, oxy for the egg retrieval, valium for my boob pump ups, 2 different anti-nausea meds, lorazepam for more nausea/anxiety, steroids, 2 types of chemo, oh yeah and a medical menopausal shot. Funny I would tell the nurse each thing and what it was used for and I only really knew the first few letters (how I know what to take, Lex at night for hormone blocker, Dex for steroids, "P" word nausea for first round of nausea, "O" word / Zofran nausea for the big guns.) BUT she knew exactly what it was. 

The doc comes in and asks me to take off my shirt. Well because the rash is all over my chest, arms, neck, face, stomach and back. I'm so used to just ripping it off, I kind of forgot to prepare her for what she was about to see. "They are expanders, I get my implants after chemo. They are not very pretty right now."  She obviously got all that, but I realized that she and the nurse may not have seen that before. Oh well, they got a lesson! 

So she claims it is from the Steroids and an Acne-ish rash and gives me what...MORE MEDS! She gives me a sulfur wash (great I'm a 30 yr old chemo cancer menopausal girl who has to smell like sulfur poop) and a lotion and calls to get an oral anitbiotic approved by my oncologist to speed things up too. It get's approved. So I venture to my faithful CVS for more prescriptions to be filled! Yay! So tired. 

I come home late and I'm so exhausted and irritated and frustrated. I decide to just wait and do this whole regimine in the morning. I need a night to relax. 

Wake up, take my oral antibiotic, wash in sulfur (let it sit for 10 minutes), use my lotion. And pack up and get ready to drive down to VA Beach to spend New Years out of town. I started feeling pretty crappy right before my drive. Had a headache and I thought I could feel my face start swelling and I thought my eyes were swollen. I didn't sleep that well the night before so I thought maybe I was just overly tired, or a symptom of chemo and having a bad day. I'm determined to drive to VA Beach. So I do, its pouring down rain. And as soon as I get down there, I ask my friend, so is my face swollen? Because I think I'm totally having an allergic reaction to something. Yes, I look like a "chipmunk".

Great!

Cancer, Fake Boobs, Chemo, Menopausal, Rashy, Sulfur smelling, Chipmunk. 

I call my oncologist on call line, and chat with a doctor, he is like, yeah you are totally having an allergic reaction, stop all medicines from the Dermatologist and take Benadryl. And realize just how bad my symptoms were...I was trying to be all tough girl all day. But I was really struggling. My tongue was huge and it was getting hard for me to breathe, thankfully I didn't take my scheduled pills that night.

Thankfully Benadryl helped. 

I called my Dermatologist the next morning, and yep, sure enough she knew exactly what it was, I had an allergic reaction to the oral antibiotic Doxycycline. She was like was it hard for you to breathe?...yes, tongue swollen?...yes, throat sore?...yes, face swollen?...yes. She says, yep your allergic to Doxycycline and we have added that your list of meds you are allergic to and you need to list that from now on. 

Well now, thats nice and scary....I've never had an allergic reaction before - REALLY TO ANYTHING (other than pollen). So this whole situation was pretty scary. 

I really probably shouldn't have driven to VA Beach while having an allergic reaction. but I'm also somewhat glad I didn't take that pill until the next morning. And I didn't take it a pass out.  My mom was like, I thought you were slurring your words on the phone with me a bit during your drive, but I knew you weren't drunk (I can't stand the taste of alcohol right now—chemo thing).

So now I'm just doing my sulfur wash and lotion and the rash is actually getting better. Or looks like its "working" on getting better. It may pop back up again when I get back on the steroids during the next treatment. But hopefully the wash and lotion can keep it under wraps. My Oncologist doesn't really want to change my steroids, because the rash that would come from the Taxotere that the Steriods is preventing is a lot worse and painful. So I just have to live with it. But hopefully it will be cured enough by this Thursday, Jan 7th so my plastic surgeon can stick me...I mean to pump my boobs...get your head out of the gutter....

What have I learned from this. I now have a photo of all my meds on my phone as well as a little journal in my purse. I am allergic to something. Oh and my friend Dickie's Ditty Bags are the perfect little pill carry bag...might have to upgrade to the large one though ;) 

#oldlady #cancergirl

xoxo
Dani and her rashy acne not pretty girls

meds and rashes - figured a black and white was less graphic and gross for you.

meds and rashes - figured a black and white was less graphic and gross for you.

 

Its a chemo christmas!

Well waiting game has commenced.
The constant checking on me every time I go use the restroom.

"I just pee'd, I'm fine, sorry to disappoint."

"Oh crap, is that a hot flash? Or just the 80 degree weather outside on Christmas in VA?"

I started feeling a little nausea on the third day the 23rd, so started some nausea pills (I have 3 different kinds, I basically start until it stops). And I kept up with the nausea meds for the next few days. It just felt like a constant hangover and flu combined. You know that flu where your bones and body ache, thats kind of how I felt. But you know that first part of it. It didn't get that bad, but just enough to be annoyed. For Christmas Eve, my family usually does a big Seafood Dinner, but considering my situation, we switched up gears this year and had a Slovak Christmas Eve dinner. Filled with starches and soups! Haluski Cabbage and cottage cheese, pirogies, stuffed cabbage, soups and poppyseed rolls. I thankfully didn't loose my appetite, these are all my favorite things, and I scarfed it all down! And even since then, I haven't lost my appetite, but rather since I just feel this slight nausea (sometimes worse) and feel hungover, I just want to snack all day and each starches and hungover food. I'm nervous I'm going to gain weight on chemo! Well this is only week 1. 

But to point out, I actually had a decent good first week on chemo and was able to play with my niece and cousins and enjoy my brother and uncle's visit. I was really tired and would run out of breath quickly and have to keep snacking to get rid of the hangover feel, but overall, I think pretty decent, especially considering it was Christmas! 

I started having a weird metal-ish taste in my mouth around Day 6-7. Which just makes me not really care for some things, like eggs...I can't stand to even look at eggs...but I was like that after the Mastectomy surgery too....couldn't stand eggs. Unless they are deviled, then I will enhale them. 

As far as family drama goes, my dad hit a pot hole the day after my chemo and popped his 2 tires in his Mercedes. So my parents now have 2 cars in the shop. My mom had to drive back down to Hopewell to take care of him and take him to his doc appointments on the 23rd. And then back up to the Farm for Christmas Eve. Oh and as we are just like get us through to Christmas. Our Christmas Tree falls. You know, when it rain, it pours. #passthevalium became a common saying around here.

We barely did gifts this year, because of the insanity of our life. BUT I DID GET A BANJO!!!!!! Pretty random, but why not?! My parents figured if anything it would be good therapy during chemo. So watch out world! 

merry christmas!
xoxo
dani and her nauseous girls




Chemo cycle 1 / Day 1

Monday, December 21st — Chemo day is here. My college roommate and bff drove up from Newport News to hang out with mom and I – My chemo buddies. I wasn't too nervous. I was there for a total of 5 hours. I initially meet my Oncologist and go over my treatment and some other things and then my NP gets me all set up. I got a back little cubbie room, which was perfect. Nat brought up some gifts from her and some other 757 friends that I opened in between treatments. Which was a fun little game. I had my porcupine earrings in, my scarf from my bff Caryn and my JMU blanket from my bff Elizabeth, so I tried to have a little bit from others there with me in spirit as well. 

They give me a steroid drip, an anti-nausea drip, an IV to keep me hydrated and then the big stuff. The Taxotere (docetaxel) dripped for about 1.5 hrs and then the Cytoxan (Cyclophosphamide) dripped for about a half hour. During all that, a Dietitian came in to talk about what I should expect and what to eat and not eat during certain times. My mom took notes while Nathalie proceeded to order me protein packed items on Amazon (organic jerky and protein powder). Then a social worker came in to chat. I apparently marked a high level of stress on my form that she was concerned with. Granted that was the day, I was "thinking" I was about to be told I had to do chemo, so forgive me if I circled a little bit higher. Oh and yeah, and because I'm "SINGLE" they are more concerned that I don't have a good support system. I was like honey, I'm got an amazing support system. Almost too much sometimes! haha But anywho, she was insanely sweet and I talked with her about my whole process, my life, family, friends, blog, etc. I talked with her about how I have felt connected and all my decisions have been the right ones. I feel like God and the Universe has directed me toward all of them, and I really haven't felt that scared through all of this. She said you have a gift, you see the signals and you listen to them. Some people see the signals, but not all of them follow them, but you listen to them.

I liked how she phrased it "You follow the paths in your life's tapestry."

I didn't feel any crazy different that day. Like I didn't feel heat pouring through my veins and start vomiting immediately. My mom at one point started reading the side effects to Taxotere and it said "intoxicated-like symptoms"- I started hiccuping right when she said that (not on purpose). And with the steroids they gave me...afterward I just felt super hyper and drunk. An interesting combo.

And then it is just the waiting game. They said my bad days will be 3-5 days after and then the next week my white blood counts will be low so take it easy and watch for fever/colds/etc. 

Which is the hard part, waiting and not knowing how it will hit me. I don't know if in 5 days (Christmas Day) I would be not wanting to leave the bathroom or so miserable not wanting to leave my bed. I had NO IDEA how to plan out really the next 12 weeks. With the surgeries, etc. I knew what to expect. With this, I have no idea. And they don't know either. It hits people differently. They did say, my biggest issue/bothersome will be fatigue, since I'm younger and seemingly a "go getter" my nurse practitioner said. 

That said, I came home and slept so hard, mostly because my insane week was over with and it was like this relief had hit that I made it through the first Chemo Day. 

Now the waiting game. 
xo
Dani and the chemo drunk girls
 

 

Chop. chop.

So more than likely I will loose my hair. Like highly likely. Scariest thing about the whole cancer thing right. I mean I've been able to skirt around not looking like a cancer girl. But now here you go. Slap the label on me. Oh well. Its just hair. From the moment I knew I had to do chemo, I knew I wanted to donate it. They tell me I won't loose it until 2-3 weeks after first cycle...so like second cycle. So I could wait and just shave it all when it starts coming out, but I wouldn't know how fast it would come out or what. I was going to do it like the day of chemo or the day after, but my hair stylist didn't have any openings until the Friday before. (It was Christmas the next week after all, so you can only imagine they were super busy). And I really wanted my girl to do it. What up, Crystal at Honeycomb?! She's the bomb. All week, my poor mom was saying how I should wait until after my cousin's wedding, you know for photos and stuff. My response, if he got married in May as originally planned, I would be bald with a wig. I like these odds better. Plus it was like a fun unveiling at the wedding! 

The week I was doing this, a girlfriend visited Alternative Hair Solutions. It is a wig shop in town, she talked to the owner and stylist about me and wigs and donating hair. I love that my friend said "She may not even get a wig and rock the bald." They mentioned they donate to Wigs for Kids (rather than the other organizations). And that they work with Wigs for Kids to get wigs directly to kids in Charlottesville and that they have a child on a waiting list for one right now. I loved this full circle community approach and that my hair would go to an organization that is directly affecting children in Charlottesville. Obviously this child would not have my hair as a wig, but the full circle of it, really was huge to me. So I went and visited them, tried on lots of wigs and chatted with them. Trying on wigs was fun! Still hadn't freaked me out yet. I have a few I'm deciding on and going back to them soon to decide on style and colors...and don't worry - I'm totally having fun with them! I'm going to love walking down the downtown mall and be in incognito...it may be my electric blue wig day or my chestnut bob day or a big afro day....I mean when else can I have an excuse to have fun with wigs. 

Back to my haircut. So right after I get shot up and go into medical menopause, I run over to Crystal for the cut! Heather (my business partner and bff) and Kelly (bff) meet me there with champagne. (May not be what the doctor ordered right after my shot - but totally worth it!). I showed Crystal the photo I was wanting. I had been researching for awhile. She looked at for like 2 seconds and was like great! Didn't even look at the rest of the time. And started her process. Taking small ponytails, measuring perfectly to make sure there was enough (restrictions for donating hair - not colored, at least 10-13" long). As she starts cutting off more of it, I can see Heather and Kelly's reactions, which are pretty great. They seem like in shock how good it looks (or at least they are just really good poker faces). 

I wasn't even nervous. Which was weird, my hair has never been shorter than above my shoulders...ever. But I wasn't worried, I kind of knew it was going to be fun and look good. And what damage could I do to hair that I'm just about to loose in a few weeks anyways. 

And BAM. She did it. It was perfect. I'm in love with it and I think I'm going to be more sad when this hair falls out and I shave this do, because I won't have more time with it. 

My hairstylist said, "Well, if you get anything from all this cancer, you now know what haircut you were born to have."

As I was walking back to the shop, Lee (a talented jewelry designer and owner of amazing jewelry shop Angelo with his adorable wife Pam on the Downtown Mall) saw me and ran across the street. He said "1. where is your red lipstick and 2. are you going to be at RPS in the next few minutes?" In the next 20 minutes he came back in the store and gave me a present. Porcupine Quill Earrings - as seen in the last lower right square. Ummmmm, I'm obsessed with them. I've barely taken them off since I've gotten them. They are so light and so perfectly my style. 

Once again, I freaking love this community and everyone around me during this whole process. 

xoxo
Dani and the girls rockin a fresh pixie