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

 

Chemo won't cramp my life.

Dec. 16th 
After my Egg Retrieval, my life was pretty whirlwind. We drove later that day down to VA Beach to see my uncle get promoted to Commander of a brand new ship in the Navy. I call him my "Brunkle" - he is my technical uncle, but also younger than my brother and under 40 so I call him my brunkle. Hey every family has its quarks. But yes, kind of a big deal he gets promoted to Commander and he is under 40. The Change of Command ceremony was supposed to be in Jacksonville, FL and my mom was trying to figure out how the crap she and or I were going to make it down there for it. Our whole family was going to go and be able to spend time with my real brother and niece who lives in Jacksonville. But with the current situation changed to freezing eggs and starting chemo, we didn't know how we were going to make it. But knew my mom at least needed to be the face of the family. Ironically, the ship had some mechanical issues...yes it is a huge deal that a brand new Navy ship had to be towed to shore on it's way from Milwaukee to Jacksonville and ironically landed right at the Naval Base, Little Creek in Virginia Beach. His ship is a new LCS (the 5th) and they tried out a new system on it which caused some issues, but now literally all hands on deck trying to fix it!  This ship is the USS Milwaulkee LCS 5 and he commands LSC Crew 104 Juggernauts.

My mom called me up right after we found this out a few days before, and was like wow, you think Grandma Tunnie had something to do with the ship breaking down?! Universe seemed to help us out with this little number too. Sorry U.S. Government, but we needed that Change of Command in Virginia. And that Virginia Bred Boy (who lives and is stationed in San Diego) got to have more of his family there and his highest point of his career happen right here in Virginia. 

Okay good, things are back on our side.

Wrong. Someone breaks into my parents Tahoe during the night before this ceremony while we are down in VA Beach. They steal her work computer and our pretty christmas cards from Page Stationery. (I mean thanks to Heather for us even able to get Christmas cards printed during this insanity period). So my parents have to go get a rental car, do a police report, deal with insurance, tow trucks, etc. so we can make it to the ceremony in time. Meanwhile, I'm high on Oxy, cramping with pretty swollen ovaries.

My poor mother. She really doesn't need this right now.

Ceremony was great and he really appreciated all the family there. Oh yeah, and I had designed his crew crest earlier this year while he was Executive Officer, fully knowing that it would stick with him as he became commander of this crew. So it was extra special that I was able to be there to see it.  

Dec. 17th
I had to make it back to Cville on Thursday for a few work appointments. So in the craziness of the car situation we had to make it back to Cville and then for my parents to make it back to Hopewell, so they could drive up to New Jersey, for my cousin's wedding. His wedding got pushed up, because he now is being deployed in January. So their pretty Spring planned wedding got pushed up to a pretty December wedding and planned out in 7 weeks. He is an Osprey Pilot in the Marine Corp. 

Dec 18th
I go into medical menopause. It was a pretty large freakin' needle. My nurse was like, do you want me to ice it or anything. I'm like I've been shooting myself up for 2 weeks with needles - that thing - although large - still don't scare me - just do it! And they did it and I barely flinched. 

So Medical Induced Menopause - I'm going into this because the side effects of one of the chemo drugs I take - Cytoxan - actually is Ovary failure. So they give me this medicine that hibernates my ovaries. I take the shot every 4 weeks to keep them in hibernation mode so the chances that the chemo will damage my ovaries is a lot smaller. I should come out of the menopause pretty fine, but there are still small chances that I either won't come out of menopause OR it could still damage my ovaries or kill some eggs. Which is why freezing my eggs happened. It is kind of a back up option, if my ovaries and eggs don't come out of this looking all fresh I can use those 30 year old eggs.

And yes so while I'm undergoing all the Chemo side effects, I am so lucky to have some menopausal side effects on top of it....hot flashes, highly emotional, etc....at age 30! So LUCKY!

Positive note - THEY GIVE FREE MASSAGES IN ONCOLOGY! So right before my shot, I got an amazing chair massage. Which I needed SOOOO BAD! If you don't know that about me, I get a massage every month and haven't been able to get one because of the surgery and not lying on my back. (don't worry, I'm getting one soon and probably prenatal style massage). #cancerperks

Okay so back to my timeline. I literally go into medical menopause and head straight to my hair stylist. I really wanted to "clean slate" it and cut off all my hair before chemo. I know I won't loose it (even if I do) for another 3 weeks, but I wanted to able to donate it and rock a crazy new do for a few weeks. I blogged a separate one on this little number ;) 

Dec. 19th
So because of menopause appointment and things, I couldn't go up to New Jersey on Friday night, so I had to catch a ride with a family friend on Saturday am. Which we made it exactly right on time for the wedding. I was kind of nervous, because no one had seen my hair yet and my whole extended family was there. Since we were kind of late, it was kind of like the pews were looking down the middle waiting on the bride and the bridesmaids, but then I come in through the right side door with my new short do with my entire family chillin' in there...turning heads to the right. And good looks and comments, I can totally tell if they were lying through their teeth. (Sorry Jena (bride) didn't mean to steal that 2 seconds, you were stunning and beautiful and everything about the wedding was absolutely perfect. And I'm so excited I got to see it, Hell I wouldn't have missed it! xo)

It was a great night and a great "last supper" before Chemo surrounded by all my amazing family. I got a little dizzie and nausea a few times during the reception and didn't drink, which must have been side effects from the menopause. I was still shooting myself up at this point. (Keeps levels and ovaries in tact first week of Medical Menopause) so I had to sneak out in the middle of the reception and give myself a 'shot' in my parents car. So classy. I came back and my cousin was like, where were you. I said I just took a shot. They were like whaaaat gettin' crazy, thought you weren't really drinking....NO a SHOT of medicine in my stomach NOT a shot of whiskey!!! I wish it was a shot of whiskey. And you know what I noticed, the MC of the reception was wearing a pink ribbon pin. 

Dec. 20th
Caught a ride back home to relax for Chemo Cycle 1, Day 1 on Monday. Basically, I'm sharing the insanity of the week before my Chemo, because it was crazy. And yes, I could have said no and stayed home and relaxed all week. But in all honesty, I hadn't let this Cancer "cramp my life" so far. I mean in a grander scale. Yes, I've been out of work and haven't been up for much lately, but I have still been able to make it some important life events to support friends and family. So it was really important to me to be able to make it to my brunkle's Change of Command and my cousin's wedding. And I'm really glad I did. 

xoxo
Dani and the menopausal girls

 

Congrats! You gave "birth" to 18 eggs!

Well technically, 13 good mature eggs, 4 immature eggs and 1 dud. 

I have 13 good mature eggs chillin' (literally) in the freezer until I'm ready to fertilize and plant them in me! They even freeze the "immature" eggs. Immature eggs just mean that they haven't matured to the state they need to be in to be fertilized and all that stuff, but they still freeze them anyways, because with technology changing so fast, you never know if they will come up with the technology to do what they need to do to mature them over the next 5-15 years when I wanna use one. And then one "dud." Poor guy didn't make it. 

Let me backtrack a little to the moment I walked in the pre-op room. Remember, my last blog was the day before this. I met a nurse I had never met before, which was a little surprising, since I was literally at the Reproductive office everyday for 9 straight days. Also since I was their "fun" case—the fertile single cancer girl who was getting her boobs "pumped up" and rushing to get her eggs frozen before chemo. I definitely was a lone case in the waiting room everyday, as compared to the couples and children who filled it up.

But any-who, this nurse as she tells me prep instructions...strip, saddle up, spread out...you know.... (not really like that - I'm obviously dramatizing)...

She hands me card with "Dani" on the front and says I'm not sure if this is appropriate but I felt I wanted to do it. I say, do you know I own a card shop? She said yeah, I'm good friends with a mutual friend and her mom shared your blog to me yesterday (she knew this nurse was MJ Reproductive but did not know that I would be her patient).

And this is what the card said...


I mean, how amazingly ridiculously special was this moment. I'm still completely stunned by this small act of community, kindness and support. I am literally the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by such an amazing community and family and friends who are even friends with amazing friends that this circles back to me on such short notice. 

Just makes me also realize that every step I have taken through this journey has been completely supported by all the powers around me and makes me feel like I'm definitely on the right track. I'll take all these signs and know for sure that these eggs will definitely be taken care of and good hopes that one day I'll be able to create little Dani's (or Danny's) and not have my genes go extinct. In also hopes I find that handsome donor with awesome genes to create amazing little humans. 

There is always hope, if you let it find you and listen to the signs around you. You may have to work for it and shoot yourself up for 11 days sometimes, but totally worth the mindset that I will not have this option in the future. 

To tell a little bit of the procedure, I did have to saddle up, but I had General Anesthesia so completely out. My 3rd official surgery through all this. It only lasted 20-30 minutes and I was pretty crampy the full day and the next day after this. But bearable - especially with some Oxy. 

xoxo
Dani and her girls (and chilly eggs of future girls and boys)

Poked, Prodded and Pumped

Sorry I've been a little boring on the blog lately. Boring is good...is what I thought. So I was enjoying it and also just trying to get back into the normalcy of life, work, hanging out, lifting my arms and growing my boobs back to size. Had a few bridal meetings to get some design jobs going. Feeling good.

But careful what you wish for, I received my awaited Oncotype dx tumor score the day before Thanksgiving. Right after a big boob pump up (he put 100 ccs in each side which basically put me back to like the week of surgery...it hurt...bad...but at least only for a few days). Let me also preface that a few weeks before this, I had ran into a neighbor back in Hopewell (where I grew up and where my parents still live). I used to go over and have snacks with her and pick peanuts in her backyard when I was a wee little one (before I even had boobs or the thought of getting them). She had a very similar cancer to mine, everything very similar (stage, grade, tumor size, etc.) Her Oncotype Score was 25 in the medium/intermediate level (but a little bit higher in that level). They gave her the option of chemo to reduce the reoccurrence. She is in her 70s and figured, hey I'll take my chances, she figured chemo would do more harm to her than not. IN THAT MOMENT, I said to myself, if my score is over 25, I'll do chemo, no questions asked. 

Ten days later, my doc called up....its 26. 

Of course it is. 

Universe has been directing me this whole time.

He couldn't tell me too much other than it being intermediate and more on the higher level of intermediate. And I told him how I had a gut feeling it was going to be around there. We have joked that everything about this cancer is medium, so of course that score is going to be medium. So I knew what they would be recommending and what was ahead of me.

Chemo. 

Heather (my business partner) and I joked how my cancer is medium and I've now described my whole cancer like a Pantone Warm Gray 6 - like a medium charcoal. Which is my favorite color (technically Pantone Warm Gray 11), go figure right. And she joked that I hope this doesn't make you not like gray anymore! Just means it was meant to be I guess! Hell Medium & Light Charcoal is better than High & Black!!! 

Okay, back to chemo. 

A week later (because Thanksgiving pushed back doc appointments), I finally met with my medical oncologist. (whom I already love). She really didn't even give me like an option for chemo, just straight up recommended it, considering my age, family history and tumor score. Basically I'm a little over 20% of a reoccurrence rate if I don't do chemo (and just do a hormone blocker for 10 years - Tamoxafin). With chemo, it brings down my reoccurrence rate to 10%. I like those odds. 

Chemo treatment will be through an IV (no port).
4 treatments - once every 3 weeks - so for a total of 12 weeks total of chemo chillin through me.
I will loose my hair, but they don't think I should loose my eyebrows and eyelashes.
I will start loosing it around my 2nd treatment (so 3 weeks)
They administer 2 drugs - Taxotere and Cytoxin.
I'll be nauseous, sore, tired and possibly tingling in my fingers and toes. (I've already picked up 4 anti-nausea drugs from the pharmacy for this)
My worst days will probably be 3-5 days after each treatment then the following week will be my "low white blood count week" where I'll just try and hibernate from the world so I won't get a cold/flu. My docs seem to be worried that I own a retail store during the highest flu/cold season. So I'll be mostly working from home. AKA don't NOT shop in RPS because the fear of getting me sick...if anything SHOP MORE...gotta pay for these eggs, new boobs and this fresh new bald haircut ;) haha

Overall because of my score and it is preventative, we are hoping that my dosage and treatment shouldn't be too intense to cause other insanely major issues, because I'm overall healthy (except the breast cancer). (Yes nurse, I haven't heard that before.)

The second drug they give me, Cytoxin is pretty harmful to ovaries and fertility. So they pretty much set me up with a Reproductive Doctor right after this appointment. So my mom and I go in there to see my options. She goes over my options of basically putting my ovaries into medical menopause during this. Which basically gives me an 80% chance that it won't completely destroy my ovaries and eggs. And another option would be to freeze eggs, but this procedure takes time and honestly I wasn't sure if my Medical Oncologist would be up for it. So the Reproductive Doctor took me to check out my ovaries to see what I got. And in all honesty, if I looked pretty infertile and nothing looked good in there, we would have skipped this part and just started the damn chemo. That was what was in my head while I was prodded down there. She usually checks for like 8-10 eggs on each ovary. She counted 13-14 on each side. The nurse in the back let out an excited sigh. My doc was like, yeahhh she doesn't have a good poker face, it looks really good in here and you have a lot to work with. So your telling me I look pretty fertile and those eggs look pretty damn good, so I should probably save them. She got the okay from my Medical Oncologist to proceed. And obviously insurance doesn't cover this part. BUT I got a grant from Livestrong Fertility Program that helps out with pretty much half of the costs of all of this. Your know perks of cancer. 

So from 8 am to 3 pm my mom and I were at Martha Jefferson hopping around from doc to nurse going over my future next 3 months (chemo) and then my 5-10 year plan (babies). Remind you that I'm single and 30. Oh and my Medical Oncologist basically told me she won't let me get pregnant for 5 years anyways.

But let me tell you, I think Momma Antol was pretty excited...it is her first big step toward grand-babies that she has had between my sister and I. To quote Big K (Momma Antol) "Hell, I'll put a downpayment on some grand-babies." While my dad on the phone says "Well, who the hell is going to fertilize them?" We have at least 5 years dad. Chill out. 

That was all on December 3rd. I wanted a drink so bad after that, but the docs told me no alcohol during my "stimulation" period of growing the eggs. AND honestly I was more worried about Momma Antol - SHE was not going to allow me to mess up her grand-babies. 

But bam! I did feel better because at least now I have a plan and it looks like a good one. Chemo will bring my reoccurrence down and save my mental state in life so hopefully I know now I would have done everything to not have Clawrilla or her cousins return in the future. *knock on wood* I will have healthy 30 year old eggs chillin' in the freezer for whenever I want them...even if my ovaries fail, I can still grow one of them suckers inside me 5-15 years down the road.  (Expecting I find a willing and suitable or at a reasonable priced donor). I get to play with wigs, hats, scarves and fun pixie cuts for a year or so. And I'll have healthy perky boobs for life. 

So for the past week, I have been shooting myself up everyday to stimulate egg growth. And then going in to get prodded to check out my egg growth pretty much close to a daily basis and also drawing blood each time too. The blood work is basically watching my hormone levels to make sure they stay low. (aka I got holes and bruises in my arms and stomach and look like a straight up junkie) I'm also on a hormone blocker during this to keep my hormones low since my cancer feeds off of hormones.

Oh and I also got another boob pump up last Thursday. He was going to do another big injection this time, but we figured since there is no rush now we stayed lower and will spread out my last few. I now won't have my implant surgery until after chemo. 

Retrieval of eggs is tomorrow, the 15th...wonder if that means I should celebrate that date each year?? I know we don't have a card for that...but if we did it would probably go something like... "Happy egg retrieval day! May your eggs stay healthy and frozen so your genes won't go extinct." 

So yeah, the past 2 weeks have just been lots of poking, prodding and pumping! 

Chemo starts Monday, December 21st. So by my calculations on when I'll feel the worst, I'll be face down in a toilet on Christmas Day. Thanks Santa. 

And all this behind me by summertime. Exotic beach trip is soo what I'm looking forward to...whose with me?! 

xoxo,
Dani and my bigger girls, bloated eggs and pretty long hair. 
 

 

feeling thankful

 Card by Moglea

Card by Moglea

For this year, I seem to have a whole different outlook on Thanksgiving. 

I started reflecting over this whole few months and just really realize how much I am grateful for...

my healthy tatas for one (and two)
my amazing breast surgeon for cleaning out my cancer boobs
my amazing plastic surgeon for pumping up and creating me new perky boobs
every single person I have met at Martha Jefferson Hospital during all of this
a healthy and quick recovery (no infections or complications)
my primary care doctor who told me she loved me before my official diagnosis
a dear friend and breast cancer survivor who sparked me to feel my tatas one friday night
which made me find it early...enough
my intuition and gut for helping me make every decision clearly and confidently
valium
every single piece of support I have received throughout this
my insanely generous, thoughtful and hilarious friends
the people who I barely know or haven't even met who have sent their support
heating pads
the fact that I am writing over 100 thank you cards (why it is taking some time)
my awesome business partner for letting me take the time to recover through all this
a thriving business I have owned for close to 6 years
the timing of all this so I could take time off and not stress (after wedding season)
amazing employees who have been nothing but supportive while I have been out
twizzlers
our amazing country and my family members who have and are currently serving to protect us
my sweet overprotective momma for taking care of me (even when I tried to push her away)
my supportive and amazing family for being there, for me and each other
my guardian breast cancer angels up there by my side through this (esp. grandma tunnie)

My list could go on, but this at least summarizes it. 
I hope you take the time to reflect your surroundings and really appreciate the love, support, joy, laughter, peace, protection and health this season (and on a daily basis). I know this whole experience has made me feel like the luckiest gal around!

THANK YOU for all of your support and being a part of my list ;) 

xoxo
Dani and the lucky girls

no less a woman

IMG_0300.JPG

9 weeks since my diagnosis.
4 weeks out of the surgery.
1 month of being cancer free.
2 new growing fake boobies. 

and finally....Man, I feel like a woman
(yes, cue Shania Twain)

I shot this as I was getting ready for my plastic surgeon appointment this past Thursday. I can wash and dry my hair now. So as I got ready, it really was the first time, I was like finally...whoa I'm started to feel pretty (and independent) again. 

I started getting my Sexy Back.
(cue Justin Timberlake)

and these are 2 of my favorite things. 
(cue Mary Poppins and a thunderstorm)


1. My Sexy Back Bra
sponsored and given by a bff

This little number came in right after surgery when I was all foggy from pain and meds and I had to let it sit in a corner until I could wear it. And then in all honesty when I finally did put this high prized little number on, I didn't realize the full capacity that this little lacey pink thing had to me. You saw below how much unfavorable my surgical bra was. And I have to wear these compression zip up sports bras for a few months now (day AND night) and well pickin's are slim on comfort and aesthetic. I had spent like hours online trying to find out some to ship me and just got so depressed at my options. Definitely not the the sexiest. But this bra, THIS BRA brought my sexy back. And It seriously was one of the happiest moments since finding out I had cancer, and probably the best moment since I chopped off my beautiful boobs. 

The Stella McCartney Louise Listening Bra in support of the Hello Beautiful Foundation was specifically designed as a post mastectomy Bra to do just that...bring your sexy back. Even when I didn't realize that I had lost it. But it made me feel like a woman again. Stella McCartney's mother passed from Breast Cancer and Jane Hutchison of the Hello Beautiful Foundation is a breast cancer survivor. Read up more on the Louise Listening Bra - I have to warn you there will be graphic images on Stella's webpage. They also partnered with a photographer who photographed different real life mastectomy patients. And also check out Hello Beautiful Foundation as well. 

2. My Cancer Pants. 
sponsored and given with love by a bff + Lululemon in Charlottesville. 
Next up, these are Lululemon's High Times high waisted Yoga Pants. I loved working out and lounging around in them (before the cancer) because they seemed to smooth out and hide that unwanted section around your waist. That forbidden muffin top that we are scared to even say out loud. I started wearing them to my Doc appointments, because let's face it, as soon as I walk in I have to take off my top. And well, these pants just make me feel comfortable. They are higher wasted and make things a little bit more comfortably as your getting poked and prodded up there. So you don't have to worry about your 'muffin top' or the chill in the air. I started calling them my "Cancer Pants" from the beginning and then Lululemon C'ville hooked me up for 2 more pairs. So thank YOU Lululemon Charlottesville for hooking me up with my favorite Cancer Pants and making me feel comfortable and all tucked in through each appointment and in life. Even if my doc's find it weird they don't see my belly button...or hey maybe I'm just pulling the T-Swift...hide your belly button at all cost. 

So go visit my friends over there because they are pretty awesome.

Let me also mention that because my arm strength was weak, I couldn't wear them for 2 weeks after the surgery...hard to put on tight pants by myself..."no pulling."

So there you have it, it isn't an outfit made from curtains and no I'm not jumping on beds yet (ouch) singing like a von Trapp family member. But I'm coming back and to follow Stella McCartney's hashtag....I feel NO LESS A WOMAN. 

xo
Dani and my sexy new girls

 

This girl is on fire

well at least my surgical bra was...

So take that cancer. Don't freaking mess with me! Now be scared and don't you ever show up again!

Just clarifying that there is no political reason for this. Just moving on and marking a certain chapter in this recovery. So I burnt my super uncomfortable surgical bra. The one I had to wear for weeks. And now I can move on to my next stage in super super sexy front zip sports bras. NOT! (on the super sexy part - but they are way more comfortable)

xoxo
Dani and my more comfortable girls


PUMP me up

It is 3 weeks after my surgery and I had a big day. I BLOW DRIED MY HAIR BY MYSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME! I did need help washing it still though. (Thanks mom.) But I was actually finally feeling really good. I was being more active, more motivated, and not as sore.

I was heading into town to see my two docs. But first swung by rock paper scissors to see my fabulous rps family to celebrate a birthday and check on things. It was great to be back and I'm so incredibly thankful for everyone there for taking over while I have been gone and have truly let me be able to recover and relax. And I'm grateful this seemed to be perfect timing with work and life for me to find it and have all this happen. With fall wedding season ending and holidays beginning. 

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Then I headed to my Plastic Surgeon. He said everything looked good and gave me my first PUMP UP. Its pretty much like Nike Pumps...except with a magnet finder (like a stud finder) and a very large syringe. I have these tissue expanders under my chest tissue to stretch these out so they can put the implants in and have some protection. It really is hilarious when you really think about it. Luckily I don't have much feeling in my boobs anymore, so I couldn't really feel it so it didn't hurt...

Until about 2 hours later after my next Breast Surgeon appointment. He also said everything looked good. And basically now we are waiting for a final Tumor test, awaiting my Onca Score. To find out if I would need Chemo or not. I think we have ruled out Radiation since the second procedure was negative. But with the Onca Score, this scores the aggressiveness of the cancer. So if my score is a certain number then my cancer is more aggressive. So they would want to do chemo just incase there was something somewhere else hidden ever so slightly in some odd corner somewhere. So they can kill it and have less worry of reoccurrence. 

Should know in a week or so, so keep some good thoughts that my score is low...like below par golf low. 

Then I'll see a Medical Oncologist for further treatment, whether it is chemo or other. 

Hurry up and wait. Lots of hurry ups and lots of waiting. 

xoxo
Dani and slightly pumped up and sore girls

 

Blame game

 

 

My doc from day one, has always said, so are you ready to cuss me out yet. And in all honestly I haven't cussed out anyone or thing. There is NO ONE or THING to blame for this. 

I did NOT get
breast cancer from not eating enough "greens." I did NOT get breast cancer from my aluminum deodorant. I did NOT get breast cancer from eating red meat. I did NOT get breast cancer from my cell phone. I did NOT get breast cancer because I don't go to church every day. I did NOT get breast cancer because I don't exercise everyday. I did NOT get breast cancer because I am a bad person. I did NOT get breast cancer because I am unlucky. I did NOT get breast cancer for being stressed running a business for 5 years.

I just got CANCER.

And we don't know why. The perfect storm of a genetic mutation and high hormones? Darwinism theory of survival of the fittest? The big man upstairs and universe's way of testing out my life motivation and inspiration?

So I will not blame my life choices, my family genetics, my doctor, my religion, my deodorant, Hopewell's water, not eating enough kale and quinoa, eating that processed hot dog. 

Truth is we know 15% of all cancer. And from all the actual medical books and studies I have read, the only thing that seams to promote breast cancer is being obese, a smoker and an alcoholic. I am neither, so aside from genetics we don't know. And I do know, I did nothing in my life to get cancer. 

But I do know, I will continue to live one hell of a life having survived cancer.  

xoxo
Dani and the forgiving girls

Hiccups are the devil

That and sneezing. Yeah, sneezing. ouch.

Still 3 weeks out and I get this serious nervous twitch when I start to feel hiccups or a sneeze come on. It hurts. My boobs hurt in general and I still can't lift my arms above a 45° angle. That is normal. I still can't reach the cup shelf and it is difficult to open up my medicine bottles. I also can't wash my hair. My boobs are deflated. I can't laugh really hard, so I snap. Seriously, I snap, like a sorority girl (no offense). 

The past few days were pretty slow for me. I also think it was the first time there was quiet in my head and around me since I found the lump 9 weeks ago (to this day). I'm healing, recovering, not my self yet, and it is quiet. I'm officially now "cancer free" they tell me. Everything moved so fast after they did the biopsy on me. High on adrenaline I guess. Survival mode kicked in. And now its quiet. Now its time to figure out the next steps, but there isn't a rush. Next steps...I should go in and paint, draw and be creative for me. But honestly, it's hard, so I couldn't find the motivation yet. Or maybe the focus. There are still uncertainties. I'm still waiting on a final test to see if I definitely need chemo or not (my ONCA score). So I just sat and watched TV...mostly Grey's Anatomy from the Season/Episode 1. 

So I grieved, for the first time since I was diagnosed. I grieved for my beautiful boobs. I grieved for this cancer that will put a fear in my head for the rest of my life. I grieved that my arms and movement will always struggle because of this surgery. I grieved for not being able to ever feel the joys of breast feeding (even if I hear it really isn't all that it's cracked up to be). I grieved for the slight chance I may not be able to have children because of this. I grieved for being single and hoping that someone will love me and stand by me. I grieved for my grandmother who lost this battle. I grieved for the fact that everyone will look at me different. I grieved because I will be weaker and softer in a way. I will never think the same with any decision. I grieved for the single fact, that I will never be the same. 

So I grieved. And I needed that. That is part of recovery.

That doesn't make me weak, by any standards. I needed that. So I can feel the pain that I was going through. Every single person handles every situation differently. And I just wanted to let you know, that it is alright to grieve and feel the pain. I know that over the past few weeks, I have posted photos from the beginning of smiles on my face and jokes. And that is so not fake, but also how I grieved and felt the pain. I needed to feel those laughs, jokes, smiles, hugs, messages, likes, cards, support to get me through. And it wasn't that I wasn't scared, because I was, but I also felt that was what I needed to do. If you also know me, I'm not a drama queen, if something bad happens, I don't crowd in a corner crying and find a blame game, I just figure out a way to fix it. I was even like that before I owned a business in a highly stressful, highly last minute profession. Oh the printer screwed something up for the wedding tomorrow, UPS didn't show up with those napkins that we need today..let's just figure out how to fix the damn thing. And I do. I fix it. And thats what I did....let's just fix the damn thing. So after my few weeks of "fixing" mode I also had this other overwhelming feeling to fight, live and  inspire. I know that sounds like a cheesy wall hanging you find in Cracker Barrel or even if designed in an awesome way at cute paper boutique on an adorable downtown mall. But it's the truth. So thats what I did, and thats what I will continue to do. I just wanted to let you know, it is okay to grieve and feel the pain too in whatever way is right for you. 

Pain. You just have to ride it out, hope it goes away on its on. Hope the wound that caused it heals. There are no solutions, no easy answers. You just breath deep and wait for it subside. Most of the time pain can be managed, but sometimes the pain gets you when you least expect it, hits way below the belt and doesn’t let up. Pain. You just have to fight through, because the truth is you can’t outrun it... And life always makes more.
— Meredith Grey, Grey's Anatomy

I can't remember if I read it somewhere or what, but I have always kept it with me...there wouldn't be good without the bad. Otherwise we wouldn't have the good, we wouldn't appreciate the good. We wouldn't know what good is. So without the pain, would we not run to healthy? Without the ugly, would we not love the pretty? Without the rain would we not dance in the sunshine?

So here's my good.

I'm going to freaking rock life. Take life as it is. Appreciate it. Love my new perky boobs. Wear my scars proudly. Talk about my experiences because it is a part of me and always will be. Laugh as much as I can, especially when I don't have to snap. Love my body. Be good to my body. Love my family and friends. Be good to my family and friends. Take any experience I can take. Travel when I want and where I want. I'll totally get in fights with life, but isn't that any relationship. With fights come the making up.

And now I'm making up with my life. 

And huge apologies for being all serious and corny in this post. I blame it on Meredith Grey's monologues. 

xoxo
Dani and the still sore girls

 

 

 

Tough girls + PINK PUMPKINS

Wednesday, October 21st I went under general anesthesia for a second and hopeful final procedure. See my pathology report came back and basically said a few things that made my doctor want to go back in to grab a tiny bit more tissue. The tumor tail was curved weird, the tumor was only 1.4 cm from my skin surface and I had a .4 cm margin around the tumor. It could have been a local anesthesia, but like my Breast Surgeon, Jones said, I don't think Brian (my plastic surgeon) would be too happy if I started sticking your expanders with needles. So I went under general again. I joked that he just didn't want me chatting with him for the half hour of the procedure. As I walked into the OR in the MJH outpatient center, my doc was like, alright are you ready to cuss me out yet, I said Dr. Jones, "I'm not going to cuss you out...just the f*ckin' cancer and the f*ckin' close margin." I could tell he was smiling under his surgical mask. See he has this great dry sense of humor, I have liked from the beginning, which is how I knew he was the right one for the job. Well its what I think I said, I was going under at this point. And woke back up 30 minutes later. I was in and out of the Out Patient Center in less than 4 hours. 

High on some oxy they gave me, I was still feeling pretty good and ended up swinging by to see my cousin run in her cross country track meet. Ironically her and her mom (who is the cross country track coach) were both wearing pink. Even if it wasn't on purpose, I felt glad I came to cheer them on. They have both cheered me on since the beginning of this whole cancer fight, good to cheer them on. And my sweet cousin ran her best run and qualified for All District! Later that night I FINALLY got to watch my waterfall scene of The Last of the Mohicans with momma A. We all knew this was one of my Grandma Tunnie's favorite movies, but my mom said while we watched this, "I think we saw this at the theaters when it came out after one of mom's [my grandma Tunnie] Chemo visits."  (if you are just tuning in, my Grandma Tunnie fought the BC for years)

Another Full circle, Tunnie was definitely watching over our family that day...

Clear Tissue, Fast Legs, Can't Loose! 

(Sorry for the corny Friday Night Lights reference)

So yesterday, Thursday, October 22nd, My doc called to let me know that the report came back from the tissue he took and it was clear! So he said "Go out and celebrate tonight." Obviously he was slightly joking, since it was only 2 weeks after a bilateral mastectomy and 1 day after a small surgery. But I took him seriously and headed out. 

One of girlfriends started this group called the Pink Pumpkin Initiative just this month. Where they paint pink pumpkins and will sell them at retail stores and the local Charlottesville Farmer's Market (this Saturday, the 24th). Heather (my business partner) had already signed us up to be a retail partner and sell some! All proceeds will be donated to the UVA Breast Cancer Care Center and the Every Women's Life Program, which provides free screenings to low-income and uninsured women in the area. Friend and owner of The Shebeen Pub & Braai provided the Veranda for the party and donated the pumpkins and appetizers.

My super awesome and close all-girl blue grass band Pretty Little Miss performed during the event. My girls even dedicated a song to me "Hey Good Lookin" which I hadn't heard them play before, but I got to get up and danced a bit to it (as well as I could considering). If you don't know me, one thing you must know, I like to dance, so it felt good to have my "first dance" at this event to my girls playing. Oh and yeah, there is another breast cancer survivor in this band! 


I walked in and saw Sarah who started this event and said what started you to decide to do this, she said, when I found out about you. 

Well, damn. I'm glad I showed up then! 

I got to see a lot of good friends, give updates and give the awkward butt/chest out mastectomy hugs. I painted a pumpkin, not my best work of yet, but hey, I'm a little handicapped at the moment. 

So if you see some pink pumpkins floating around this weekend, buy one...proceeds go toward a good cause. And if you have one, paint it pink...awareness for a good cause. 

We are selling some at rock paper scissors as well!

I know talking about boobs can be an awkward thing to talk about, but the more we talk about it, the more we can help save all our girls, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our cousins, our friends, our aunts, even our men (yes breast cancer affects men too). So FEEL YOUR FREAKIN' TATAS!

One thing I learned last night...I need to add more pink to my wardrobe and really learn to like pink....

AND I SHOULD BE CLEAR OF THE CRAP IN MY BOOBS. next step - pump the girls back up to normal size! 

xo
dani and her tough girls

I will find you...

Here we are 11 days after surgery. Drains removed and I am cancer free!

I have since seen my Plastic Surgeon and my Breast Surgeon. Incisions look good, nips look good, expanders look good, and I have showered...by myself....twice. (hair still needs extra hands on deck)

But note to self, when your doctor calls and talks to you and you just woke up from a hydrocodone /valium filled nap, you should probably pass along the phone to your sober mom. When my doc called with my pathology report, all I heard was we just have to go back in a scrape out a little bit on Friday with no radiation. So I went along to my Plastic Surgeon appointment and he was like, ummm no it will be a little bit "bigger" than what your expecting. But then I saw the Breast Surgeon and its like a medium procedure. I will go under, but only for most an hour and will be out patient. 

Here is what we know.... 

Pathology report came back pretty good. Lymph Node was definitely negative, right breast tissue was negative, but there was a larger "close margin" around the tumor than expected. Margins are the space around the tumor, they can be negative for cancer, positive for cancer, or "close" meaning they could potentially turn into cancer. And it's a sparing game too, because since I did a skin and nipple sparing procedure, they have to save as much skin and tissue to to keep my skin and nips alive, so they have to be careful how much they take. So to be proactive, my doc is heading back in lefty on this Wednesday to scrape out a bit more tissue so I hopeful won't need radiation. Surgery isn't as invasive, going in same incision, shouldn't be more than an hour and out patient.

Most people would probably be upset "well why didn't you get it all the first time." But for me, I see it as a positive. Now we know more about where all this close margin was and the fact that he has to go back in there, you know my doc is going to be extra precise and extra cognitive to make sure he gets all that sh*t out. There really may not be any close margin in there, its mostly proactive. 

I'm still in pain, still can't move my arms much, still have to ask for help...which is getting old...you all know how independent and stubborn I am. 

So here I may get a little too honest with you, but it is really what you guys want to hear right...what do I look like. So I waited until after I saw the Plastic Surgeon to "LOOK." For some reason, I wanted some things to calm down a bit and wait until he said they looked good before I looked. So I finally did. And in all honestly, not too bad, considering what they did. My incisions look small and look like they will heal pretty well. I'll start the expanding process and they will start getting bigger in a few weeks. Then will pump the girls up over the next few months. Then we will exchange the expanders out for new implants around Jan/Feb. I was expecting a nice gift from Santa, but Jan/Feb will do and then they will be right and ready for bikini season to show em off! 

I really have been extremely overwhelmed by all the love, cards, texts, calls, messages, gifts, dinners, flowers, orchids, etc. It is crazy how in times like these, support and having you guys as my team and backers really are important. I'm so incredibly grateful, there really are no words. 

In all honesty the worst thing that happened to me since surgery,...all I wanted to do this past Saturday night was to relax by myself and watch an old DVD of Last of the Mohicans. I got all settled in (which is a big process as you can imagine), opened the DVD and NO FREAKING CD! worst feeling ever. Last of the Mohicans is obviously an amazing movie and one of my favorites, but it was also one of my Grandma Tunnie's favorites, and I remember as a kid going over to her house and watching her recorded tape of it (this is my grandma who fought the big BC too) and whom has been close to my heart during this process. 

But don't worry Daniel Day-Lewis...I will find you...no matter how long it takes, no matter how far.....I will find you.....

Goes for that last bit of "close margin" left too...

We will find you. 

Just like I found "clawrilla"

Now for that waterfall scene that all of us girls dream about...I WILL still be waiting for that. 

xoxo
Dani and the new girls. 

 

HUMP day - well a Bump day rather...

Yes, I'm thinking of the great commercial with the Camel walking around yelling HUMP DAAY! But let's be honest, right now, my commercial should be more like a horse walking around saying BUMP DAAY or rather LUMP FREE DAAY. As I definitely only have little lady bumps than my lovely lady humps from before...and my cancer lump has officially left the building (as of last Thursday). 

(I forgot if I mentioned that I do have a little bit of a boob as he was able to put 250 cc of saline in my expanders at the time of surgery...maybe a small A.

I see my plastic surgeon tomorrow (my first week anniversary since the surgery) to *hopefully* remove my drains. I don't know if it is because my mom, sister and I aren't as squeamish, but the drains haven't been that bad. My adorable holsters that the ladies at my doctor's office made were perfect for holding them. See my sexy photo below of me having fun with them after a fresh dose of pain meds + muscle relaxers. Put 'em up!

 Put 'em up! Bang Bang! Now that is sexy! 

Put 'em up! Bang Bang! Now that is sexy! 


I also go see my Breast Surgeon on Friday for a small precautionary procedure and to review some test results and everything, but he said everything looks very very good and promising! I won't go into too much detail until I know more, but it is positive thus far ;) Wahoo!

Since last Thursday, a few of my favorite things, BACK SCRATCHES (omg - so freaking good, especially with some lavender oil), the fact that from after surgery I have been able to "Wipe my own ass!" (cue that cute kid in Big Daddy), my mother (she deserves a freakin' medal), bendy straws, my whole family, my friends, boob jokes, my back porch watching the leaves change, my amazing doctors, my amazing nurses, and oh yeah - my delicious cocktails of pain meds and muscle relaxers. 

xoxo
me and the little girls.


 

Road to Recovery

Well, my energy isn't the highest right now. So I will be brief here. But here I am at home...still in some pain, flat chested and hopeful* to say cancer free! Surgery went really well, both my doctors called it "boring" which is what I wanted to hear. They just took one lymph node and had done the preliminary tests on that which came back negative! (thats like a 99% accuracy). The full and final results come back early next week with my full pathology report which will determine next steps. But a damn good start I think. My plastic surgeon was able to get a bit more saline into my expanders than expected so I'm not completely flat. Aside from the cancer part, I think the other big part was making sure my nipples stay alive. And so far they look great!  I really don't remember too much of Thursday, rolling in and out of consciousness after the surgery, but I do remember not being scared before the surgery. I just had a really good confidence in my doctors. And all 10+ people who visited me Thursday/Friday all agreed. 

I truly did feel all the prayers, love, support, cancer dances, mediations, etc. that have been sent my way this week. I really do feel so incredibly lucky to be so loved! 

#letshearitforthegirls #savethenipples #savethetatas

 

Countdown...

3 more days with my girls. 

I had a great weekend with college/life friends celebrating one of my breast...I mean best friends tie the knot with one of her best friends. Made me also realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many freaking awesome people. I shimmied a lot with all of them and we shared fond memories over the years...and which included the girls most award winning moments...

One of my favorite quotes of the weekend..."Hey Dani, do you remember that my brother used to call you boob girl?" Then I pointed to my boob and said, "Do you know about this?" He said no. He hadn't heard about the cancer yet, but still wanted to point out the I was and well now will be forever known as "Boob Girl."

Thanks girls for being an inspiration to those even around me.