Category Archives: Blogging

Day 15: Numbness

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It’s hard to separate the emotions and the physical effects I felt during breast cancer treatment. It’s to be expected with everything that happened to my body. My emotions were a concern but usually if I was down, I’d bounce back. At one point, emotional numbness took over, and it was a warning sign of something else.

During my Wednesday treatments from January through the end of April, I was anxious for port access and the Benedryl restless leg episodes, then felt mellow as I received the chemo and fluids. Jeff would call that last part asleep! He was right. One day, my friend Liz was there, too, and I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation. When I woke up, we laughed about it!

The day following treatment, I’d get a bit anxious from the steroids, yet in an upbeat mood. By Friday afternoon or evening, I started to feel the negative effects of the drugs, which was not the best mood booster.

My treatment symptoms included extreme nausea, bone pain, sleepiness, body aches, and general malaise. I wanted to lay still, not lifting my head. I’d have preferred to just sleep for 4-5 days until it eased up. I’ve had worse sharp pain – the pain after my last back surgery felt unbearable. This “death warmed over” feeling that I mentioned in post 12 was a different animal. The physical symptoms were accompanied by the most awful, depressing feeling. As it lessened several days after chemo, I’d start getting my smile back. Life wasn’t perfect but my outlook was better.

Sometime in March, I started to drag. I had no energy. Emotionally, I felt numb a lot of the time. I couldn’t shake out of it. Was this depression? Was it physical? I wasn’t sure so I talked to my oncologist, Dr. C.

Oncologists monitor blood cells carefully because AC-T chemo for breast cancer kills white cells, making you more susceptible to infection, and can kill the cells that form hemoglobin, or red blood cells. My hemoglobin count was low. I was told to take iron. It’s funny because I took iron for many years but, as with all women, there comes a time that you don’t need it. The need was back. My count dropped again, and I had an infusion of iron to bring it up more quickly.

In April, I hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to lift my legs. I could walk but I felt as if I was dragging weights behind me. I suffered from brain fog, buzzing ears, and continued emotional numbness.

We called the doctor’s office and were told to come in for another blood test. A nurse told me to wait for results. The doctor’s lead nurse came to see me in the waiting room, which was unusual. She gave Jeff a look, then knelt beside my chair. (Insert ominous music here.) My hemoglobin count had dropped significantly, below the acceptable level. I was feeling so badly because I needed a blood transfusion.

Anemia can be a big concern for cancer patients. According the American Cancer Society, it can affect quality of life and can shorten survival. With a low red blood cell count, your body can’t get enough oxygen, makes you tired, and can get bad enough to be life threatening. I received a blood transfusion later that day, and the doctor delayed my next treatment. As the new blood went to work, I lost that dragging feeling and ear buzzing, and slowly the fog lifted.

Pay attention to your bodies, folks! Sick or not. The small knot you feel in your breast or elsewhere could be cancer. The pain you can’t explain can indicate various illnesses. Emotional changes, like the numbness I felt, can come along with physical issues. Talk to your doctor to identify or rule out medical causes. You may save your own life!

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 10: Guilt

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When you know someone that has a terrible illness and think about what they’ve been feeling, would you identify guilt as one of those emotions? During my breast cancer journey, I felt guilt about what everyone else had to sacrifice or did for me. It’s nice being the center of attention when you’ve accomplished something good or when you’re celebrating a special day, but when you need a ride to your appointments, ask someone to sit with you, need them to cook, clean and take care of extra responsibilities, that’s not the kind of attention you’d wish for.

In many ways, guilt was the flipside of gratitude. I appreciated every little itty bitty thing that someone did for me. At the same time, I resented that they had to do it because my treatments made me weak and needy. It was self-induced guilt. I didn’t do anything bad or wrong that warranted my guilt. It simply happened.

Here’s a grand guilt-inducing example. Jeff loves traveling internationally. He’s been to South Korea, China, Peru, Scotland, Morocco and Australia. He travels for work, presenting at conferences and universities, and the presentations are included in his body of work for his job as a professor. After giving the presentations, he takes time to explore, meet people and enjoy new places. I’m not much of a world traveler, so I’m glad he has these opportunities. When I had cancer, Jeff gave up his travel for a year to help me and be with me. He missed getting credit on his vitae for the work he would have done. He spent less time doing many things that he enjoys and would have done if I’d been healthy in 2016. It made me sad that I made him alter his life so much. I felt guilty.

I know that Jeff has no regrets; it’s silly to think that. I’d do the same for him, except I’d be giving up going to craft shows, shopping for clothes, and lunch with friends rather than flying to exotic lands. I felt the same guilt about whatever nice things my sons did for me, like grocery shopping, helping with meals, or being my chauffeur. I loved the meals friends dropped off, yet I felt badly that they went through trouble for me. You get the picture: I’m a person who can carry a lot of guilt.

It’s hard to accept help, to admit that you need it, to realize you can’t do things yourself. Pride gets in the way, along with embarrassment. It’s important to push past the negative feelings and feel lots of love and gratitude. Likely, you’ve helped other people and will again in the future. It’s just your turn.

If you have cancer or another serious illness and are in need in of help, someone will step up and give you a hand. Sometimes, family and friends know you can’t cope alone, and they’re ready on day 1 to support you. Other times, people don’t know your needs. You have to work up the courage to ask for help. It’s okay to ask. There’s no shame in needing help, and, if you’re a more self-assured person than me, no guilt.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

No Day Like Today to Begin

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Several years ago, when I found out I had breast cancer, I went through many emotions in a year’s time. Some were predictable, others unexpected. Some came and went, others lasted or repeated. Of course, there were some overlapping feelings and contradictory emotions. But they were mine, all mine, directly a result of having a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I met others on the cancer journey, and we shared our stories. I found that friends I had on Facebook had suffered from the disease as well as other from types of cancer, and some still suffer. I made new friends in person and online because of people reaching out. I discovered that although my feelings were mine, my sisters suffering from breast cancer, as well as others dealing with various types of cancer, had gone through or were going through many of the same emotions as me.

I’m committing to writing about the emotional experience of breast cancer, which is intertwined with and yet separate from the physical and medical experiences. This blog will have 30 posts. There’s no day like today, at the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to begin. I hope you read the blog, get something from it, and share it with others. I’m thankful that you’re in my life and cared enough to get this far.

Hugs and love,
Denise

P.S. I am not a medical or mental health professional and I’m not pretending to be one. This blog is based on my experience and insight. Always consult qualified professionals for your health and well-being.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks