Life has a way of shaping you. Situations and circumstances can make or break you. I decided early in life that I wouldn’t let the hardships break me so I developed this deep sense of determination to always overcome. My mother was my grand example. She fought through many years of severe domestic violence to come out standing incredibly strong and successfully raise 4 children all by herself. She worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time, always made ends meet and never gave up despite the fact that I am sure she felt like it numerous times.
Over the years if I have heard it said once, I’ve heard it said many times, “you are tough!” I’ve been labeled a strong woman by many, and I strive to wear that mantle well. Not in an arrogant fashion, but with a quiet confidence knowing that my strength and perseverance comes from a higher source and that there are 6 precious souls that depend on my abilities to always make it through. Being strong is crucial.
On January 18, 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although I wasn’t completely taken by surprise, I knew something was not going exactly right in my body, I found ironic humor in the fact that recent blood work showed that I was healthy as a horse. Everything was in perfect range! I have been blessed for the past several years to enjoy the outdoors and have spent the last two years participating in numerous intense (and sometimes completely outrageous!) adventuring. I have also been very conscious of the nutrition I have fed my body and soul and the end result was a strong physical, mental and spiritual being. I have felt the best I have ever felt in my life! All the while I am out having the time of my life adventuring; little did I know that my immune system was building itself to mammoth strength. I was unaware that it was fighting hard for me to keep the cancer contained in my breast, hallelujah!
When I was given my treatment plan of 6 rounds of chemotherapy before surgery, I determined immediately to keep a positive attitude and outlook. Everyone who heard about the diagnosis and treatment shouted the words of encouragement to me – You are tough! You got this! You will breeze through this! And I believed that with all of my heart. So here I went to the first treatment with the mindset that, yes, I AM a strong women and not even chemotherapy is going to slow me down much less stop me! (ROFLOL!! I know right! I am always the ambitious one!).
My first treatment was Monday, February 11, 2019. The treatment took 9 hours, whew! But everything went well. My doctor told me that I needed to keep up my exercise through all of this, so I stepped out of the car, went into the house to put up my stuff, and headed out the door for a mile walk. I felt victorious! Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed, I worked each day, and other than feeling like I was a jacked up rabbit on speed that suddenly felt like I could nap for days (totally due to the steroid and nausea meds regime to prevent sickness – which worked!) I felt good. I was conquering this thing called chemotherapy. Then Friday came…and the rude awakening that chemotherapy doesn’t care how tough you are! It does not take into consideration all of your accomplishments, victories, and achieved goals. It doesn’t care if you are a feisty, strong spirited, independent woman. It doesn’t care that you had big plans to hike for the weekend. When it decides to have its way with you, it does, and with a vengeance. These are my lessons learned from round 1 of chemical warfare on the terrorist that is residing in my rebellious boob…
When the chemicals decide they are ready to exit your body…you better have enough Imodium AD on hand to stop 20 elephants. Otherwise you will find yourself becoming intimate with your bathroom and losing 10 pounds in less than 48 hours.
Coconut water is a great source of hydration, unless you drink too much. Then it acts like a natural laxative – which isn’t good if you are experiencing chemo dump! Ugh!
Protein meal replacement shakes are a great source of nutrition when you don’t feel like eating because your mouth has been attacked by the chemical warfare and you feel like you have eaten shards of glass for breakfast. Unless…you are lactose intolerant and they are lactose based. Yeah you guessed it…hello bathroom!
A cold bowl of ice cream tastes so good when your mouth is on fire…again unless you are lactose intolerant and…well, refer to the above statement!
Chemicals exiting your body burn like a forest fire out of control. Thank God I wasn’t throwing up and it wasn’t my esophagus feeling like a marriage of gasoline and matches. ( that is all I will say about that!)
Muscle spasms are no fun! Especially if you are dehydrated from running to the bathroom for two days because of chemotherapy, coconut water and lactose based foods. Except for a cramp in my calf or toe over the years, I had never had a muscle spasm in 49 years and had no clue that something could seize up your whole body make you feel like someone was stabbing a knife into your pelvic bone, all the while pulling your muscles all the way to your chest tighter than a rubber band. Holy freaking moly!
Chemotherapy can cause your mouth to sizzle like you have eaten a bowl full of pop rocks (remember that childhood candy??) And then suddenly, out of nowhere, you can wake up feeling like you have swallowed a desert of cacti. Two words…miracle mouthwash. HAVE IT ON HAND!
No matter how much of a go-getter you are, you WILL take a nap almost daily and you will like it!
Do not, I repeat, do not eat a Hershey’s’ kiss 3 days after having chemotherapy. It will taste like rotten cardboard and you will cry a little because chocolate should never, ever, ever taste like that! (Wait two weeks and indulge in the M&M’s your friends bring you, you will love them as much as you always have and it will be sunshine to your soul!)
Chemotherapy is not fond of hair. That is good news for your armpits and legs,I don’t have to shave for days and days – woot woot! However that is bad news for your head. Warning, although you know it will grow back eventually, you WILL cry when your hair starts to fall out in handfuls. Thank God and friends for pretty scarves and head covers.
Chemotherapy doesn’t care if your child has the flu. It will not allow you to take care of him and it won’t care that your heart is broke when he has to go stay somewhere else while he is contagious.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bite your lip the night before chemotherapy. Remember that it takes your body longer to heal because your immune system is being annihilated. If you have this protruding sore on the inside of your lip, chances are it will get in your way and you WILL bite it over and over. You will cringe every time that you do and it will get infected and hang around way too long!
Chemotherapy doesn’t bother that you never had had allergies in your life. You will wake up with a new found allergy and your eyes will water at the sight of daylight and your nose will drip constantly like a leaking faucet.
Chemotherapy and Mother Nature are wicked friends when they visit you at the same time…no other words needed.
Round 1 of chemotherapy was definitely a learning experience. I had no clue what to expect and there were moments when the side effects hit that I felt ignorant, ashamed, defeated and as helpless as a new born baby. The good news is I am a quick learner. Perseverance and determination are my lifelong companions. I take note of every little detail and for round two I am much more prepared! Does that mean I will be tougher than the chemicals that are pumping through my veins? Bahahaha…NO. I will just be smarter (and a little more pissed off than I originally was the first time around). My prayers will be that much more specific and I will fight with knowledge and diligence, and eventually, I will win this battle no matter how much chemotherapy doesn’t care.
So, let round 2 of chemical warfare on the terrorist that has invaded my body begin…