The Other Side, There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel and it Ain’t the Train!

I walked into my Oncologist’s office for my routine 6 month appointment with a level of confidence I’ve never had (since I started going to her in 2014). I lost 2 survivor sisters in 2018, gained a new survivor sister (not a club you want your loved ones or anyone to join), and I have a survivor sister battling a recurrence. It was a tough year to say the least. I ended 2018 with having a Bilateral SalpingoOophorectomy (removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes) with a total hysterectomy (uterus and cervix removed). Being BRCA1+ having had Triple Negative Breast Cancer sometimes feels like having a dark cloud overhead…like cancer is lurking in the shadows waiting to strike those vulnerable parts of me at the highest risk… Like that cloud is waiting to rain on my parade! NOT TODAY or any other day!!! Those parts of me were no longer serving me and had to go. I laid my burdens down on December 18, 2018 with that surgery which was also exploratory to confirm no evidence of cancer; it was also the 4th anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy.

So today I walked into that office feeling good and knowing I’m GOOD! No anxiety. No panic attacks. No crazy thoughts in the back of my head. I didn’t have to give myself a pep talk. I wasn’t dreading the appointment as I usually do. My doctor did everything she always does. What was different was ME!!! Today was the first time that I truly felt ON THE OTHER SIDE. I’ve had days that just felt like I would never be on the other side like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Not any more. I’m almost at the point where I only have to see my oncologist ONCE a year. I no longer have to have the MRI’s, the pelvic ultrasounds, pap smears, or endometrial biopsies. I was all smiles giving up my blood today, that’s pretty much the extent of what my appointments with my oncologist will be like now. THANK GOD! We knocked out 4 years and I’m living my best life. Another year to hit that milestone 5!

If I can do it so can you. No matter what you are going through, you can get to the other side! You can drill through the mountain, climb it, fly over it or command it to move… It’s up to you. Whatever you do, Fight Like a Grown Ass Woman!!!!!

Her Crown and Glory, No Hair and DO Care!

When my oncologist was giving me the run down on what to expect from chemo I think the only thing I heard during that initial conversation was that I would lose my hair…all of it!

Other people were like “Everybody doesn’t lose their hair you might be ok.” What these folks didn’t know is that is true… However, its because all chemotherapy drugs are not the same. My chemo cocktail was the kind that resulted in total hair loss. My Oncologist (being a trained professional and all) knew exactly what the side effects would be and was managing my expectations accordingly.

Someone else meaning well told me about the chemo cold cap system that could help save my hair but would be expensive, cold, and inconvenient.

Then there was everyone else saying “ITS JUST HAIR. IT WILL GROW BACK!” Yes, true but it was my hair and it didn’t FEEL as simple as that. The thought of my hair falling out or coming out in big clumps was scary. The control freak in me was like just get a cute short haircut to ease into baldness…

So 2 days after my 1st chemotherapy treatment I went to a salon with my best friends and we got our hair cut while one documented the process. I was there but not there. I held my ponytail in my hand as my heart was slowly breaking… not solely because of the hair loss but the REASON for the haircut and what else would be cut… My heart was slowly breaking in millions of pieces because I knew CHANGE was coming but I didn’t know how or what to expect and I wasn’t in control…this was just the beginning and it scared the shit out of me. My friends knew this and made many sacrifices (not just hair…time, money, resources, and more) to FIGHT with me and let me know I would never be alone on this journey.

Looking back on this now, I have to say I would’ve done it differently… I would’ve had my head shaved bald… 11 days after the haircut my scalp and eyelids started feeling weird. It was like tingling and hurting. Exactly 14 days after my 1st chemo my hair was coming out… falling like snow everywhere…just touching it lightly it was coming out, laying down it was all over the pillow, riding in the car with the window cracked it was blowing out. I had these crazy patches in my hair and I was freaking out totally traumatized…

My husband pulled out his clippers while my BFF face-timed on my iPad. WE shaved my head. I’m certain it was as traumatizing for me as it was for him and this was just the beginning of a long journey…

Cuttin your hair by choice is much different from losing your hair because of cancer. There are a plethora of self-image issues that arise for breast cancer patients that only breast cancer patients understand. Someone somewhere is going through this right now… my message is you have every right to feel however you feel… be it sad, angry, or indifferent. As you process your feelings remember this is the beginning of a fight. Put on your boxing gloves and FIGHT LIKE A GROWN ASS WOMAN CHAMP!!! You Got This! This too will pass!!!! You are NOT your hair or your skin. YOU ARE THE SOUL THAT LIVES WITHIN!