Thursday, February 10, 2011

5 months, 4 months, 1 month

My Sister Tmack and I exchanged some emails today; she is still in chemo on the Taxol portion of the party.  She was asking me some questions about how long it took for my hair to get to its current short spiky length, and how my radiated skin was healing at this point.  Thanks Tmack for the questions, and the inspiration to write about where my body is at this point.

Five Months Out from Chemo, This is What It Looks Like
I am five months out from finishing five months of chemo.  My hair has come in fairly thick, and is about an inch and a half long.  My old hair was very long, thick, curly, and dirty blond with gold highlights.  My new chemo hair is very straight all through the crown, and the rest of it has some curl coming in.  It feels very soft, like baby hair.  It doesn't really respond to styling or brushing yet, so I put a little gel in my hands and finger it as best I can to make it look like something.  There is a fair amount of "platinum" all on top, not so much on the sides and back.

My fingernails are incredible.  Very long and rock hard.

The skin on my hands and face, which were both extremely dry during and after chemo, has gotten considerably better and I don't have to constantly moisturize throughout the day.  My color is good in my face again, I'm peachy and rosy, nothing like the marble white I looked like through chemo.

I continue to have neuropathy as a leftover from Taxol, primarily in my right foot.  The left foot is awake, and only occasionally joins in, a slight numbing on toes three, four and five.  On my right foot, toes three and four are still completely asleep, although toe number two wakes up for long stretches of time before going back to bed again.  The pad of my right foot is still very numb, especially close to the base of sleeping toes.  When I walk for long periods of time, the whole top third of my right foot falls completely asleep, and the ache moves up into my shin.

My balance at this point is still a real concern to me.  I realized a day ago it's not just about my right foot.  If I tilt my head back, like when you swig a soda, I almost completely lose my balance.  I have to be careful with that one, almost falling back a few times taking a drink from my water bottle.  Now I know to hold on to something, or not tilt back as far as I normally would have.

Four Months Out from BLM
Hard to believe I've been without Flopsy and Mopsy for four months now.  I occasionally wear a Bandini by Hanes, a tube top loose fitting bra, or a sports bra.  I can't wear one for long though, I am still fairly tender where my drains used to be.

Let's talk about Mopsy first, who was not radiated.  Mopsy looks almost like a normal breast, except for the fact that she is deflated, needs to be ironed, and is only about one inch thick.  The skin color has returned to normal, very peachy, and my nipple looks great and is all rosy.  The scar under Mopsy is a very narrow cranberry line, about 4 inches long.  The scar feels like a very small rope, more like twine.  Most of the discomfort on the front right of my chest is gone, and the right shoulder is really loosening up.

The upper back and neck numbness and pain I was having is very slowly resolving.  My right arm, which frequently felt swollen and very tight, is also getting better.  I think I reported to you that the CT scan of my chest and neck was fine and showed no blockage.  Nobody seems to have an answer why my right arm is having trouble, but speculate it was related to scarring from my ports and my PICC.  It feels like it's getting better, but I'm still not able to wear the jewelry I used to wear on my right hand.

On my left side, where six lymph nodes were removed (5/6 positive for cancer then), the tightness under my arm is much better, but still there.  I continue to do stretching exercises to loosen that up.  My scar where my lymph nodes were removed is losing its color and is much softer, and about 2 1/2 inches now.  Some of the feeling is returning on the inside upper arm, but is still completely numb in a large area of my left arm pit.  My left arm so far has not had any swelling, and I have still been able to wear my wedding ring and thumb ring with no problem.

One more thing.  Although both my nipples "work" in that they get erect, they are numb to the touch.

One Month Out from Radiation
After being radiated, Flopsy's appearance is substantially different than Mopsy's.  Flopsy has shrunk, probably about 20%, and is much tighter, thicker and lumpy.  The skin still has all kinds of discoloration to it, but no longer oozes or stings.  The colors vary from a rosy sunburn to tan, although as I told Tmack, the tan is not bronzy.  It is more gray in color and ugly.  I am a little worried about what the skin will look like when Flopsy is filled like a Twinkie.  Flopsy's nipple still looks agitated, and the pores on that breast are larger and fairly noticeable.  I am still peeling on top of Flopsy and underneath along the scar.  That scar is tighter, harder, redder and not healing as well as the one under Mopsy, which was not radiated.

I had a few small moles on Flopsy, and in the area of my neck where I was radiated.  They are all substantially darker.  I notice that my radiated skin still cannot tolerate hot water.

In General
I am sleeping like a rock star, after all those months of insomnia.  I sometimes nap during the day, but not as often since I sleep through the night now, and often sleep in.  I am getting substantially more sleep than I did all through treatment, and it feels great.  I feel my stamina is returning, not in any big way but slow incremental progress.

I have discovered now that I am on Tamoxifen, that caffeine, even one cup of coffee or black tea, gives me a hot flash.  Damn.  I've been feeling a little more weepy lately, I don't know if that is hormonal, or just post treatment let down.

Now that I'm not on the front line, I've got time to think about each battle.

Sometimes the recall is so strong, I have to remind myself it's over.

I really am home from Cancer Camp.


Mollye said...

Honey you are as brave as you are beautiful What an inspiration you are to more women than you could possible imagine. Hugs, Mollye

Martha said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It's been 7 months since my BLM (no reconstruction) and I am still tight and uncomfortable at times -- if I could just "unzip" the scars I'd feel better! I'm nearly 3 months out of chemo and, like you, continue to have issues with neuropathy, mostly in my feet. 12 more rads to go and 155 days until all treatment will be over (I have 8 more herceptin infusions). But who's counting? I'm not wishing my life away and want to enjoy every day -- even the not so good ones -- but I cannot wait until the endless appts are over! Again, many many thanks for sharing your journey. Martha (meames from y-me)

writergirldreams said...

Hi Mollye, you are such a doll, I was just reading this morning your post about when your hubby calls you. I really loved that. In this era of disposable relationships it is so refreshing to find people who are still in love!

Martha, Martha, hello meames!!! Thank you for coming here. But who's counting, that's freakin funny cancer humor baby! I'll unzip your scars if you unzip mine. Thank God for my Sisters like you, I never ever would have made it through this shit. Hugs and love and so glad you came!


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