Breast cancer and its treatments leave behind scars of many kinds. Healing from your physical and emotional scars are a part of your healing process. Both need to be looked after with equal amounts of care.
Hello dear friends. We hope where ever you are while reading this, you know you are not alone. Where ever you are on your journey, you are strong enough to fight. In this blog, we will be talking about scars. Not necessarily the scars that are left behind from radiation, chemo, and surgery. We will be talking about the emotional scars that come along with fighting this battle. These scars need to be cared for and healed just as much as your physical scars do. This process can take time, but we promise it's worth it. Not dealing with these scars can make the journey into returning to the life you want difficult or even impossible. A scar is something a warrior should be proud of. You went through the fight, and you won. You are now more aware, realistic, stronger, and wiser.
Your cancer treatments will affect your body physically, but it goes way beyond that. It can affect how you feel, think, and like to do things in your life. Treatment can even change the way your brain works. Yes, chemo brain is a real thing! You could be facing mental changes in how you learn, how well you concentrate, and how well you remember. There is nothing wrong with you, these are common effects for many people going through treatment. Also, how your treatments will affect you mentally and physically is unique to each person. It is important to be informed and educated about what is happening to your body before, during, and after your treatment. Discussing and researching how you can help yourself stay as healthy mentally and physically as possible is also key to this process.
Long term and short term effects of treatment can affect your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and fear can develop during treatment. After treatment a lot of this fear is based on the worry and possibility that your cancer could return. Anxiety can bloom out of the initial shock of taking in all of the information you're given at the beginning of your journey. This can make it very difficult to cope or comprehend what is going on.
While going through and working on your emotional healing, keeping an open line of communication is very important. Make sure to talk about how you're feeling. Express it, work through your emotions, and try to continue past them. Working through these emotions can help you move towards a more positive attitude, and to help you cope with life in general. Make sure to be open with your care team, a medical professional, or a trusted loved one. Holding in these emotions and feelings can be very hurtful. Feeling angry can get in the way of taking care of yourself. Sometimes, it can energize you. Use these emotions for a positive outcome, don't stew inside of them. Prioritize your mental health. You are allowed to feel how you do. They are valid emotions and you are worthy to feel this way. Allow yourself to grieve, but don't let it last forever.
Your body could be facing many different kinds of changes, too. Some may only last for a little while, while others could stay forever. Even if you don't show these changes, you could still see them. Anger and grief are natural reactions to this situation. It can affect your sex drive. It might make you feel that your appearance has changed how your loved ones look at you, respond to you, and will act around you. These natural reactions can also cause depression, anxiety, and fear.
Things That Can Help:
After treatment, it might be strange that you aren't always in panic mode. You're so used to that feeling, that it can be mentally jarring to start going back to some sense of normalcy. But that normalcy can place a lot of burden on you as well. Getting back to your sense of normal can take time. Even with the victory and empowerment that you've successfully beaten cancer. It might take time to feel like you can go back to your life again. Your normal may not be the same again, and it's difficult to adjust to that. Remember, your breasts are not who you are nor do they represent who you are.
Healing doesn't just happen overnight and then you're better. It has many stages and steps along the way. Take the time to do what you need. We are here for you along every step of the way and are always here to talk when you need us. Never hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.
Early detection is one of the most important life-saving factors when wanting to prevent and fight breast cancer. If you can start on the journey early in your life, it might save and protect that life you've built and created.
We've made it to May, friends! We are so thankful to be here with you today and thankful that there is a little more positive news in the world these days. There is still so much that we need to be cautious about, but as breast cancer warriors, that is not a new idea. We've shared some important facts on the realities of what it's like to live with breast cancer while raising children, personal stories of those fighting breast cancer, and how to better your quality of life while living through diagnosis and treatment. One topic that we are extremely passionate about is early detection. We spend a lot of time educating on the topic, spreading awareness on how to begin early detection, and helping those who could benefit from early detection. In this blog, we wanted to share some of the realities of why early detection is so important, tips on what you should be looking out for, some tips on how to stay as healthy as possible, and what early detection could mean for you.
We know that breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in women and one of the most fatal. At the end of the day, catching it as soon as possible is key. As of now, there isn't a cure for breast cancer, making early detection more important every day. The purpose of early detection is to find and identify any breast abnormalities as soon as possible. If breast cancer or it's beginning stages are found and caught sooner, it can be treated more efficiently. There are more treatment options available to you and there is a higher rate of survival if caught sooner.
We've talked about the reality that breast cancer can appear in women under the age of 40 in some of our most recent blogs. It does happen more often than the general public cares to admit. Mammograms are not efficient enough for women under the age of 40, as the breast tissue is still to firm for the mammogram to penetrate through and provide a clear reading of what's happening inside the breast itself. This is when self-breast examinations come into play and become incredibly important. By the time you've reached early adulthood, you should be doing a monthly breast exam, regardless of your family's history of breast cancer. It never hurts to be safe. Self-breast examinations are the best tool for discovering early stages and signs of breast cancer, and any findings should always be reported to your doctor.
Breast cancer is a risk for everyone. The path you take will just be a little different depending on who you are, what your body has decided to do, and what your family history is. But know that no one is alone on this path. You might need to deal with these realities a little sooner than later, it might become a part of your medical appoints and gynecologist visits every year, but it will keep you healthier longer. Be kind to your body and follow the necessary steps to preserve your life. Stay strong, Lowcountry! We are in this fight and all the fight the world has currently given us, together. Today is another day that we have to live to the fullest.
Receiving the news that you have breast cancer is difficult and life-changing information. But, what happens if you're pregnant and receive this news?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is the last thing you want to deal with, let alone when you have the happy news that you're pregnant. There is still such a stigma connected to breast cancer that it only happens later in life, and after menopause. But, as we've mentioned in previous blogs, breast cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't pay attention to age or sex. Women and men at all stages of life are vulnerable and susceptible to breast cancer, and that includes pregnant mothers. Being pregnant and expecting a child should always be a time of joy and happiness, but a diagnosis of breast cancer changes all of that. What does this mean for you and the baby? How will this change your treatments? What will the next nine months of pregnancy look like? This will be a delicate and complicated journey, one you need to plan very carefully with your obstetrician and your oncologist. You need to be very well informed about your choices and options, and to choose what path is best for you and your baby. These decisions and the treatments need to focus on not just getting rid of or treating your cancer. They also need to be chosen to keep your baby safe and healthy as well. This limits and changes what kind of treatment options are available to you and when exactly you can receive them throughout your three trimesters.
The positive news is that yes, as a pregnant woman, you treat your breast cancer. The tricky part is deciding what route you can safely go to protect your baby and still conquer your cancer. This all depends on a handful of factors. They include how healthy you are overall, how far along you are in your pregnancy if the cancer has started to spread and if it has where it has spread to, the size of your cancerous tumor, and where that tumor is located. For a pregnant woman, two of the safest options are surgery and chemotherapy, while radiation and other hormonal therapy treatments are recommended to be avoided until after you've delivered.
This treatment is safe for babies in the second or third trimester, but not in the first. In the first trimester, some of the most important development and growth occurs, and chemo can seriously interfere in that process. It also runs a higher risk of losing the baby if chemo is used during this time as well. Many of you might be skeptical that chemo is safe at any stage of pregnancy, but studies have shown that when using certain chemo drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is safe. They don't have the risk of birth defects, health problems, or loss of the baby. The only risk studies have found is the risk of an early delivery. If you do decide or need to have surgery during this time, you will be deciding between a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, with follow up treatments of chemo recommended for the second trimester or later. If your diagnosis comes during your final trimester of pregnancy, chemo is usually recommended after the birth of your child. After week 35 of your pregnancy (out of a total of 40) chemo is no longer recommended. Chemo at this point can bring on early delivery, and it also lowers the mother's blood cell count. This lowered cell count can lead to dangerous issues during birth including infection and serious bleeding. Deciding to delay chemo until after the birth allows the mother's blood cell count to return to a healthy level, so the birth can be as safe as possible.
This is one of the safest routes for a pregnant woman to take while battling a cancer diagnosis. It is the safest to do at any trimester, and you don't have to delay it unless your obstetrician recommends otherwise. Mastectomies are generally the most preferred surgery for a pregnant woman. You can have a lumpectomy, removing just the breast tissue that contains cancer, but it does come with a few risks. A lumpectomy generally requires radiation to follow up that surgery, and radiation is not safe for the baby. But, putting off radiation for the mother, if it is needed, is very dangerous and could increase the risk in cancer returning. The only time a lumpectomy is usually recommended with radiation is if the cancer is found during the third trimester. If the surgery is performed close to the due date of the baby or very shortly after, very small wait time or no wait time at all is placed on the recommended radiation treatments. The removal of a lymph node, or possibly a few, are also needed during surgery. There are two different types of lymph node surgeries, one, in particular, being safer than the other. The removal of lymph nodes under your arm called an auxiliary lymph node dissection, which removes multiple lymph nodes, is the first choice. The second is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy. This uses a small amount of blue dye and radioactive tracers that pick out the nodes that could contain cancer. The blue dye and radioactive tracers come with heavy concerns since radiation is very bad for the baby. This treatment, although it may help with removing fewer lymph nodes, is not recommended during pregnancy. It is recommended to happen after pregnancy or late in your trimesters and without the use of the dye.
TREATMENTS AND THINGS TO AVOID
During your pregnancy, there are some treatments and situations you will need to keep you and your baby safe. Keep these in mind as you move forward. Also listed are a few difficult situations that you might have to face, too.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
During this time, you already have a lot on your plate and a lot on your mind. We wanted to leave you with some closing thoughts to remember as you begin this process.
We know and understand the difficulties you are facing during this time. It is unique, scary, and full of unknowns. We want to help you celebrate the joy of your pregnancy, all while helping you conquer your cancer. If you have any concerns or worries, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to answer your questions, guide you through this process, and discuss any concerns you might have. Know you are never alone, and there is always hope.
Now more than ever, keeping your immune system strong is a necessity. For a breast cancer patient and during your treatments, this can be a very difficult task. How does breast cancer attack your immune system, how do treatments keep it weak, and what can you do to improve its strength and your quality of life?
Having cancer gives your life, and the lives you affect, a very unknown and sometimes scary feeling about what could or couldn't happen almost every day. Cancer treatments are changing every day, how your body responds to your treatments changes every day, and how you feel changes every day. The world today is starting to fill up with daily unknowns, uncertainties, and fear. What can happen, what could happen, and what is already happening is frightening. It is especially very frightening for people with compromised immune systems. Who has some of the most compromised immune systems? You do, my dear friend, as I am sure you have already been told many times before. Your body is already working against you as your cancer sets in, and then your immune system is completely compromised once you begin treatments. How unfair is that? In your daily battle, that is one of the most heartbreaking things we see every day.
But where is the science behind all of it? Cancer cells can sneak past your immune system and the white blood cells used to attack invaders in our bodies because they can look so similar to our normal healthy cells. It's almost like a game of hide and seek inside your body. Some cancer cells can even turn off part of your immune system once they attack, allowing the cancer cells to grow and multiply without being stopped. Cancer can also weaken your immune system if it travels and makes its way inside of your bone marrow. Inside your bone marrow is where your white blood cells are produced and cancer can shut down that production stripping your immune system of its power. But it's not just the disease itself that can lead to your immune system becoming weak, so can your treatments. These life-saving treatments that are needed to destroy the cancer cells can leave your body's immune system weak and not ready to fight. But they are still so important when it comes to saving your life.
Chemotherapy is the leading cause of damage to your immune system, but radiation and surgery can harm it as well. Chemotherapy is designed to kill rapid growth cells, which cancer is. But other rapidly growing cells are found in the most delicate parts of our body like in your bone marrow, blood, hair, and others. This will hurt the production of white blood cells, making your body more vulnerable to infection, sickness, and other issues.
During your cancer treatments and in the state of the world now, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible needs to become one of your top priorities. With that in mind, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and happy, while building up your immune system to whatever dangers are lurking out there? Follow these tips and suggestions to help you in your continued battle day in and day out!
You are fighting a battle inside your body and waging a war on the outside to keep yourself healthy and strong. Now more than ever it is so important to focus on keeping your immune system strong and to be as mindful as possible. It might be hard to not visit or see some of your family or friends to keep yourself healthy, avoiding public gatherings, and avoiding doing things you love doing. But, making these decisions could save your life and keep you healthy. Think smart and stay healthy, it will all be worth the trouble you are going through in the end.
One of the best things we can do as a support group is to tell your stories. You have so much to share with those walking and struggling along a similar path, and no story is stronger than one told by those who need to tell it.
Happy February friends, fellow survivors, and fellow fighters. This month is usually one that celebrates love with candy hearts, cards, and enough rom-com films to drive you crazy. Red, pink, and white everything cover every surface of every drug store, department store, and grocery store that you walk into. But we are no strangers to the color pink. It's not just a color of love and Hallmark Holidays. It's a color of strength, fortitude, determination, and power. It's the color of battle and the color of remembrance. Valentine's Day is just one day, but love is something that should be celebrated in all forms every day. Love is something that keeps us fighting and gives us a reason one way or the other to get up and out of bed and to keep moving. Leave the candy and the cards behind, and let love carry you through all day every day. Don't let one day get you down, let it buoy you in remembering that love and determination are always with you.
In celebration of that idea, we are so excited to open up a new chapter in our blogs. If you have been following us on Instagram and Facebook (which, if you haven't yet, you should!) then you are probably familiar with our posts dedicated to #SurvivorSunday, and asking you to share your survivor stories with us. These are your stories to tell, and no one can tell them better than you. Now that we have had some incredible individuals share their stories with us, we will be dedicating some of our blogs to these people and the stories they have to tell.
We are so very excited to share our very first survivor story with you, and this extraordinary woman might look very familiar. We are honored to share with you the story of Savanna James, who was recently crowned Miss Summerville and will be going on to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant later this summer. Her platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention." How incredible is that? Her story is unique. It is a story about being a high-risk survivor. We are so proud to share her story because she represents more than half of our patient population. We excited to have her as an advocate for awareness and early detection. We are also very thrilled to announce that she will be apart of our team this summer, and will be a part of several upcoming events. Please keep your eyes and calendars open for that.
Without further ado, we turn this blog over to Savanna James, so she can tell you her story.
"Being 24, I genuinely believed that my "adult" life was just getting started. I had moved to Charleston and started working as Vice President of East West Gem Co. I grew up acting and doing pageants, and even though I knew breast cancer was heavy in my family, I didn't think anything could affect me this early. Unfortunately, this reality was shattered at my yearly OBGYN appointment. I was referred to the Breast Place immediately. After meeting with Dr. Beatty, I was advised that it would be in my best interest to have a double mastectomy. The decision to move forward was not easy, especially at my age, but it is one I am very thankful that I was able to make. I have watched several family members suffer and ultimately pass away from breast cancer. I chose to compete for Miss Summerville, sharing my story, because there are so many people who are unaware that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that others will hear my story and seek help, feeling comforted in knowing that they have options. I do not feel like any less of a woman for going through with the procedure. I honestly feel empowered that I was able to make a strong choice, one that could ultimately save my life. As Miss Summerville, and as Savanna, I hope that others hear my story and are influenced to be proactive, get checked yearly and to do self-checks. At 24, I stand with the 1 in 8.
Dr. Beatty and The Breast Place fully supported Savanna’s decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. This decision is huge and personal. It should be thought out by each individual who may be facing it with education and research to understand the risks and benefits of undergoing a major surgery. A mastectomy can be life changing as it alters the appearance of the body you have known from birth and the decision to undergo one with or without reconstruction should not be taken lightly. Dr. Beatty encourages everyone in a similar position to research the pros and cons of surgery and understand that reconstructive surgery can be difficult but beautiful. Here at The Breast Place, we support our patients making decisions that are best for them as an individual as healthcare is not “one size fits all.
Breast cancer doesn't choose who it claims. A pageant queen, a mother, a doctor, a sister, a friend, it doesn't matter. What does matter is exactly what Savanna shares, and that is to be aware and stay on top of your health. Take control and take your yearly checkups and self check-ups seriously. At just 24, she made a powerful decision, that although scary, empowered her and gave her the power of taking a step in her battle against cancer. We hope that Savanna's story does give you hope to seek help and take comfort in the fact that there are always options available to you. We are very grateful that Savanna found comfort and help with us, and we hope that if you're looking for the same, you know that our doors are always open to you. Don't live in the "shadow of cancer", but come out into the sun.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Savanna. We are so excited to see where your journey takes you, and to continue working with you in the future. We would also love to hear YOUR stories and to share your experience to comfort and inspire others. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to email@example.com and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
Remember, don't let Cupid's arrow get you down, and don't let it pop a hole in your sails. Love is something that we celebrate daily, and something we celebrate with you daily. Your journey is a daily struggle. It's hard, messy, scary, and frustrating. Remember that you have a place you are always welcome, and please know you are never alone.