When dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, one of the first things you'll have to deal with head-on is what is true and what is false in the information available to you. Just like any medical diagnosis, you will come across myths and falsehoods that need to be debunked right away. Today we are going to be tackling the top three most common myths about breast cancer.
Hello, Warriors! We hope this blog finds you well and fighting hard. We hope you are keeping up the hope in yourself and your treatment. If no one has told you recently, you are incredible. You are getting up every day and facing every challenge head-on. With how this year has turned out, that is truly an amazing feat. We are constantly blown away by your journies, strength, and how you balance your everyday professional and personal lives while going through treatment and recovery. We are in awe of you and are inspired by you every day. Keep up the incredible work, we believe in you.
Out of everything that you've already been dealing with and what you're going through, one thing you should never have to deal with is incorrect information and myths. We are the biggest proponents of education and early detection, but we also want to eliminate any fear or misinformation due to old wives' tales or poor information that has turned into what seems like it could be true facts. To deal with this, we want to discuss and debunk some of the most common myths about breast cancer.
Myth #1: If I don't have breast cancer in my family history I won't get it; If I do have breast cancer in my family I will get it.
We wanted to roll this into one myth because to a point both myths are incorrect. It is true that if your family's medical history does include breast cancer you will be at a higher risk, but this doesn't mean you will for sure get breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, only about 13% of women who have breast cancer had a direct relative who was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Also, please be aware that even if breast cancer hasn't been in your family history, this does not mean you won't get it. Breast cancer will appear when it wants to and can happen to anyone at any age. According to BreastCancer.org, most people who do get breast cancer have no family history of it at all, which means other factors besides heredity are most likely the cause. These other factors could be your environment or your lifestyle.
Myth #2 Wearing a bra with an underwire, wearing deodorant, carrying a cellphone in your bra, or using a cell phone can all cause breast cancer.
Please remain calm, if you do any or all of these things, there is nothing to worry about. Keep wearing a bra if you want, use it as a handy pocket for your phone when you need to, put on your deodorant in the morning, and keep up with your nighttime scrolls. None of these statements have actual scientific proof that links them to causing breast cancer. Although, some are still being studied to see if there is a link that could have been overlooked. According to the Susan G. Koman foundation, there are certain chemicals found in certain antiperspirants and deodorants that, "can enter the skin and cause changes that could lead to cancer". Even with that knowledge, there is still no direct link between the two. There is also no direct link between how you use or carry your cell phone that links either activity to breast cancer. There is also no increased risk of getting breast cancer connected to using your phone for long periods.
Myth #3: When you have breast cancer, a lump always forms so you know it's there.
This is very untrue. While discovering a lump can indeed be a sign of breast cancer, our last blog should be proof enough that one lump does not automatically mean you have breast cancer. Actually, most lumps are not connected to breast cancer at all. Sometimes there are no warning signs, while some are slight or drastic physical changes that you can see. Some cancers don't form a lump at all. Any change to the breast that is abnormal for your body could potentially be a sign of the early stages of cancer. When you do notice something, your doctor needs to be alerted right away!
It's easy to get caught up in everything you hear when you're dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. You want to have something to blame for what you're going through, you want to justify why you have it, and to know what caused it in the first place. Sometimes these answers won't be easy ones to find if you can even find them at all. Do your research, talk to your care team, and try to avoid anyone who thinks they've heard something to share with you. Leave the myths at the door! Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Early detection is extremely important. During your self-breast exams, you might find a lump or mass that may or may not be cancer. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Hello warriors! We hope this blog finds you happy and well. We've talked about the importance of early detection in almost every blog, eblast, and social media post we've ever made. We can't stress enough just how important they are. With our last few blogs discussing the realities of breast cancer appearing in younger generations more often than many people realize, self-exams continue to become more and more important. When you're young, your breast tissue is denser and harder to penetrate and locate anything out of the ordinary in a mammogram. This makes your self-exams so important. You know when something doesn't feel right on your body or has seemed to appear overnight, and you will know and notice better than anyone else. Bringing these changes to your doctor's attention is crucial, but sometimes these aren't always lumps that are connected to cancer. It is so easy to get wrapped up and scared, constantly asking yourself "is this cancer, or is this something else?". This is why it is so important to understand what the different lumps and masses are that could appear inside and around your breast.
First of all, you need to know a little bit more about the breast tissue and the breast itself. The breast tissue is made up of adipose (fat) tissue, lobules, and ducts. There is a chain of lymph nodes known as the intramammary lymph nodes that run within the breast tissue as well. There are many benign masses like cysts, fibroadenomas, abscesses, and fat necrosis that occurs in the breast. Some should be removed by a breast surgeon and some are fine to let be as long as they don't grow or become painful - always make that decision with a trained surgeon. The density of your breast tissue can also affect how these lumps are to be felt or palpitated. As you age, your breast tissue becomes replaced with fatty tissue that is not as dense, making visualizing these abnormalities on mammograms easier. Some benign masses can increase your risk for breast cancer so even though they are benign, it;s important to notify your provider of any changes. When in doubt, get it checked out!
[Breast cancer lumps]
Let's start with the more dangerous lumps and bumps on this list before we talk about the more benign things you might be feeling. According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, most of the breast lumps you'll be feeling will be benign, won't be cancerous, and most won't have to be removed. If they are, this won't affect the breast's natural function.
The early signs of breast cancer are different for every woman. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, the most common warning signs of cancer in its earliest stages are nipple discharge, a change in how your nipple looks or feels, or a change in how your breast looks or feels. If you have these symptoms, please notify your doctor.
Breasts themselves have a lumpy texture. Not every unique lump that you feel is a tumor or lump that needs attention, but a part of your natural breast makeup. The lumps that should catch your attention are those that feel different from the rest of your breast tissue, ones that feel hard, and ones that have suddenly appeared.
According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, these lumps or thickenings will appear most often in the top part of the outer breast and into the armpit. The tissue is thicker there than anywhere else on your breast. According to VeryWellHealth, some other warning signs include these hard bumps not moving during your self-examination and that your breast might feel like it has a very pebbly surface. There are a few precancerous lumps that also need strict attention and should be removed right away.
[Benign lumps and masses]
There are many different types of benign masses that you might come across in your lifetime. As we've mentioned, many of them are not dangerous and you might not have to have them removed at all. You should still be aware of what you're feeling.
Knowing your breasts and the lumps and bumps inside them are very important. Being educated on what you're feeling can calm your fears and worries, and help you to action rather than panic. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to reach out. We would rather look and find something benign than being kept in the dark about something serious.
Did you know we will donate $1 for every unit of Botox administered to breast cancer patients and research? We are partnering with various organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Hope Lodge and *soon* Share Our Suzy Lowcountry to give back to the breast cancer community. Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at any age is difficult. Being diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy can make that difficultly paramount. In this blog, we will be discussing pregnant associated breast cancer and its realities.
We hope that if you've been reading our blog consistently, or have stumbled upon it recently, that there are few things we always want our readers to walk away with; that early detection is key, no one determines how you fight your battle, and to eliminate the stigma that breast cancer only appears later in life. While it is more common to be diagnosed with breast cancer after menopause, we hope that you've seen in our blogs that it is more common than you'd think to be diagnosed at a much younger age. Even more eye-opening, you can be diagnosed during your pregnancy. Just like any condition, there are plenty of rumors and myths floating around the internet. One that we've debunked before is that pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause cancer. While the two are not related, it is still possible to be diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at this point in your life can come with a huge mix of emotions, ranging from joy of expecting your first child to the fear and panic of what could happen next. Please know you are not alone, and that there are many positive options to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy. Never hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, and know we are always here for you!
Continuing with the second part of our Beauty Regimes During Treatment blog, we want to touch on care for your hair, your nails, and beauty product options.
We are back with the second part of our Beauty Regime blog, with tips and suggestions on how to make yourself physically feel better during and after treatment. In the first part of this blog, we talked about mental health, skincare, and beauty products that can make a world of difference. They can help you feel more comfortable, more at ease, and feel more like you. For this blog, we are going to be adding a few more tips for makeup, regrowth of your hair, and caring for your nails. Your hair and nails are sometimes the two biggest factors during treatment where you will see effects before anywhere else in your body. Depending on how you react to treatment, as you know, you can begin to lose hair all over your body, not just on your head. It is already difficult to lose your hair, but attention needs to be drawn to the difficulties of losing your eyebrows, your eyelashes, and even your arm hair. It's a hard adjustment and can make you feel a little out of touch from your own body.
The same goes for your nails. Unless you're within the circle of diagnosis, treatment, and survivorhood, how chemo and treatment affect your nails can come as a big surprise. It can be a painful process for your nails. They can become very brittle, begin to crack and flake, and even fall out. This can happen to both your fingernails and toenails, making everyday tasks difficult and making shoes very painful to wear. Taking time to care for your scalp, skin, and nail beds during and after your treatment can help with encouraging healthy hair regrowth and healthier nails.
One of the first things we wanted to mention is that there are so many amazing outlets available to you to help your survivorship journey. While planning this blog, we stumbled across many important resources but wanted to share one in particular. We found an amazing channel on YouTube called "Breast Cancer Care". Not only do they have videos on how to give self-breast exams, but they also have tons of different videos on how to care for and create eyebrows, eyelashes, skin care, lip care, and more for those going through chemo and beyond. Visit their channel by following the link below. This channel and their website is an incredible resource and a huge comfort for those going through treatment and recovery!
Being kind to your hair, even if it's not so kind to you during treatment, is key. Using mild shampoos and conditioners can help care for your skin and hair while it's going through so much during treatment. There are also many other head covering options available to you. You can add a wig into your wardrobe if you'd like. A lot of insurance companies, according to Everyday Health, will cover the cost of a wig for medical purposes with a prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Soft and gentle head scarfs are also an option to keep your head warm and protected from the sun and other natural elements. Keeping your head covered can help regulate your body temperature, which is key in keeping you healthy. Please do not forget sunscreen if you're going to be outside. We also encourage you to invest in a deep healing lotion for your skin. After your treatment has ended, there are wonderful all-natural growth options to help stimulate your hair, eyelashes, and nail growth. After treatment, as your hair begins to regrow, it will be very fragile. Be kind to it in every way possible. Keep it short until it becomes stronger, and avoid dying or getting it permed or chemically straightened during this regrowth process.
The focus on hair loss often overshadows the effect that chemo and treatment can have on your nails. Using a cuticle cream and moisturizing hand lotion can strengthen your nail beds. Keeping your nails short and trimmed neatly can avoid painful tears, cracks, and infection. Avoid using acrylic and other similar nail techniques, as they can lead to infection. If you want to use a polish, use all-natural and water-based polish brands. Avoid going to the nail salon if you can, but if you have to go, bring your own sterilized equipment, polish, and tools. Make sure all spaces that your nails are worked on are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before you get your nails done. Avoid chewing on your nails and cuticles, as opening up your skin or creating an irritation can also lead to infection.
Please remember that you can visit us through your treatments and survivorship journey. We provide scar revision, body contouring, facial rejuvenation, and laser hair removal, among our many resources. How you define and feel beautiful in your skin is whats important. No one has the power to take that from you or define how you should be doing this for yourself. Be bold, be strong, and continue to fight beautifully. If you have any questions about this any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. During these continued difficult times, we encourage you to take extreme caution protecting yourself and your loved ones from the pandemic. Please stay safe and be well.
You fight so hard during your treatment while your body gets beaten up every day. What can you do to make yourself feel better in your daily regime of self-care?
As we've discussed throughout many of our recent blogs, claiming and celebrating who you are is a challenge during breast cancer treatment and recovery. Coming to terms with and allowing yourself to feel positive about how you look, feel, and care for yourself is part of your battle and survivorship journey. Self-care and self-love are just as important to your battle as your doctor's visits are. You might be rolling your eyes as you read that, but think about the days where you felt good or were truly realized through your treatment and recovery. Did you get a good night's rest? Feel like yourself again? Feel good in your skin? Did you take time for yourself and maybe had a bath and a facial?
[Mental Health and How It Feels]
These little moments of good have such a huge and positive effect on your mental health, which is one of the first things affected by your diagnosis and treatment. Improving any part of your health and quality of life during these difficult times can help strengthen your battle. So please, don't turn your nose up at self-care. Before your diagnosis, you had your beauty regime and care that was unique and so wonderfully you. That doesn't have to stop with your diagnosis. It might change and evolve, but that's ok too! In this two-part blog, we are going to be sharing some tips and suggestions on how to have and maintain a beauty regime that celebrates you and is dedicated to making you feel better during and after treatment.
The physical changes that you can see are sometimes harder than the effects that chemo and treatment leave behind. It sinks in when you can see the changes, and not see you looking back in the mirror. Your body hair can be gone, your skin is dry, blotchy and pained, your nails are weak and cracking, the shape of your body can change, and you could have pieces of you removed and then added back, with scars left behind. Every fashion item you used to come into contact with affects you differently than it did before, from how it feels to how it will affect your skin or toenails. Fashion magazines offer little when it comes to positive reinforcements or guidance. Thankfully, designers like Stella McCartney has designed bras for those who have had double mastectomies. Jewelry like statement earrings and necklaces can really pop against scars or bald heads or hide a chemo port. More and more designers are creating comfortable, flattering, and beautiful clothing pieces, head scarfs, and other garments with breast cancer patients in mind. But what about your skin and the rest of your regime?
Chemo affects your skin in so many ways and can leave your complexion blotchy and even change it completely. Chemo also affects your sense of smell, so anything overly perfumed or has a strong smell can make you sick during or after treatment. Try finding and investing in natural skincare that has little to no fragrance and is paraben-free. Nontoxic beauty products can limit the exposure to harmful chemicals and ingredients while your skin and body are so sensitive and susceptible during treatment. They are also much gentler on the skin, which could have become extremely sensitive as a result of your treatments. This goes beyond facial lotions, washes, and toners. Look into all-natural and fragrance-free nontoxic eyeliners, lipstick, lashes, lash glue, eyebrow pencils, and more. Be mindful, there are toxic ingredients that still exist in manufactured makeup and beauty products that can cause cancer. You don't want to put these in or on your body, as you are already at risk with a compromised immune system. Adding natural deep hydrating lotion and healing ointments can combat whatever chemo does to your skin and soothe it away. Add in under-eye patches, face masks, sheet masks, and at home facial kits to help you relax, care for your skin, and give it a new glow.
When washing, make sure all of your skin is cared for, and not just your face. Use very gentle soaps that also have light or very little fragrance. Avoid products that contain alcohol and put away your antiaging creams and products. Many of which, according to Everyday Health, can irritate your skin even more than it is during treatment. Cornstarch can soothe irritation on your skin, and limiting shaving can help avoid irritation as well. Make sure to limit your sun exposure, and always wear sunscreen. Don't forget to cover your head and always bring your lip balm!
In the same safe non-toxic and organic world of beauty products, you can add some fake lashes and brows too. The options are staggering when it comes to these products. You can even professionally have sets of eyelashes put in, and you have the option of stencils, stamps, pencils, and eyebrow wigs to fill your eyebrows. Using bronzers and highlight can help with a natural glow without wearing too much makeup, and quartz colors around your eyes and a bold flash of red can make your lips pop!
Please remember, the choice to do any of this is yours and yours alone. Not societies, not a family member, not a friend. Many of our patients use these tips to feel more like themselves, to feel more feminine, and to care for their skin during and after treatment. But, just like your journey through survivorship, it's unique to your personal needs. In the second part of this blog, we will be discussing tips for your nails, regrowing your hair, and hair care. If you have any questions about this any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.
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.
Thanks to our incredible followers and supporters, we have another incredible survivor story that we are very proud to share with you. We hope these words bring you comfort, peace, and hope.
This hasn't been the spring that any of us could have imagined. But, we are still marching on. We are still here for you as you continue to fight your battle, continue to heal, and continue to carry on every day. A few months ago, we shared a survivor story about Savanna James. Her words continue to echo in our hearts and minds, and we hope they have stayed with you. Just a few weeks ago, another survivor story came into our world, and we are very proud to share it with you here today. We want to introduce Michele Wheeler, her story, and her incredible nurse, Jim. Michele has shared this story on her own website, and we are very thankful to her for allowing us to share it with you here today.
To Be Seen
The birthday party was going to be phenomenal. He stood over me explaining how his wife had to bake three cakes - three! - because they invited all the kids in both classes. I lay trapped in tubes and wires and blankets and gowns while his words passed through the air above me. Some people might think they were going overboard for a four-year-old. Other people might. Not anyone in this room of course. Radiologists rule in this room. I stared at the ceiling thinking What in the ---- is happening here? as the masked techs oohed and awed over those cakes and the balloons and the bouncy house. Trapped, I tried to ignore them all as he shoved a needle into my liver to grab the sample that would confirm if I was dying of cancer or not.
That was three years ago. The sample came back hot. Now, I was back in the exact same hospital, the exact same radiology department, for another biopsy. This time, we were looking for mutations that could provide more treatment options. I insisted on a different surgeon, and I got one, but the stench of frosting and the memory of that big fat needle were still very much with me. They told me, back then, that the meds would give me an I-don’t-care feeling, with a little amnesia mixed in. But I remembered. Oh, believe me, I did care.
And so I told them, now, how the baggage from the last liver jab was increasing my anxiety beyond the more “standard” biopsy stress. I’m just barely hanging on here folks, I told them. Please help me out by upping those I-don’t-care meds and skipping the talk about your outstanding personal plans, thanks so much.
Sounds fair, they said. That’s exactly what we’ll do.
I didn’t used to lay it out that way. I let uncertainty and fear overwhelm me into passive obedience. Because certainly all those nurses and doctors had been through whichever procedure far more times than I have. But after years of cancering, and too many appointments left feeling undervalued, I’ve matured into the realization that I am, in fact, an expert in Me. More so, I’ve come to appreciate how much doctors and techs really do want to get it right and telling them how I want it just makes it easier for everyone.
Does it actually need to be said that you shouldn’t talk about your kid’s happy party during a terminal illness reveal? And honest feedback, the part of me that gets angry every time I see a birthday cake, would readily join you in hanging up that first surgeon.
But the part of me that needs to let go of that anger remembers that not everyone has experienced the sharp side of the needle. And so yes, it does need to be said.
It needs to be said because maybe he was trying to distract me by talking about that party. And maybe it would have worked if he just would have said first, I am sorry that this is happening to you. Then I could have said, Tell me everything about that bouncy house.
My med guy came, Jim, came in then to introduce himself. He managed to strike up small talk that seemed well placed, asking me about my kids a bit, surface questions, with just enough about his own kids to keep the conversation going. He was gentle. He let me know that I’d get my I-don’t-care meds after just a little more prep.
He wheeled me into the biopsy room, and that prep got very active. There were at least another five masked techs hooking me up to wires and hoses. The radiologist came up then and reached across me to adjust the monitor he would use to look for a sampleable tumor with ultrasound. When he started pushing down with the wand on my stomach, just below my ribs, I told him, “Can you move that screen so I can’t see it, please?” As he did, I closed my eyes and said, “And no comments about the size of the tumors either, please.”
I could still feel constant motion around me, and then a quiet voice from just behind me, Jim, “Michele, I’m going to give you some of that anti-nausea medication now, okay?” I nodded, thinking but what about the I-don’t-care meds? Not wanting to sound like a junkie, I tried to be patient.
But I could feel it coming. Like the vibration on train tracks before any sound of the engine, before any hint of smoke coming from its stacks. I kept my eyes closed and wondered which would arrive first: the panic attack or the I-don’t-care meds.
Panic did. And I fought with it to speak, managing only, “I could. Now. The I don’t. Don’t care. Meds. I need them cuz I think I might run. I’m gonna…” I raised my hand just a bit to the radiologist, “So with the wand. It. The. Could you. Wait. Please?” He took it off my stomach and the room got very still. I kept my eyes closed to find the words, and finally managed, in a whisper, “I’m going to have a panic attack. I’m just about to and I need that anxiety medicine right now.”
With that, the radiologist patted my arm gently once, and let me know he’d wait outside until the meds kicked in. The rest of the staff left as well. But Jim stayed. He interrupted the quiet only to give me brief updates. I’m delivering those meds now, Michele. And then a few moments later, They should start working really soon.
It was more like I started leaking than crying. The tears just slipped easily from the corners of my eyes. With all the tubes and wires and blankets and gown twisted around me, I was helpless to do anything but let them fall. But I said nothing, because I thought asking for tear wiping was taking it a bit too far.
I didn’t have to ask. Before those tears reached my ears, I felt a tissue on either side of my face as Jim gently wiped them up. And yes, the tenderness of that did make me squeak out a few more tears. But it was far fewer than it would have been, had those tears fallen unnoticed and been left to soak my hair.
Thank you, I said.
You’re welcome, said Jim. And for the next few minutes, I lied there, leaking tears, and Jim sat behind me, wiping them up.
The meds finally kicked in, enough so that we could carry on with the procedure, but they didn’t erase the reality that put me there. I leaked, intermittently through the whole thing. One click. Two clicks. Tears slipped from my eyes as little bits of cancer and liver were pulled from under my ribs. I kept dripping while I counted three… four... five. I think it was Jim that kept wiping the sides of my face as I silently cried. I don’t know. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. But I do know that not one tear passed an ear, and that was an enormous comfort.
Because still wrapped in blankets and trapped in illness, I felt seen.
Thank you so much, Michele, for sharing your incredibly brave story. Our hearts were with you through every written word and will continue to be as you continue your journey. Thank you for lifting up the people in your journey, like Jim, who has helped you through it all. Thank you for sharing with us the need and the right you have to ask for what you need in every step of your treatment and beyond. You are an incredible warrior. Thank you for sharing this with us.
To learn more about Michele, read more incredible stories like this one, and to follow her journey check out her website by following the link below!
We would be honored to hear and share YOUR story too. We want to share your experiences to help to continue inspiring others just like Savanna and Michele have. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
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.