Monday, July 8, 2013

A Hair Update

I haven't been here as often as I used to because there's nothing much to say. That's good, right? But for those of you who are actually following my journey, I decided to ask my eldest daughter, Anissa, to take a photo of my hair now. I had to send it to my stylist because I wanted her to see and figure out how to style it. 


This is the first time I'm staring at it. I know that it's growing back curly but I didn't know just how it looked until now. I'm speechless. A part of me is so grateful and feels blessed because of all the hair that's growing back. But I've never had hair this curly (wavy aka sponghado, yes) and I really don't know how to maintain it. 

My "sisters" over at I Can Serve Foundation tell me this is usually the case when the hair is just starting to grow back after chemo. I also Googled and learned about what you call chemo curls. The curly hair is actually the result of all the damage the chemo did to the cells that determine hair texture (didn't even know those kinds of cells existed!). The article I read also states that most patients find that their hair eventually goes back to the way it was or close to what it was prior to chemo. 

I don't want to sound ungrateful but ... I'm praying my hair straightens out a bit eventually! 

For now, I'd have to see how my stylist can work on it to make the curls a little less "out there". 

Will update you all again as soon as I've fixed this! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Very Own Independence Day

September 12, 2012. 11am.
It’s been 9 months since that day. At around this time (6:22am) I was already awake in my hospital room at The Medical City, waiting to be prepped for the major surgeries that were going to take place that day. I was waiting to be brought to the hospital’s Nuclear Medicine Department for that all important “blue dye” shot that would travel to my lymph nodes. The surgeon needed this to be done so that she can identify the 3 lymph nodes she had to excise for testing. An extra procedure I gave her the go-signal to do so that we can find out right away if the cancer had spread to that part of my body. After an hour and a few extremely rare tears shed (that shot was PAINFUL!!!), I was back in the room with family and friends who wanted to pray for me and see me before I was taken into the OR.
It was at this time that I really felt the most helpless since I was told I had breast cancer weeks before. I lay on the bed in the waiting area of the OR and started to cry uncontrollably. It was a combination of fear and sadness, because my Dad suddenly occupied my thoughts. I kept asking God and him to be there for and with me all throughout the surgeries. Before I knew it and just seconds after my Anaesthesiologist told me she was going to put me to sleep, I lost consciousness. I didn’t wake up in the Recovery Room. Probably because the anaesthesia was so intense. I first opened my eyes as they were wheeling me back into my room on the 7th floor. It was Mama and my other helper who were there and it was late at night. I specifically told N to go home to be with the kids and not wait for me to come out of recovery. I was too groggy to ask but I was itching to know how the Frozen Section Biopsy (of my lymph nodes) went. I think I fell right back to sleep the minute my body touched my bed that night and woke up early the following day to wait for N to take Mama’s place.
As soon as I regained consciousness, my first question to them was this : Did they tell you if the cancer had spread? Did the biopsy turn out negative? And their answer was a very ecstatic YES THEY TOLD US EVEN BEFORE SURGERY ENDED AND YES IT TURNED OUT NEGATIVE!
That same day, the Anaesthesiologist came to see me to tell me the story. My Breast Surgeon, as soon as she opened up my left breast, saw how big the tumor was. It was 4cm. Everyone in the OR thought it was almost impossible for my lymph nodes to be uncompromised, given the size of the growth. They were all so shocked when the Pathologist came back about an hour later with her findings on the lymph nodes. They were all negative of cancer. In my Breast Surgeon’s own words, “Your cancer was so behaved it didn’t move! The tumor was big so I expected a few of your lymph nodes to be affected, but none were. All of them are okay.”.
You just can’t imagine what kind of joy I felt the moment N and Mama gave me the good news. It was my first ever taste of relief ever since the diagnosis and it felt heavenly. If only it were possible, I would’ve gone down on my knees to pray and thank the heavens for this gigantic blessing.
The cancer was in the tumor and nowhere else. September 12, 2012 was the day I technically became CANCER-FREE (the chemo cycles that followed were part of protocol and were only needed as a security measure, not to target any remaining cancer cells specifically).
So yeah, today I also remember my very own Independence Day 9 months ago, and how liberating it felt! I can’t believe it’s been that long.
To God be all the glory … always!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good news!!!

What an afternoon that was! I swear, it was like de ja vu. I had the tests as mentioned in my previous post. When the sonologist, while doing my Trans-V ultrasound, changed expressions, my heart raced! She found a growth, I saw it on the monitor.
Me : Ano yan? 
Sonologist : (silence)
You think I stopped there? 
Me : Miss, is that a cyst? 
Sonologist (finally heard me) : Yes, Ma’am pero okay lang yan. 
I didn’t know what to think. I panicked a little bit more when she stepped out of the room to talk to the doctor outside. 
Call me paranoid and nerbiyosa. I’ll be first to admit that I am. Plus yon na nga, when you’ve been told previously that you have cancer, going through tests like this will really make you feel anxious. I’m surprised I was still able to eat a hearty lunch prior to the ultrasound.
I had to bring my ultrasound and blood chem plus hematology results to my Onco at 3pm. On the sheet of paper, I read somewhere that they found a small myoma. A myoma is really common and it’s not necessarily cancer. Still. I was worried! I hate it when I feel that way. I hated it even more when the nurse at the clinic told me I was #10! Sometimes I don’t like the fact that my Oncologist is popular. It was going to be a long wait … an agonizing one.
Thanks talaga to technology, I was able to distract myself while waiting in the reception area. I managed to play a few Candy Crush rounds, too. About an hour later, I was finally ushered into her clinic. We said our hi’s and hello’s and I handed over the results to her.
Me : Doctora, they found something in the ultrasound. 
Doc : Really? Goes over the results
I wanted to faint. I felt my heartbeat and it was going so fast. Prayed, prayed, prayed. 
Doc : It’s a myoma but it’s nothing. 
Me : Nothing? You mean we don’t need to do anything? Don’t we need to take it out? 
Doc : No, it’s so tiny! 
You know what this feels like, right? The term “nabunutan ng tinik” can certainly describe what I felt at that precise moment!
I thought of N, the kids, my Mom, my brother, even my Dad and I wanted to cry right there.
Oh and before I forget! I AM IN REMISSION. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. Remission in the case of a cancer patient is when there are no signs nor symptoms of cancer in the body. ZERO. NADA. ZILCH. WALA!!!
All I could think about as I left the hospital earlier was … WOW I’M IN REMISSION. WOW.
I have an amazing God. That’s all I can say.
P.S. Lord, since you are so amazing … please help me lose the 7 lbs I gained since March. Thank you! Amen

Monday, May 27, 2013

What a difference a month makes

A month ago today, I posted this photo ...

It's raw and I didn't use any filters. I wanted everyone to see how my hair is growing back. Can you see all the grays (upper left)? That's a d*mb question. Of course you can see them! There are way too many! I'm just so glad I organic hair color that I can buy over-the-counter anytime I need it.

Fast forward to today. It's been exactly one month since the photo above was taken. Here is what my hair looks like now (photo taken less than 24 hours ago).

4 weeks and my hair looks and feels and IS thicker already!

If you're in chemo right now, eyes on the prize! This is life after chemo for me. This is going to be your life too!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm still here!

I guess this is what happens when your life returns to normal after chemo treatments. You forget that you have a blog about breast cancer and you go on with your life. That's still a good thing, isn't it? Sorry for being away for a while. I've been quite busy with my main blog, which I migrated to another site. I bought my own domain (been blogging since 2005!) and even got and paid for a web designer to re-do my site's overall look. 

THIS is where my main blog is, if anyone is interested to follow. Yes, I have a life and a busy one at that! 

It's been quiet on the breast cancer front though. I'm on Tamoxifen still and my next Oncologist visit is up (early June). My hair has grown steadily since the last post. It's my eyelashes that are coming back ever so slowly, I'm being really patient about this. It's alright, I've gotten the hang of using false lashes and I actually have 4 different pairs of them for every situation/occasion hee hee. But hair is coming back everywhere! I think I've forgotten how to use a razor hahaha! 

There IS something specific I would like to share though, to those of you whose hair is growing back like mine but need to dye all the grey hairs coming out. I'm told this is a common problem for us survivors. I recently walked into the PCX branch in Power Plant Mall and was looking at all the available hair dyes on their shelves. I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn't find a brand that was either organic or all-natural. Until ... 

The one on the extreme left (green packaging, black dye) is the only one that's labeled as ORGANIC. All the others are colored and don't have the same label on the pack. It just says NATURAL. Just as well because I needed the black one. I picked up a pack and was pleasantly surprised to find that it only costs P50.00 each (P60.00 each for the colored ones). And since my hair has not grown back totally, I really needed just one sachet. I went home, followed the instructions and was happy with what I saw. 

The dye can last up to 3 weeks. I'm practically due for a re-touch. Thanks to this, I can finally stop wearing bandanas and go G.I. Jane! 

Have a Happy Thursday! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hair Update

See all the greys? Augh! I can't wait to dye my hair ... soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I am beautiful no matter what I think

Thanks to Tin who tweeted about it, I came across this video which Marc wrote an entry about. It IS true, if you're a man (husband, brother, father, whatever...) you never ever want to find yourself in the middle of a discussion about a woman's looks. Whether it be her face or her body - more so her body! If for some unfortunate reason you find yourself in one, learn from it and charge it to experience haha. It really is a delicate topic. Is it universally delicate? Yes, as the video tells us. The issue exists in women everywhere.

Here's why this video made me cry.

I'm 44 with 2 kids, my body isn't what it used to be. But things became even more "complicated" after my breast cancer diagnosis and the surgeries that had to be done. Everyone knows what a mastectomy is, right? A part of me - a body part that helps define a woman, the size of which sometimes impacts a woman's self-worth (admit it!) - had to be taken away. At 44, I have one less breast. I struggled with this in the beginning, even if I had the breast reconstructed. I cried about it, even if I knew that having it removed was part of my treatment plan and would eventually lead to my healing. In light moments when talking to friends about it, I would tell them, "Pun*eta, flat-chested na nga, mababawasan pa.". I got over it right away though. I prayed hard for comfort and strength and the Lord was so kind to me. In no time, I was okay with it. I even bravely explained it to my girls and honestly to me at that exact time, all that mattered was I was going to be better off without it.

I didn't cry while watching this video because I went back to that dark place. I'm still okay with one reconstructed breast (by the way, a reconstructed breast does NOT look like a normal one still), N doesn't seem to care at all about it (and if he does after all, I'm going to throw him an upper cut). I certainly don't have any issues. Not anymore. I look at myself in the mirror all the time, unlike other women I know who still can't or who feel a discomfort when doing so. The breast is gone but so is the cancerous tumor that was there. That's all that matters to me.

A slightly protruding tummy
The onset of varicose veins
Crow's feet
Laugh lines
A double chin
My c-section scar
My appendectomy scar
My tummy tuck scar (not an aesthetic procedure, I had to have it in relation to the breast recon)

And now ... a mastectomized and reconstructed left breast

All these, when looked at without much thought, are not so pleasant reminders. But when I look at them long enough, I see something else. They're badges of honor and I've learned to look at them with pride in my heart, instead of sama ng loob.

Of course I would still love to look good in a bikini at this age. What other mothers would give to be able to fit into one beautifully after having children! I'm never going to deny that there's a part of me that's going to continue to wish for that. But I'm all good if it doesn't happen.

What a way to begin my Sunday. I teared up again while watching this. I'm sure you will, too.

"I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn't be more critical to your happiness."

"We spend a lot of time as women, analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren't quite right when we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like."

Have a blessed Sunday!