The “Other Hair”, Hair Loss…Eye Lashes and Eye Brows. What can we do?

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If you are one of us “lucky” recipients of Chemotherapy, then you know about the most common side effect…Hair Loss.  I remember when I was in my second opinion doctor appointment for my breast cancer diagnosis, I was first offended when the doctor looked at me and said, “Yes, you will receive 4 different medicines, 2 chemo and 2 HER2 medicines…oh, and I know, you will probably be upset about loosing your hair, most women are.” I thought to myself, you think that I am most concerned with that! In the long run, once I got myself pulled together, it was important to me, and my circumstances, to attempt to save my hair. ( I used Cold Capping to save my hair on my head, see my blog on Cold Capping) However, in the mix of it all I didn’t consider what the term “hair loss” meant in its entirety.  All hair…so, that means legs, arms, eye brows, eye lashes and everywhere (wink, wink )you have hair, is fair game.

So, not too much complaining from most people, about not needing to shave the usually places but, when the eyebrows and the eye lashes disappear…. it may become apparent, that WE, in the United States anyway, have what we consider a “normal” appearance. [History of the EyeBrow] I felt I looked like an alien.  So, what can we do about it….

I have never considered myself to be a false eye lash kind of girl but, I have come a appreciate them in this particular situation.  Now, I believe, if you can buy natural lashes and natural “glue” (True Glue is a natural eye lash adhesive company who states there are harmful chemicals in other eye lash adhesives) that it is best.  However, I haven’t tried natural adhesive yet and I will update when I do.  If all of your lashes fall out like mine did, give them a try!  They helped me feel more like me especially when going out to a gathering or important event; however, don’t be surprised if you like them so much you wear them fairly regular.  Not sure how my own lashes will grow in if I use the falsies all the time but, I am happy for now.

Now onto eyebrows…I am a basic kind of girl so I have found, especially with todays drawn on, bold eyebrows, that eyebrow pencil and/or powder works just fine for me.  There are quite a few options in the eyebrow arena.  There are falsie eyebrows, eyebrow tattooing and eyebrow microblading to name a few.  Again,  I don’t find it necessary to do anything more extreme on my eyebrows since, they will grow back, however, if that is your thing….Enjoy your new eyebrows whatever they are!

*Note – I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows completely 4 weeks after I completed Chemotherapy.  For me personally, using fake eyelashes and penciling in my eyebrows (for a couple weeks) gave me a sense of self confidence back, by looking more like me pre-chemo; it helped me stay positive through this interesting experience. *2nd Note – my eyebrows started coming back in, in a couple of weeks, dark too!

 

Good Luck to finding what makes you feel most like you!

…The longest abyss of my lifetime… Learn about it, Use it, and Be your own ADVOCATE!

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Now I have the diagnosis, I now know I have Cancer. This wasn’t my first exposure to Cancer but, when it happens to you it is like a whirlwind or tornado has just come through and devastated all that you are and all that you know.  However, what happens next was the longest (even though for me it wasn’t very long) and the worst piece of my life, the worst feeling(s) I have ever experienced; waiting to find out the details of my diagnosis and treatment.

Although, I say, this was, what I considered the worst time in my life, I also found this period of time to be crucial for getting things in order; NOT funeral arrangements or wills! 😉

  • Researching Doctors
  • Finding out about your Insurance Coverage,
  • Scheduling time with a Therapist (TOTALLY NEED THIS ONE!)
  • Talking with Family and Friends
  • Building your Support System
  • Looking at Alternative Treatments for supplementation
  •  And for me, AND I STATE THIS VERY CLEARLY…THIS ISN’T FOR EVERYONE, Researching the Medical Journals on what I did know about my diagnosis

I wanted, from the get go, to be an outlier to the typical, or what I thought was typical, cancer patient.  I didn’t want to be a “warrior”, I just wanted to feel like me, and not have EVERYTHING change, and EVERYBODY look at me as a “deadman walking”.  I found this EXCELLENT site to help me Get My Stuff Together (the publications section has Lists and Forms).  I hope this will provide help to anyone who is feeling that crushing, overwhelming, I cant move feeling, after their diagnosis.  Also, this is another area where friends or family can help out if you are just feeling out of it (Totally justifiable and understandable!)

I will touch on each one of these points in more detail with my lessons learned:

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Doctors – Where do you begin when you have just been told, “You have Cancer.” Most likely whichever Doctor you went to see for the original testing, will have some recommendations.  When you are ready, talk to your friends and family. You will be surprised how many people know someone who has had Cancer and they will be more than willing to tell you about their Doctor choices. Research, if that is your thing…you can find “Top Docs” listed on many sites.  I went with two appointments initially (I believe in the second opinion) a Private Practice Doc and Mayo Clinic.  A note on Mayo – They have a 7 day policy in their Breast Clinic in Arizona, from the time you call, if you have breast cancer, they will schedule the initial appointment maximum 7 days out; THAT IS AMAZING!  Try to keep in mind, you have a choice! Go with your gut. Choose a Doctor who believes how you believe? Which Doctor has the qualifications you prefer? Which Doctor has the best “bedside manner”…you’re going to see them quite a bit depending.

Insurance CoverageThis is one of the first calls that I feel should be made.  Understanding what your coverage is; and this is a difficult one.  You need to fully understand coverage for cancer in your plan.  Some of the tests that a doctor may request, to develop your treatment plan, MIGHT NOT BE COVERED. It could depend on how the test is going to be coded in the system. (You might be thinking like me…the doctor is ordering it, he knows I have cancer, he knows my insurance, they wouldn’t request something that isn’t covered….AAAANNNTTT [sound effect] Wrong!  They are going to request what they feel they WANT to see to aid in their evaluation, not necessarily what you are covered for…JUST BEWARE, You MUST be your own ADVOCATE!  Ask the doctors before the treatment, if its covered and then ask for the code and call your insurance company, with the code, to ensure you are covered. I did this quite a few times due to that fact I saw two doctors…they both wanted their own kinds of scans and I had a ton of mammograms in various ways…I called each time they said, “this one is different, it has dye“.  I needed to make sure they were going to covered with these minor differences or else I could have been staring huge medical bills in the face.

A Therapist – I believe having a therapist while going through this entire ordeal has been a God Send.  Just having the person who I could say anything to (like,” is it all worth the fight” {when of course it was}) without judgment or feeling like they had to fix my feelings in that moment…PRICELESS!

Talking with Family and Friends – I found talking with Family and Friends were two separate animals.  I had a hard time at first telling my family; family in the larger sense.  My immediate family was even more difficult.  Everyone gets upset and the “why not me” statements are difficult to take.  Figuring out the best way and time….well there isn’t.  However, telling the little ones…I did some research… and I liked the approach of straight forward but basic, “Mommy’s got some cells that aren’t functioning the way they are supposed to and they have ganged up and created a glob that has to be broken up.” “I didn’t do anything to get this way and it isn’t contagious just something inside.” “So the doctors are going to help by X, X, and X” ” I may be tired or not able to run around but, I am still here for you to snuggle with etc”
That worked for me, it is difficult no matter what.  AND it is a personal choice on who you share with.  I found it best to surround myself with prayers and love so the more I shared, the more I got in return! Friends I’ll address in this next section…team-spirit-2447163_1920

Setting up your support System – Friends are amazing.  Friends are even more amazing when you need them! I have been totally overwhelmed in this arena.  Once you decide to talk about it to friends it can be like wildfire….which can be great and for some, not so great for others.  My experience, although I am a “I can handle this all myself” kind of person, was to be more open to telling people an talking about it.  I wasn’t going to hide from it, especially since I couldn’t change it AND LOVE, PRAYERS, HEALING VIBES AND THOUGHTS, all feel good to me.  The reach of MY Friends covered 4 continents and a good portion of the United States!  I felt Overwhelmed and Guilty that all these people were praying for me! I didn’t know how I would EVER pay them all back!  AND that is it…there is NO payback…People, Friends… and Friends of Friends, just want to help, want to send good thoughts, want to cook, want to pick up the kids, want to clean or bring dinner…Just Let Them!  This was difficult for me and to make it better, I pictured each and everyone of them as Angles…we never feel (at least I don’t) the need to pay back an Angel.

Looking into Alternative Treatments – I need to be honest here, I take a more natural approach to my health so, looking into Alternative Treatments was an automatic and normal response to my diagnosis.  To most peoples surprise, my personal Naturopathic Doctor provided me with conventional Doctor names and the name of, one of the few, Naturopathic Oncology Doctors in the US; who happens to be in my home state of Arizona. (Naturopathic Specialists, LLC; Dr. Rubin)  If you are going to embark on the “full” journey of Alternative Treatment for Cancer care, just know, health insurance does NOT cover, most treatments.  I will have another post on strictly on Alternative Treatments, Pros/Cons, Options, theories and research studies.

Researching your diagnosis before your first appointment -This is a fine line! Doctor Google, as some people call it, can REALLY Freak a person out!  Especially if you haven’t been to see the Doctor yet.  You can really send yourself into a frenzy. Most people say don’t do it!  I say, if you are like me…and you all know who you are….and researching is something you do for EVERYTHING….stick with the true resources, medical journals.  Give yourself a chance to ask informed questions; start to understand the cancer lingo!  For me this meant, ER+ PR+, HER2+ and targeted radiation to name a few. I recommend not to search the message boards until after you attend at minimum 1 initial diagnosis/treatment appointment.  I found the various doctor groups I had an opportunity to talk with were very understanding and knowledgeable. However, Cancer Support groups, in person or virtual, I have found to be a VERY important part of staying positive after you are in the throws of treatment and after.

Getting the rest of the story, as my Grandma Myrt, used to say…myrtIts scary, enlightening and overwhelming all at once.  But with a bit of prep work I felt EMPOWERED!  It is my fate and I am only going to trust myself and God to dictate that!

Good luck to you all!  Let me know if I can help or be there for you!

 

Something’s Wrong…

So, its the Holiday Season and family will be gathering.  I had been working hard at my job and was looking forward to a slower, fun pace.  I had been experiencing some  stomach “knotting” and I had went into the doctor for some testing.  I thinking I was working too hard at work, stress and all, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything more; it had been going on for a few months.  Other than that, baking cookies with my kids and wrapping presents was on my mind.

(Disclaimer – I am a Christian so, some of my posts will be God related; since this is MY true experience)

I was cleaning one day, soon after the Doctor doing the tests, and I felt like God spoke to me and said simply….ITS Cancer!  Of course, I figured at this point, this is my mind wondering off and making something worse then it was. I wouldn’t get my results from my doc until the week between Christmas and New Years, so I continued on my way into the Holiday at hand.  Cookies made, presents wrapped, last minute shopping and Dinner with the family to look forward to on December 24th; I’m the cook for the family on this Holiday.

A few days before Christmas Eve, I start to get, so I think, a sinus infection. So again, the slower pace is good and I rest. Finally Christmas Eve is here, I’m feeling better but, have the residual stuffy nose…not too troublesome.  Food is now prepped and the families should all be arriving from church.  Time to get dressed….I reach up to pull down my outfit from the door hook, I get an itch on the far right side of my breast over by my underarm….a lump…. “Honey”, I said, “Can you come here a minute?” My husband comes in, feels the lump and knowing I had been sick earlier in the week says, ” Its probably just swollen glands.” I don’t believe what he is saying as this was NOT my underarm, this was fully on the side of my breast. [ side note – God works in mysterious way – how many of us EVER have an itch on their breast!] However, I continue on my way, into the Dinner and Christmas.  I part of me wondering if this will be my last Christmas, (with the God talking to me, and the Doctor tests, and now a lump) so I take note of every moment!

With Christmas over, I now need to find out the results of my tests.  Nothing.  Whew! What a  relief.  Had a complete scan of my lower half, so I am relieved!  But the lump is still there…I tell myself, I will go to the Gynecologist after the first of the year if it doesn’t just go away. No Luck. I go in, she sends me for tests. The lab fits me into the next day, since I was supposed to leave on a business trip the beginning of the following week. They perform both the mammogram and ultrasound…just get it done!

Well, as soon as the image on the ultra sound came up, I knew, it didn’t look right. They decide on the biopsy right then, again to help me get my results before travel.  I wait a day….Results come in….Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)…

I HAVE BREAST CANCER!