My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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In An Interesting Turn Of Events

A few weeks ago I cried to all of you because I had lost my beloved brows and only had a few more lashes to call my own.  With several chemo treatments to go and the main side effect of that chemo being hair loss, I thought I would be looking like this for the next two to three months.

coneheadI was prepared for it.  And though I wouldn’t say I embraced it, I knew that it was just something I was going to have to live with for a while and I was fine with that.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I started growing some peach fuzz on my face again.  Then it started growing on my head.  Now, my eyebrows are coming back in, and they all just fell out!!!  But they are coming back in fully.  See?

IMG_6917It’s crazy!!!!  This shouldn’t be happening, but it is.  It really, really is.  My hair is coming back!!!!


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Battling Anemia

Ever since my last infusion of AC, I have been battling anemia.  This is not something a little rare burger can fix (mmm….rare burger, how I miss you).  This is the kind of anemia where they actually need to stick me with a needle and give me someone else’s blood to make sure I can get out of bed without being out of breath.  That kind of anemia.

The last time I got an infusion, I also caught a virus that landed me in the hospital.  One didn’t have to do with the other but I never got to feel the benefit, the pep, that comes with a blood transfusion.  But my counts were doing ok.  For a while.  Then the last couple of weeks, those counts started to drop.  My oncologist said she wasn’t worried (that’s what she’s supposed to say) but if my hemoglobin dropped to an 8.0 or below, I would need another transfusion.

A blood transfusion isn’t an awful thing.  It doesn’t hurt.  You don’t feel a thing.  It’s just that it takes an insane amount of time (6-7 hours) and there are gross bags and tubes of someone else’s blood going into your body.  It’s psychologically unpleasant.  But that’s it.

So a few weeks ago my count dropped to 9.6.  Then 9.2.  Then last week it was 8.6.  Dropping, dropping, dropping, slowly like a deflated balloon.  Naturally, I figured that this week my count would be somewhere around 8.0 and that would be it.  I made plans.  I arranged for childcare.  I picked the movies I would watch.  I was ready.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t do everything I could to prevent this from happening.  For a while now, I have really worked hard to increase my iron intake.  Lots of kale, lentils, potatoes, pumpkin seeds, raisins, etc…  But it wasn’t making a dent.  My nutritionist helped me figure out what to eat but said that I shouldn’t get discouraged if I ate everything I was supposed to eat and it didn’t work.  Chemo is stronger.  Well, at least it was.

This week I introduced liver into my diet.  I have been trying to avoid it.  For no good reason, really.  I like liver, although I’ve never eaten calves liver before.  But I made it my mission to eat everything I could.  I figured it wouldn’t work.  Actually, I was sure it wouldn’t and that tomorrow I’d be hooked up to the blood bags.

I’m happy to announce that whatever I did worked.  Like I said, last week my hemoglobin was at 8.6.  This week it was at 9.1!!!!  Now, that’s not a huge number.  I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon.  But it’s moving in the right direction.

I think this feels great because at least, this week, I feel like I am in control.  That if I do the right things and I’m a good girl I will get good results.  It’s hard to feel in control when you have cancer.  It and the medications control you.  But this time, this week, I controlled my fate.  I beat chemo.  I put chemo in it’s place.  (Cue ninja tableau)

Here are a few of the meals I’ve been preparing.  Yum, yum!!!!  Do you have any delicious, high iron meals you’d like to share?  Please post them here on the blog.  Like a recipe book for everyone going through chemo to look through.  It would be a great resource.  And I could use some variety and inspiration.  I think I’m going to try this recipe next.

Vegetarian Lentil Sweet Potato Soup made in the crockpot!  So yummy!!!

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This is before it cooked for 10 hours. I forgot to take a picture of the result.

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When anemic, you might as well have some duck liver mousse.

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Calves liver. Not my favorite but it’s better than a blood transfusion. I’d love more recipes.

Calves Liver  Ken made it for me.  He let it sit in milk for a couple of hours, sauteed some onions and portabello mushrooms, dredged the liver in flour, sauteed it then deglazed the pan with butter, red wine and beef stock.  I liked it a lot.  It was served with kale and mashed potatoes.


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I Told the Universe and the Universe Said, “F*#k You!”

In my last post, I mentioned that the last time I felt great, I ended up in the hospital the next day.  No, don’t worry.  It’s not quite that bad but when we took my blood counts today, we learned that things have taken a dip again.  My hemoglobin is getting suspiciously low again and I am about .6 points away from another blood transfusion.  My white blood cells have taken a dip as well but I’m keeping the same protocol, 3 self injections of Neupogen.

I spoke to my nurse practitioner who said she is not concerned.  We have gone forward with chemo today and most likely will next week, even if I need a blood transfusion a day or two later.

I’m glad that she is not concerned because I’m pissed off.  Why is it that I feel so good but things are going to shit?  I know that I’m doing everything right but there’s that feeling of failure again.  I keep failing!!!!!!  Even thought I have no control over what is happening and that makes it even worse.

I’m eating my lentil soup, kale and other iron rich foods.  I’m shooting myself up on schedule.  So WTF?!?!

There are no answers.  Except that when the universe sees that I’m up, it’s intent on pushing me down again.  When will this be over?


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Fingers and Toes Crossed

I don’t want to jinx it.  The last time I said I was on the mend, I was in the hospital the next day.  So I’m not going to say that I’m better or on the mend.  I’m not going to say that I’m feeling good and as close to normal as I’ve felt in a really long time.  I’m not going to say that I have a good amount of energy and am able to work with confidence.  I will not say any of those things.  I’m not going to say that because I know that my hemoglobin is beginning to dip again (I made a huge lentil soup that I’ve been chowing down on to bring my iron levels up) and my white blood cells are holding steady because I’ve been injecting MYSELF with Neupogen three times a week.  It’s a delicate balance in my little body.

But here is what I will say.  For the first time since I’ve been diagnosed, I worked out.  I don’t know what came over me but I turned to Ken last night and said, “I think I want to do a workout video.  I don’t want to push myself too hard but I want to move.”  So once we put Oliver to bed, Ken had already moved the coffee table out of the way and set up the video.  For the next 20 minutes I did Gillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. 

I’m proud to say I completed the video.  It was challenging, for sure.  I can’t get as much oxygen as normal but I only had to pause for very short periods to catch my breath.  It’s also obvious that I haven’t worked out in a long time because I didn’t have as much endurance with the strength exercises.  But it’s a start.  I’m very proud of myself.  But I won’t say that out loud.  I don’t want the universe to know.  I don’t want to jinx it.

Post workout glow.

Post workout glow.


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A Sight For Sore Eye-Brows

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a serious eyebrow.  A straight up, thick, Eastern European Jew,  Frida Khalo uni-brow.  I used to hate my eyebrows with a passion.  They were thick, long and black and took up half my face.  I wanted to have thin, dainty little brows that stayed in place all day.

eyebrow1As I grew older I started to appreciate my brows.  Yes, they took a lot of maintenance; tweezing, waxing, brushing…but it was worth it.  My brows are dramatic and thick.  They help me share my personality and emotions.  eyebrows 2

 

eyebrows 3

Once I became an adult, my brows became one of my favorite parts of my body (along with my lushes lashes, big, brown eyes and collar bone).  When I found out I was going to lose my hair during chemotherapy, one of my questions was, “Will I lose my eyelashes and brows?”  The answer was maybe.

In the last month or so, I’ve noticed that my eyebrows were starting to thin.  They hadn’t all fallen out but they weren’t as thick as normal.  Then about two weeks ago, I noticed that they were starting to get patchy and that the skin under my eyebrow hairs were getting dry and chapped.  This is what happened right before the hair on my hair fell out, so I knew what was coming next.  Still, I thought maybe I’d have a little more time but last week, a few days before my 38th birthday, I came out of the shower and almost all of my eyebrows were gone.  Just like that.

I cried.  I cried my ugly cry.  My beautiful brows, which shape my face were gone.  Ken rubbed my back, agreeing that it sucked.  I let myself cry for a good 5 minutes.  Then I wiped my tears and sprang into action.  I found what I could in my makeup drawer and drew in some brows.  It wasn’t bad but I new I needed professional help.  A few days later I went to the Sephora on 5th avenue and asked help from a professional, who chose the colors and products for me and taught me how to draw on my brows so that they look as natural as possible.  Here is what I learned.

First, I was given two eye products and an eyebrow brush.  I needed something that would stay on all day.  That was why we chose the dip brow.  Here is how to use them.

My brows as they look right now, without makeup

My brows as they look right now, without makeup

The first thing I do is I take the brow wiz (they pencil) and underneath my brow, I draw a line, lightly, outlining my brow.  Then from the end of the arch all the way down to the end of my brow, I fill it in with the pencil.

Outline the bottom and fill in the ends.

Outline the bottom and fill in the ends.

This is done lightly.  You do not want to go too dark.  If you put on too much or want to soften the look, brush with the bristle end of the brush.

This is done lightly. You do not want to go too dark. If you put on too much or want to soften the look, brush with the bristle end of the brush.

Once you have done that, take your angled brush and dip it into the Dipbrow.  Wipe any excess off on your hand.  With light, gentle brushes, begin filling in the brow from the ends, near the outer corner of your eye, working your way to the thickest part by your nose.

I'm starting with the end of my brows and working my way inward.

I’m starting with the end of my brows and working my way inward.

Don’t worry about being perfect.  Any mistakes can be softened with the brush at the other end of the stick or wiped gently with a Q-tip.  Also, brows aren’t perfect so don’t get crazy about making them that way.  Less perfect will look more natural.

Here is what it looks like with one brow done.  Notice that the ends are darker and that once I get to the arch it gets lighter as I get closer to the nose.  That’s because that’s what brows do naturally.  Look at anyone’s brows.  They are never thicker by the nose.  One sure giveaway that you are penciling in your brows is if you make them darker by the nose and keep it dark all the way.

The brow on the left is filled in.  The right still needs to be done.

The brow on the left is filled in. The right still needs to be done.

Do the same on the other side.  Again, don’t worry about being perfectly symmetrical.  Real brows aren’t so take the pressure off.

Both brows filled in.

Both brows filled in.

Now, in the picture, they look pretty good but in person at this point, they can still look pretty harsh.  So the next step is to take some concealer, preferably one that is slightly lighter than your natural skin tone and carefully draw some under and above the browline, as if you were about to wax.

Concealer above and below the brow line.

Concealer above and below the brow line.

Then with a concealer brush, with light strokes, begin blending in the concealer.  I find that this does two things.  1) It brightens up your eyes, giving them more of a pop.  2) It softens the lines of the brow, giving them a more natural look.

Blend in the concealer with light strokes.

Blend in the concealer with light strokes.

Once you have done this on both sides, set it with some translucent powder and then you are done.

IMG_6548 IMG_6551 IMG_6553Since I have been doing this, people say that they haven’t noticed that my brows aren’t natural.  Hopefully they are not just being nice and mean it.  I think if you are not staring at my brows looking to see if they are real or not, they do look natural.  I still have some hairs remaining so I imagine that makes it look more natural.  So far I have been happy with my look.

One downside of this is that the process takes some time.  In the morning, I don’t like spending more than 3-5 minutes doing my makeup.  My routine is now about 12 minutes long which I find really annoying.  But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

What do you think?  Do you have any tips?  Anything that works for those with lighter skintones or ethnic skin?  Other products you love?  Let’s share our resources.


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Suck On This

This post is a little late in the making but I wanted to share anyway.  The holidays were a bummer for me this year.  They came and went without much fanfare or acknowledgement.  It wasn’t just because I was hospitalized or had health setbacks, I just wasn’t feeling it this year.  But at some point, despite my holiday blues, something came over me.

I wanted to make other people smile.  It was something I had to do.  So, a few days after Christmas, but before New Year’s, I was finally able to resume chemotherapy and that day, every patient who was getting treatment with me got one of these.

IMG_6376And on the back it said, “Happy Holidays!”

I made 50.  Everyone got one.  Some I got to hand it to personally, others I just slipped it under the curtain because either they were sleeping or I got the sense they didn’t want to be disturbed.  Some people seemed really happy and shocked to be receiving something.  Other people seemed really confused (like, really, really confused).  With the exception of one person, I don’t know how it went over.  I hope it brought a smile to people’s faces.

I deal with a lot of the trauma associated with cancer with sarcasm.  Not everyone does so I knew that this card would be a risk.  But, for me, it was a risk worth taking.

What would have been your reaction if you were slipped one of these cards out of the blue?


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Refusing Treatment

I came across an article today on 7online.com about a 17 year old girl who has been undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  After two rounds of chemo, she is refusing to continue treatment and her parents are taking her side.  Child services have gotten involved, removed the girl from her home and forced her to continue treatment.

Should those who have cancer be allowed to refuse treatment?  Should a teen, so close to consenting age have the same right?  What about a child?

Even though I have had recent setbacks and have suffered several side effects due to chemo treatment, I have had it pretty easy.  We can all agree.

We don’t know what this girl’s side effects have been but let’s assume that they are bad enough that she feels that she can’t continue.  Is that reason enough to stop?  To risk dying because that might be better than what she’s suffering (I don’t know what is going through her head, I’m only guessing).

I’m not sure how I feel about this subject.  I do feel that an adult has the right to accept or refuse any treatment.  I have done so, in fact.  With my first round of chemo, they wanted to give me Ativan to keep me calm.  After the first treatment I asked them to stop because it made me very sleepy and loopy.  They would rather have given it to me but, as an adult, I had the right to refuse.  And I did.

But a teen?  I don’t know.  I’m not sure on my position here.  What’s yours?