My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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What To Get Someone Who Is Going Through Cancer Treatment: The Warm Weather Edition

kiwiSometimes people come to me and tell me about a relative or friend who, like me, is undergoing treatment for cancer.  “I really want to do something for her or get her something.  What do you think I should do?”  As always, sending a meal, a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant for take out is always appreciated.  So is laundry service.  I always say these things.  But maybe you wan to get something a little more personal or original.  Here are some ideas.

For battling chemo brain.

  1. To keep the mind busy and creative, this adult coloring book would be great.  The hours spent in chemo treatment would fly by.  These colored pencils are super fancy but you can always go crayola.
  2. I got this Fuck Cancer needlepoint as a gift.  It was already made for me but you can always give it as an activity.

To make her feel pretty.

  1. These non-toxic nail polishes come in array of colors.  I think I might have found my spring red!  Or how about this sparkly number for a party (on the couch)!!!
  2. These all natural lipsticks look really pretty.  I like this pink, this peachy nude, this bright pink lip glaze, and I’ll take one in every shade.
  3. Etsy.com has a ton of vintage silk scarves that can be worn as head wraps.  I love the colors in this one.  Are you rich?  You can always buy Hermes!

To keep her comfy cozy.

  1. I love this bathrobe!!!  Not only is it adorable, but you can use it as a towel after a soothing bath and never get dressed!!!
  2. Just because she’s going through hell doesn’t mean she can’t be completely adorable in this loungy romper.
  3. These socks make me happy and would cheer up any infusion center.  I like these slipper socks too.

To keep her nourished and hydrated.

  1. I love my Zoku pop maker.  I can freeze juice, smoothies and even alcoholic concoctions (which I wouldn’t recommend too often on chemo).  You can get a recipe book but the also have a free recipe blog.
  2.  A popcorn machine.  How cute is this one?  It’s a healthy snack and this book with it might be nice.

For going to chemo but still remaining fashion forward.

  1. This tunic is a splurge but it’s super cute and her port would be easily accessible.  Instead you could do these boyfriend tees which look loose fitting and comfy.
  2. A vintage silk scarf to wear on the head is great.  I like this springy print, and this, and this.

For sun protection.

  1. A classic floppy sunhat is great to protect her from the sun.  This one is amazing!!!  This one just makes me smile!
  2. A great, natural sunscreen.

To pull at her heart strings.

  1. This necklace is so special.  I’d wear it every day.
  2. To snuggle and make her smile.
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Saying Good-bye

Today I had to say goodbye to my wonderful, caring, beautiful oncologist, Dr. Komal Jhaveri.  Three weeks ago she informed me that she was leaving NYU for Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center.  I think this is a big career move so I couldn’t be happier for her.

However, on the first day we met, she informed me that our relationship was “for life.”  I took that to heart.  I can follow her to Sloane if I want to but she suggested that I remain at NYU for the duration of my clinical trial, until November, and see how I gel with my new oncologist.  I agreed that this was a fair solution, even if it’s one that I don’t like so much.

So, goodbye for now, Dr. Jhaveri!  Thank you for all you have done for me and my family.

If you are at Sloane or will be going to Sloane, I highly suggest you look up Dr. Jhaveri.  And tell her Carrie said, “Hi!”

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Genetic Testing Results

I imagined it over and over again.  I would walk into the office, sit down as I tried to read her eyes.  To know the answer before she spoke.  She would open up her folder quietly, slowly but with firm purpose.  She would take a deep breath in and I would know before the words could come out of her mouth.  “The genetic tests have come back positive for BRCA.”  Tears would well up in my eyes but I would hold my crying in.  I would sit tall in my chair.  I would inform the genetic counselor and next, my oncologist, that this would mean nothing to me.  That I would find the scientist who was making breakthroughs in genetics, with BRCA.  He would be in Switzerland and we’d drink hot chocolate and hear the clocks tick as his experiment would work on me.  I would be the one who solved the problem for every BRCA positive woman going forward.  We would all get to keep our breasts and ovaries.

Mostly I imagined it this way.  I would walk into the office, sit down as I tried to read her eyes.  To know the answer before she spoke.  She would open up her folder quietly, slowly but with firm purpose.  She would take a deep breath in and I would know before the words could come out of her mouth.  “The genetic tests have come back positive for BRCA.”  My breath would stop.  The lump would swell in my throat.  I’d gasp for air and let out the most vicious and primal scream you ever heard.  People on the street would stop and wonder where the wailing came from.  I’d go to see my oncologist who, like Mary, Queen of Scots on her throne would, with a flick of a finger announce, “Off with her breast!”  And with one simple, violent signature with her pen, I’d be hauled off for a second mastectomy and to have my ovaries removed.  My sentence for the crime of having a genetic mutation, to be drawn and quartered.

But this did not happen.  To everyone’s surprise, including my own, the results for my genetic testing revealed that I do not have the BRCA gene mutation nor any gene mutation for that matter that is linked to breast cancer.  It was the answer I was hoping for but also one that I was dreading.

Of course I don’t want to be BRCA positive.  That would mean so many surgeries and changes to my body that I am not prepared for or want.  But there’s something happening in my family, something hidden in our genetic makeup that is being passed down generation after generation.  It is causing us to have breast cancer.  The mystery continues as to what that is and that is extremely frustrating.  But, for now at least, I get to keep my left breast and my ovaries.

One unusual thing that did come up (and I was told that this would never happen) is that I tested positive for a genetic mutation that is moderately linked to colon cancer.  Colon cancer?  No one in my family has gotten this!!!  What does that have to do with me?  What does it have to do with my breast cancer?  The answer is nothing and that is what’s so unusual.

Notice I said, “moderate risk.”  The general population at risk for getting colon cancer is about 5%.  This result just bumps me up to being 10%-15% at risk for developing the disease.  Chances are, it will never happen.  But I might want to start getting screened earlier, just in case.

For now, treatment is done.  I am just doing Herceptin for the clinical trial.  Until my reconstruction, no more surgeries, no more amputations, nothing.  I get to be whole.  I get to be whole.


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Bits of Happiness #9: Spring Natural

Today Oliver and I decided to take the B16 bus (his favorite bus) to the Prospect Park Zoo, one of his favorite spots in Brooklyn.  When we left the house it was chilly.  I hadn’t dressed warmly enough and had just a light cotton cap on my head.  But I didn’t want to turn around.  To walk back and forth again with a toddler is not fun or ideal.  I decided to just deal with it.  But after the zoo and on the way home, the sun was shining brightly.  It was still cool but the sun on my hat made my head warm, uncomfortably warm.

I took a deep breath.  Again.  Then I removed my cap, displaying my cancer head for the world to see for the first time.  Would people stare at me?  Would they pity me?  I was worried at first.  But the world passed by.  They were more interested in Oliver who was running around and squealing with joy than the salt and pepper fuzz unevenly growing on my head.  Then the bus came and we got on.  And then we were home.  And suddenly, I didn’t care what people thought.  If they were confused, angry or sad by my look.  I was happy to not bake under the sun’s rays.  Also, I was liberated to have the courage to wear my cancer like the badge of strength that it is.

Happy Spring!

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Mommy Mondays: The Guilt Of Not Being There

Life these last few weeks have been intense.  Between work and radiation treatment, it seems like I’m never home.  And when I am home, I’m completely exhausted.

My work as a teaching artist has been wonderful in the sense that I get to make my own hours and take on as much or as little work as I like.  This has allowed me to raise Oliver while he is still young.  I know many parents have to go back to work full time when their babies are as young as six weeks old and I have been lucky to be able to spend so much time with Oliver in his young life.

Maybe I have taken on too much work lately.  I thought that when the chemo was over I would be feeling better.  I am but I’m still so, so tired and the chemo brain is still there taking away the memories of conversations, lists, instructions, promises.  I’m handling it but I feel that, at any point, I can just crash.  But I’m afraid to give up that work because I don’t want our finances to suffer.  It has suffered enough.

In addition to all of this, I have had to go to radiation five times a week!  Five. Times. A. Week.  The actual treatment only takes about 10 minutes but sometimes the wait is an hour or more and that really cuts into my day.

Several times this week, I came home just in time to say goodnight to Oliver.  There were a couple of days I didn’t see him at all.  This is not normal for us.

To be honest, this is all bothering me and not bothering Oliver.  He is being cared for by grandma and grandpa and they spoil him rotten.  He loves being with them!  He has not been angry at me or cried when left the house.  In fact, when I say I’m going he looks at me and say, “Bye, mommy!!!!!” and goes about his business.

I know that this is only a blip in time and that by Friday, treatment will be over.  That will buy me some more time.  I just feel guilty that this is happening to us.  That I have done this to my family.


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Hair

I want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided
Powered, flowered and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!IMG_0853 IMG_0854 IMG_0855I’ve had some hair growth during my final rounds of chemo, even though my eyelashes and eyebrows disappeared but as of the last week, I’m having some thicker hair grow in.  It’s very salt and pepper right now.  I hope it comes back my normal color but, I’m just happy to be getting some coverage.  Maybe by this summer, I’ll have a cute pixie cut!

You can’t see it in these pictures but as of two days ago, my eyebrows are also starting to come in!!!!

What are your favorite pixie cuts?  I need to do some research.