Losing my hair was so traumatic for
me. As a teen I HATED my hair. I always wanted straight silky hair like some of
my friends. I relaxed, flat ironed, blow dried and of course the infamous wash
and set. It wasn't until my mid 20’s I started to embrace my beautiful curls
and let them flow freely. I began learning to accept me. In my 30’s I actually
fell in love with my hair. I learned how to care for the curls and was able to
keep it long, beautiful, free and wild. Just writing this makes me miss it so
After the initial shock of having
cancer I freaked out at the thought of losing my long beautiful locks. My
oncologist said I would most likely lose my hair because of the type of chemo I
would be taking. Oh how I cried. And I felt silly! I mean, really, I have
cancer, I’m starting a battle to fight to live. TO LIVE!!! When looking at the
big picture hair is the least of my problems. But I couldn't help it!!! I was
so embarrassed to have these feelings. Am I really that vain and superficial? I
started reading blogs written by other cancer survivors and it helped me so
much to deal with these feelings. They all felt the same way! I came across an
article written by an oncologist who wrote that one of the biggest stressors
when a woman is diagnosed with cancer is not the diagnoses itself but the
thought of losing their hair. I learned I wasn't alone. It’s just one of those
things you wouldn't understand unless you have gone through it. Since I knew it was inevitable I
decided one day to just head to the salon by myself and cut off the locks. I
had the stylist chop off my waist length hair up to my chin. It was kind of
cute, I can rock short hair, but I was sad to let it go. Around 2 weeks later I
was washing my hair and it began. Chunks of my beautiful curls were felt
falling from my fingers in the shower. I could feel that it was a lot of hair
and it took me a minute to actually open my eyes and take a look. It was my
biggest fear coming true. I saw chunks of my hair all over the tub. I couldn't
believe it was actually happening. After my shower I started to brush my hair
and more started to fall out. I called for my husband and said “look babe” He
saw all the hair balled up in my hands. He was so calm. He said it was ok and
that we knew it would happen. His calmness kept me calm. This went on for a
couple of weeks and became so bad that I eventually stopped brushing my hair. I
was basically pulling it all out myself with each stroke. Finally I had had
enough. I told Phil I needed him to shave my head. So he gathered up the
supplies, draped my shoulders with a towel and began giving me my first and
only Mohawk! He shaved one side of my head then passed the clippers to our son
who shaved the other side. It became a family bonding activity!! We laughed,
took pictures and eventually shaved the last of my beautiful curls. I was sooo
scared to look in the mirror. Phil stared at me, laughed and said you have a
perfectly round head! Haaa!! I built up the courage, looked in the mirror and
with a sigh of relief said “oh my god! I do!...Thank god!!!!
Chemotherapy effects everyone
differently. Some patients have very little side effects, some have all the
side effects possible and some fall in between. I personally had a terrible
experience with chemo. It made me extremely nauseous, weak, tired and just sick
to my stomach. I had 6 cycles of chemo which for me consisted of the following:
WEEK ONE :
Day 1 - Taxotere and Carboplatin
Day 2 - Herceptin and Perjeta and
Day 3 – IV
Day 4 – IV
Hydration and Neupogen shots at home
Day 5 - IV Hydration and Neupogen
Day 6 – Neupogen
Day 7 – Neupogen
Day 8 - Neupogen
Day 9 – Herceptin and appointment with
oncologist and blood test.
Days 10 – 14 No treatment
Day 15 – No treatment
Day 16 – Herceptin
Days 17- 21 No treatment
the cycle would start over again.
On the first day of the cycle I would receive
iv meds at the treatment center from 9am until about 5pm. Yes all day, crazy
right? My husband or mom would spend the entire day with me. They made sure I was
never alone and if they couldn't make it because of work I would have one of my
amazing friends with me. We would order breakfast…lunch…and talk. My mom would
always talk to me about work and future plans. She always kept me distracted.
It was nice to have all those hours of one on one time with her. My husband
would talk to me about our son, work, and the places we would visit when this
was all done. He kept my spirits up and went out of his way to make me laugh. These
talks with them were the best part of chemo. By the end of the day the
medications would have me a bit tired so they would take me home and I would
Day 2 I would go back to the treatment
center for a half day of meds. I would still pretty much feel okay, just a
little tired. It would be another day of wonderful chats with my loved ones. I
was usually done around 2pm and I would go home and sleep some more.
Day 3 I would begin to feel the side
effects of the chemo. The nausea!! OMG I can’t even explain how horrible it
was. It was 50 times worse then any nausea I’ve ever felt while sick. I
couldn't eat or drink, all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. I will never
forget that feeling. I would tell myself , ‘if you just sleep, when you wake up
you will feel better.’ I would take naps, wake up, feel worse and end up in
tears again. Phil would bring me different concoctions he made to help the
nausea. I took several medications meant to help but it didn't do much. The doctor
did tell me the medications were actually working because if they weren't I
would be vomiting instead. So I guess it did prevent that. The fatigue was also terrible. I was so
exhausted and it didn't matter how much I slept or rested. I always felt like I
just finished running a marathon. The nausea and severe fatigue would last
about a week but it was the longest week ever. I remember thinking, why did I
have to go through this? What did I do to deserve this torture?
There was one day I really wanted to
take a shower. I felt like a shower would make me feel better. About a minute
after I entered the shower, I began to feel dizzy and couldn't breath, I
slouched over in the tub and felt like I was about to pass out. I screamed for
my husband who ran to the bathroom and rescued me from falling over. He carried me
to the bed and laid me down. I remember my finger tips starting to become numb,
then my hands, then my arms, I couldn't breath and my heart was beating what
felt like a hundred times too fast. My husband called my mom who lives around
the corner and said he was taking me to the hospital. My brother showed up
instantly to take care of our son. I was so scared for him. I tried to act as
though I was ok as we walked to the car because I didn't want Bam to be scared.
I kept reassuring him that I would be fine and it was just the medicine making
me feel sick. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind watching his mom
being rushed to the hospital.
After meeting with several doctors examining
my lungs, heart, blood…turns out I was extremely dehydrated. From that day on
my doctor scheduled me to receive iv hydration treatments daily for 4 days
after each chemo. So at the beginning of every cycle I was at the treatment
center everyday for a week.
I wouldn't begin to start feeling a
little better until about 7-8 days later. That's when I would go back to work
and try to keep busy. By the third week of the cycle I would feel like myself
again but would become anxious because I knew the following week I would have
chemo again and the cycle would start all over. I had to go through this for 6
cycles which was about 5 months.
Looking back I still can’t believe I
went through that experience. I cried so much during those 5 months. Every
cycle I would say I can’t take it anymore I just want this to be over. My
husband would always tell me “you are almost done, only 4 more to go… 3 more to
go…. 2 more to go…”I would look at my
son and I knew I had to get through this for him. He needs his mom. And I did. I
completed all 6 cycles and had an amazing outcome. There were bad days and
there were not so bad days but it worked! The chemo shrunk my tumor so much
that it couldn't even be felt anymore.
I have a consultation tomorrow with a hair stylist to get hair extensions. I'm super excited. My hair is growing fast but not fast enough! She has a special line of extensions for women who have very short hair. Hopefully I will like them and start to feel a little more like myself. If I do like them I'll post her website on tomorrow's post. UPDATE
I loved Jessica! The consult was awesome! Her extensions felt so comfortable and looked great. I'm definitely going to place an order. She gave me great ideas and listened to all my ideas. I showed her a pic of how I would like my hair to look and she assured me she could achieve that look. She matched my natural brown hair color perfectly and will be able to create a balayage style with a blonde color I picked out. She said it would take about a week to create. I'm excited to have hair again! I'll post before and after pics as soon as I get them. Check out her website by googling Hair Extensions NYC.
I LOVE my extensions. I have been wearing them for 3 weeks now and they have become a part of me! They are very comfortable, nothing like a wig. It basically feels like I just have some clips in my hair. I'm able to style it and curl it just like my own hair. The color Jessica dyed it is absolutely gorgeous and she cut them to a beautiful length! The best part is that my hair always looks fabulous!
Today was my first followup appointment with my radiation oncologist. He says I'm doing great! I don't need to see him for another six months. Then once a year for 25 years he joked. Ha! He says my surgeon will be contacting me to schedule a mammogram within the next month or two. I then went upstairs for my weekly Herceptin and Perjeta treatments. My new schedule is every 3 weeks instead of weekly. I'm soooooo happy, what will I do with the extra time! Ha!
Fast forward to today, it has been 10
months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How am I doing? I’m okay. I
completed 6 cycles of chemotherapy, had a lumpectomy, finished 40 rounds of
radiation and I’m still having my weekly iv treatments of Herceptin and Perjeta.
My cancer responded well to the chemo and although I’m not officially cancer
free I feel positive I will be.
I’m still fatigued a lot of the time but I’m trying my best to get back
to “normal” and enjoying life with my loved ones. I am blessed with a strong
circle of family and friends. They all did a part to help me through these last
10 months and I love and appreciate every single one of them. I’m extremely
independent and try to get through obstacles on my own but there is NO WAY I
could have done this alone. It took me a while to realize this and except help.
I know I can be very stubborn but I have grown so much from this experience.
My husband has been AMAZING. He stepped up, took charge of me, the
family, the household. He cooked, he cleaned, he never missed an appointment
and alternated with my mom accompanying me to chemo. Sometimes they were both
there. You never really know how strong your relationship is until you are
tested with a real hardship. I love him soooo much. This man is my best friend
and taught me what it truly means to be in a marriage, and I’m grateful
everyday to have him as my partner in life.
My son is doing great. All of this came during his first year of high
school and although it was tough he made it through. We shared everything with
him right before I started chemo and explained all the side effects and that I
would be fine. Telling him was one of the hardest things we had to do. He was
so strong and positive. He told me I would be fine and he would take care of
me. With the love
and support of our family and friends he’s himself again and I am so proud of
The following day we had an appointment with an oncologist. As we do, we googled and researched him all day and all night. We read nothing but positive reviews about this doctor and couldn't believe he was at the cancer center a few blocks away. He has been in his field for many years and very well respected.
I still say it was meant for us to live where we do, I passed this center everyday not knowing one day I would be a patient there.
We walk in and were greeted with smiles. The staff was very friendly and made us feel comfortable. After a short wait we are called in and we patiently wait for the doctor to enter the room. He walks in with a friendly smile introduces himself and shakes our hands. He examines me and then tells us to meet him in his office.
He explains my diagnosis, his recommendations, and how good my prognosis was. He took his time and explained everything so we could fully understand. We felt comfortable asking him questions and he happily answered every question completely and honestly. I felt like we were there for hours.
We said our goodbyes and when we get outside I ask the husband what he thinks of him. He felt he was knowledgeable, well respected, patient and compassionate. I agreed. We made our decision that this would be our Oncology team.
My primary referred us to a breast surgeon and got us an appointment the following day. We googled and researched this doctor for hours hoping she would be the best doctor for us. She was in a tiny medical building 2 blocks from our house. We walked inside and I was transported into another place. It was colorful and bright. It was set up as a home, furniture was so cute with different types of chairs set up to be inviting and not like a waiting room. Along with all the artwork and pictures representing strength were all of her awards and accolades. There were tons. My husband and I were very impressed. The staff was warm and greeted us with smiles.
After a short wait we finally met with Dr Shapiro and we instantly felt a connection. She explained how sorry she was about my diagnosis, examined me and began explaining her recommendations. She took her time answering all our questions and we walked out feeling like we got this!
They still haven’t called. Should I
call? Should I wait? Its Monday, I’m at work, trying to keep busy. Later in the
day we get a message from the doctor to call him back. I wanted my husband and
I to be together when we receive the results---just in case. I had to work late
this day so the plan was when we get home from work tomorrow we will call him
back. Well now it's the morning and I tell him lets just have a conference call
because there is no way I can wait until the end of the day. I’m sure it’s
nothing anyway, there’s no way I have cancer. He’s hesitant but agrees. I don't have
any patients to see for the next hour so I lock myself in my office with my
co-worker. We call my husband and conference the doctor in…
“Hello Mrs. Berrocales, I’m sorry to
have to tell you this but the biopsy shows a malignancy. You do have breast
I felt like I was in a movie, this wasn't real. He said so much more
but Charlie Brown's teacher took over the phone call and all I heard was wah wah
wah. I didn't cry, I was just numb. He kept talking and after all the wah wah
wah’s I asked “What do I do now?” He tells me to contact my primary and that I need a breast
surgeon and oncologist. We thank the doctor and he hangs up. My husband is
still on the phone and he says “I’m leaving right now I’ll meet you at home.” I
turn and look at my coworker, start to cry as she hugs and consoles me. I leave work and drive home.
for real? Do I really have cancer? How the hell do I have cancer? I can’t
believe this? How am I going to tell Bam? My poor baby has to see his mom with
cancer. What if it has spread? I could die. I don't even remember driving, it’s
like I left work and magically appeared home. My husband arrived a few minutes
after me and all we could do was hold each other...
One week later we're back at the diagnostic center for a biopsy. The tech explains to us that the head doctor will be performing the procedure. The area will be given a local anesthetic so I won’t feel anything but a pinch and hear a loud click from the tool that will remove the piece of tissue. She gives me a bunch of paperwork to read and sign. One paper states there will be a metallic clip placed inside of me to work as a marker so doctors will know where the tissue was taken from.. I was terrified! Are they sure I wont feel anything? Hmmm…
She asks my husband if he will be okay watching the procedure and tells us a hilarious story about a recent patient who's spouse passed out and they had to take care of him while the doctor had to continue with the procedure. Phil assures her he won't pass out. The doctor walks in, looks at Phil and tells him to sit in a chair and also asks him if he will be ok watching…Now I’m wondering what the hell are they planning to do to me that they are so worried about him!
I laid on the table on my right side, left arm up, they used a sonogram to locate the area while I stared at a spot on the white ceiling. When they injected the anesthetic I just shut my eyes. We had to wait a few minutes for the anesthesia to do its job and then the procedure began. I shut my eyes and the doctor tells me I will hear a loud click, done, one piece cut, another click, second piece. He explains they will insert the metallic clip and it will be over. Didn't feel a thing… and the husband didn't pass out! Next I had to have another mammo done to make sure the metallic clip was in the correct position. It was in position and looked like a tiny silver dot in the pictures. How long before I get the results?? I asked. "We’ll call you by Monday." (It's Thursday)…Wine anyone?
A week later we’re
at the diagnostic center. It’s time for my first mammogram. Between what I’ve heard
from other women and my own research I pretty much knew what to expect. Hold on
here, turn here, arm up, arm to the side...and of course the squeeeezzze! It
really wasn't too bad though, I thought it would hurt more. It’s over so I put
my gown back on and the tech picks up the phone to call someone, I struggle
to hear (blah blah blah CLUSTERS blah blah) WHAT?! What does that mean?? “Um
excuse miss did you find something?” “I’m sorry the Doctor has to go over the
results with you.” (sigh)
I’m back in the waiting area with my
husband waiting to for an ultrasound next.
“Babe, I overheard her call someone
and say there are clusters”, “ what does that mean?", “I
don't know I read online that sometimes that could be cancer related.” Right
about now I’m freaking out and we start googling. (You know, doing exactly what I
tell MY patients NOT to do! No Google!)
Now I get called in for an ultrasound. The tech was so sweet and kept talking to me trying to make me feel more comfortable.
We are chatting and laughing and then there was an abrupt silence. Do you see
something? “The doctor will go over everything with you in a few minutes….” Yeah, yeah (eyeroll).
Back to the husband, “Babe, she was talking
then became silent, I know she saw something.” My positive husband tells me I
don't know that, it's probably nothing.
After sitting in the waiting room for
a week, ok maybe it was 10 minutes, we finally get called in. “We did find a suspicious mass.” WHAT?! “What does that mean?”, “It’s a suspicious mass” (really dude?) “We need
to schedule you for a biopsy to determine if its malignant”… (sigh)…Went home
and drank some wine.
Could this be something? In school
they said a non-moveable lump, or did they say moveable? Shit I can’t remember.
These were my first thoughts when I discovered a small lump on my left breast.
I was performing a self breast exam as I did almost every single day (because
of my self diagnosed hypochondria) and I felt a marble sized ball on the top
left of my left breast. I mentioned it to my husband who just kind of dismissed
it as nothing. See he’s use to me telling him I have some type of illness.
Okay I CAN be a little extra sometimes.
A couple of days go by and I check
again and I still feel it. “Babe, I really feel a lump, feel this.” He reaches
over and begins to examine it himself. “I do feel a little something here.” I
knew it! It wasn't my imagination! I’m NOT crazy! So I tell him I’m going to
schedule an appointment with my gyn so she can check it out. He agrees and says
I’ll go with you.
Next morning I call to schedule an appointment
and the receptionist tells me she can get me in in about 3 weeks. Ummmm no. I
have a lump in my breast. She apologizes and says it's the soonest she can get
me in. In my head I think - we’ll see about that. I send an email to my doctor
explaining to her the situation and that there is no way I can function each day for weeks knowing
I have a lump in my breast and that my sister just finished fighting her own battle
with breast cancer.
The next day at my Gyn appointment ;-) my
husband and I are in the waiting room and as he usually does he’s assuring me
that it’s probably nothing. Of course I’m scared to death but I’m acting as if
its no big deal and agreeing with him. We get into the examination room and the
doctor asks me to show her exactly where we felt it. She begins to exam the
left breast and there is complete silence in the room. She examines the right
breast, still silence. She goes back to the left breast and examines the top
left area for what felt like an hour but I’m guessing was less then 2 minutes. I
start fighting back tears. She feels it, I know she does. “You feel it right?”
“Yes its very small, could be nothing but I would like to schedule you for a
mammogram and ultrasound.” She leaves. I lock eyes with my husband. He tells me
don't worry, I’m sure its nothing and tries his best to comfort me. This can’t