Breast Cancer at 41 – The Side Effects

with my medical oncologist celebrating all the races during treatment

with my medical oncologist celebrating all the races run during treatment

I wanted to wait until I completed my 6 chemotherapy treatments of Taxotere and Carboplatin (I still have 12 additional treatments of Herceptin to complete) before writing about the drug’s side effects.

Here’s the list of the side effects that I experienced:

  1. Nausea
  2. Exhaustion
  3. Insomnia
  4. Both constipation and diarrhea
  5. Hair loss (and that’s ALL your hair – eyebrows, eyelashes and even the hair down there…)
  6. Anemia
  7. Fingernail and toenail “changes”
  8. Fluid retention with weight gain – 10+ pounds
Having a good hair day!

Having a good hair day!

Of these the most difficult to deal with was the hair loss.  During my first meeting with my medical oncologist she confirmed that yes, I would indeed lose my hair.  I told both her and my friends that I was fine losing my hair as long as I was able to run….or was I?

Saying that you are okay with losing your hair is totally different from actually running your hand through your hair and pulling out clumps of hair.

Having another good hair day...

Having another good hair day…

Saying that you are okay with losing your hair is totally different from sitting in your kitchen getting your head shaved.

Saying that you are okay with losing your hair is totally different from actually having no hair and being bald.

It’s like everything else – you don’t fully “get it” until it happens to you.

My doctor said that I would lose my hair 14 to 21 days after my first chemotherapy treatment.  And like clockwork, I began losing my hair on the 14th day.  What I’ve learned from experiencing chemo is that you will notice that something about yourself looks FABULOUS and then the next week it will die and fall off.

Cutting off my hair

Cutting off my hair

At 41 years old I had finally accepted and come to terms with my baby fine, limp hair and had grown it long once again.  My hairdresser and I had found a great color, my bangs looked good and then BAM!! – I’m pulling hair out of my head while in the shower.  This sudden hair loss couldn’t come at a better time – I was leaving for runDisney’s Tower of Terror 10-Miler followed by a business trip in Las Vegas.

Once you begin pulling hair out of your head, it’s kind of hard to stop.  I had a choice, wait until I was in Disney World and get my head shaved at the Harmony Barber Shop or wait until my husband arrived home to shave it.  Even though, it would be a great photo-op to wait until I was in Disney, I knew that I needed to deal with this in the privacy of my own home.

Look at my face and then look how happy my daughter is to cut off my hair.

Look at my face and then look how happy my daughter is to cut off my hair.

I wanted to involve my family.  I allowed my children to cut my hair so my husband would have an easier time shaving it off.  My daughter was a little too eager to help and it was beginning to wig me out (see video below)!  Soon it was over and I went to bed to face the world.

My first bald adventure was to runDisney’s Tower of Terror race.  I was very nervous to face the world so the entire trip I wore a scarf or a wig.  I even risked over-heating during the race because I didn’t want anyone to see my bald head!

The morning after with Pammy!!

The morning after with Pammy!!

In the Orlando Airport I had a chance encounter that would change my outlook forever.  I walked into the ladies room and came face to face with a woman who was bald as can be putting on her make-up – specifically false eyelashes.  I can’t remember the type of cancer, but I remember that she was Stage 4 and on her way to Seattle to see a specialist.  It was then and there that I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed or nervous about my appearance.  That being bald was something I was going through and I needed to find the strength to face the world and be the beautiful person I am.  Of course, this was easier said than done because I was going to a work conference with really hot and wealthy finance guys.

Meeting a survivor who was 1-year out from treatment and being bald!

Meeting a survivor who was 1-year out from treatment and being bald!

At the conference I broke out my “work wig.”  I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable in a work setting, but then I showed up at the hotel gym bald and my colleague came up to me to tell me that he loved my look and I looked great!  That’s all the confidence I needed to rock my bald, beautiful head!

As the months have gone on, I have received so many compliments on my “beautifully shaped head” that is it now a running joke.  But what I have learned is:

  1. No one can make you feel beautiful except yourself, but compliments do help A LOT!
  2. Beauty shines from the inside out
  3. Strength and courage makes your beautiful
  4. Never go anywhere without a hat and sunblock
  5. There are way worst things that can happen then loosing your hair – this too shall pass
The morning I found the courage to rock the bald with a Sweaty Band!

The morning I found the courage to rock the bald with a Sweaty Band!

20 Comments on “Breast Cancer at 41 – The Side Effects

  1. You are beautiful and strong. We don’t know the strength within us until we are challenged. It’s what we do with that challenge that matters. You are making a difference!!


  2. You are so amazing. I have been following your journey on Team RunDisney and I so appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. Honestly you seem like you’ve dealt with everything so well that I bet so many people don’t realize how tough it has been on you. And you are so beautiful!


  3. You are incredible. I had tears in my eyes reading this. I can’t imagine writing a post like this with such openness and candor. I think of you often Kimberly when I’m feeling sorry for myself for some lame reason. Hope to see you soon!


  4. This is amazing to hear how you truly feel about it because you put on such a brave face for it. I can see the disappointment in your face in these photos and the video; but then the next day when I saw you at the airport you had on your cute scarf and your red lipstick and a bright smile! It was like the night before never even happened. You embraced your baldness and rocked it! Then when we landed in Florida and you changed your clothes, you had a different MATCHING scarf to go with your outfit. That was so AWESOME! But the best part is when you don’t wear anything at all. Your personality shines through regardless of whether or not you have hair. But hair is a part of us and I know I would miss mine also. Exactly what Melody said before, you have dealt with so much but with your smile and positive attitude I don’t think people realize how tough it was. But that is a great example to lead for your kids. They will learn from you even though this is a crappy situation to have to live through. But I have seen so much GOOD come out of the CRAPPY CANCER! Celebrate the good!


  5. Oh and one more thing. Was it really, really hard for you to take the wig off at ToT when you were overheating? Did you feel really anxious or self conscious about it? I was more worried about you throwing up or passing out!


  6. You a re a beautiful person from inside to outside. You inspire all of us. I am glad to know you and keep doing what you are doing! Nothing but love for you! And you rock the bald look like no one else!


  7. You are an inspiring woman Kim. You exude strength and beauty and every time I see you I think we should all hope to look as good as you do without hair. Thanks for sharing your story. You’re awesome!!


  8. Kimberly – thank you for sharing this – and all that you write. I follow you on twitter and am a part of Team RunDisney. I am pretty sure I was in your corral at the Happy Haunnted Trail 5k back in October, just didn’t realize it at the time – until I saw myself in your video! (I was dressed as Pluto). I sincerely hope I get to meet you in person at the Princess Half next month so I can say I REALLY know you! You are truly an inspiration!


  9. I’ve said it countless times already but I’ll say it again: you are truly inspirational. I don’t know many people who have the strength to do as much as you’ve been able to: not let your battle define you, not let your battle keep you from doing what you love, and above all that share your story with others. This post brought tears to my eyes as I read it. Keep holding your head high, and keep on fighting!


  10. Pingback: Cancer Lesson #52: Most People Don’t Care Whether You Have Hair | Keeping A-Breast: Cancer Lessons

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