Breast Cancer at 41 – The Sides 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!

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