I was diagnosed with breast cancer on Friday, 18 April 2008. That day is seared into my memory and I can honestly detail every moment of that day. From that day my life was divided into two parts – before cancer (BC) and after diagnosis (AD).
When I heard the words that I honestly never thought I would hear in my life, I broke down in tears. My world changed that day. I made the decision to follow the advice of my medical team. My treatment was a mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction, chemo and now the joys of tamoxifen. Surgery and chemo is tough and I honestly don’t believe anything can truly prepare you, especially how you will feel afterwards……so here are some tips that worked for me when I was on chemo:
- Be kind to yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Cancer and its treatment is tough. What I mean by be kind to yourself is; if you need to nap, nap. If you need to have a chocolate, have the chocolate. If you need time out, take it. Don’t feel guilty for nurturing your body and soul.
- Chemo brain is real. You are not losing the plot. I have so many stories about my chemo brain. My tip for chemo brain is to write everything down. You will forget why you walked to the shop to buy bread and no matter how hard you try to remember, you won’t! I surrounded myself with note pads - on bedside table, coffee table, dining table, handbag, car etc.
- Weight gain is also real. I gained weight while I was on chemo and I always joke that cancer gave me curves. It was from the steroids and the medications I was on. I was constantly hungry and craved food, lots and lots of food. I don’t know if you can stop the weight gain from the medication but what you can do is try to go for a walk and eat healthy…and occasionally have your chocolate.
- Laughter. They say laughter is the best medicine and although it won’t cure the cancer (bugger), it will make you feel better. My sisters and I laughed so much during my treatment…over the silliest things. One day, I will tell you the story of the car, spider and Mother Hubbard. Surround yourself with funny people, funny movies or funny pets!
- Heavy arm. After surgery, your arm will feel heavy and you will have limited movement. You may also feel electric shocks in your arm, which is basically your nerves trying to repair themselves. With your arm, seek the advice of an occupational therapist or physiotherapist. Make sure they are experienced in treating people who had breast cancer surgery and have extensive knowledge about lymphedema. Just remember that your arm strength will take time to rebuild.
- Have a chemo mate. My sister attended every chemo cocktail session I had. She was my ears during the medical and she was my support during the cocktail infusion. She kept my spirits up, made me laugh and she would help the other patients too and bring them food, drinks, magazines. My sister changed the atmosphere in the chemo ward and had all the patients and nurses smiling. Bless.
- Join a support group. I joined the hospital support group for young women with breast cancer and I loved it. The women just got it, how I felt and there was no judgment, just pure support. If your hospital doesn’t have a support group, check out Facebook; they have closed breast cancer support groups which are completely private. You can also check out Breast Cancer Network Australia (bcna.org.au) or Cancer Council Australia (http://www.cancer.org.au/) and find a support group in your area.
- Don’t Dr. Google. I love Google. Who doesn’t? It has so much information and you can research anything including your cancer, treatment, and so much more. My issue with Dr Google is that you may be directed to dodgy sites where they target the vulnerable and promise a cure by juicing, enemas, eating the peel of a lemon mixed with turmeric and more. If you are tempted to Dr Google, visit Cancer Australia (canceraustralia.gov.au) they are a wealth of information.
Please feel free to send me an email with your thoughts and feedback and don’t forget to hug the ones you love.
Love and health
A few of my favourite things - a cup of peppermint tea, gorgeous flowers, journal to write your thoughts and our beautiful Grace lingerie set in Pearl