These Breasts

These Breasts

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Those breasts? The breasts that replaced the cancer along with the tissue from the other breast as a precaution because of the multiple cysts that were benign but that could’ve changed with time. Those bandages? The bandages currently being worn to make sure my incisions heal correctly… & yes, the scars are that long. The lumps on the left breast? It’s from the drain within my breast removing the fluids. I had four after surgery. I had minor complications with the left breast healing so it’s on a little longer than the rest. The extra fat you see near my armpits? I went smaller in breast size so I’m left with excess fat from the breasts that will require yet another procedure to remove it once I’m healed. It’s also a reminder of the breasts that gave me years of insecurity, and clearly cancer. Those implants? The implants take away the ability to ever have the opportunity to breast feed children in the future. That key hanging from my neck? One of the most beautiful gifts that I have ever received. It’s from the Giving Key’s  with the word “HOPE” in the middle. I’m supposed to “embrace the word” and “pay it forward by passing on the key to a person that needs the message more” than myself. Reconstruction surgery isn’t glamorous, and it’s far from easy. However, with this simple reminder perfectly placed near the scars and damage as I’m still healing, is the best reminder to never lose hope, and strive for a better tomorrow & the healthiest possible life.

 (The key was gifted from one of my cancer sisters, Grace) 

Initially posted this on Instagram: jessheleno

 

What’s up, buttercup?

What’s up, buttercup?

HELLO!

It’s been awhile since I’ve lasted posted a blog entry. Big changes have happened since my last post and big changes will be happening over the next few months.

Just over a month ago I finished my last round of ‘hefty’ chemotherapy. I say that because for the next six months I will be receiving Herceptin every three weeks.

Herceptin is used for a variety of breast cancer patients. In my case, I fall under the  HER+ positive people (Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive ) along with being high risk. The high risk factors are considered either being  ER/PR-positive with one of the following features: tumor size >2 cm, < 35 years of age, or tumor grade 2 or 3… & guess what!? I have all of those features (5+ centimeters, younger than 35 aaand grade 3 tumor) SUP.

HER2+ is aggressive, but I’m fortunate enough to have Herceptin. It’s been proven beneficial for patients like me. And plus, these infusions will be significantly shorter than my previous treatments.

About a week ago my eyebrows and eyelashes started falling out like it was their JOB. I hopped out of the shower one day, looked in the mirror and immediately said “What the F*CK” (It takes a lot for me to swear so apparently this made me really upset) – I know it’s only hair and blah blah blah, it might sound vain and blah blah blah, but that was probably the only PHYSICAL feature I used to have confidence in- nice brows and long eyelashes. probably have 20% of eyelash and eyebrow hair in comparison what I typically have. So basically now I look like a fuzzy bug-eyed girl rather than my typical hairy bug-eyed girl look.

me
…or this stud.

SHOUT OUT TO MAKEUP. but hey- it’s helping me build confidence in more than one way.

Side note: Don’t make sarcastic jokes to the 6th graders that you coach, they won’t catch the sarcasm and they’ll look mortified that you said such a thing. Or… do it. It was quite entertaining. I LOVE being a coach again.

Up next, I have FINALS before graduating.  I also have all my appointments leading up to SURGERY the 22nd. A colonoscopy is also included this month hahaha okay, life.  ❤  The 21st is my Lymphoscintigraphy. Try saying that twice! LOL JK this mushy brain can’t even say it once. The 22nd will be bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

LOVE YOU ALL.

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I relate to Cynthia as well. The hair on my head sticks straight up after I shower and I always think of home girl. In reality though, those dots on her head are more representative.
Short & (not so) sweet.

Short & (not so) sweet.

The other day I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. Physically speaking, I am exhausted looking, little to no affect, eyebrows that might as well be zebra stripes to name a few; but what I am talking about transcends past the physical features- the toll that chemotherapy takes on a person mentally and emotionally reflects like the days I’d hope to never see again. My darkest days. I’m hesitant to be social because I feel trapped within my own body. Even if I wanted to be present, I often can’t because of how exhausted I am.

Chemotherapy is taking away the cancer, but it’s also taking away other aspects of what once was my daily life. I look in the mirror and see someone hardly present, someone just going through the motions, a person so still and it’s heartbreaking to me. Are these days worth it? Absolutely. It’s these types of days that make me hate everything about cancer. Knowing there are millions of people all over the world going through hell to kill what’s trying to kill us just tugs at my soul. I know at the end of all of this I will come out appreciating life more than I already do, with an even deeper perspective than ever before.

Monday was round five of six! One more to go followed by surgery in December.

I cannot wait for the day where I look back in the mirror and see myself again.

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This genuine smile, this person, this Jessica.

 

 

❤ Love you all & I’m so thankful for everyone that has remained patient and supportive through it all.

Guess who’s back… back again

Guess who’s back… back again

Hello! It’s been almost a month since my last blog, not surprised. Who was the genius that thought being a full-time student, chemotherapy patient, and part-time worker, OH and now 6th grade feeder team basketball coach was a good idea? That’s right, yours truly! Let me tell you, I am exhausted. Many days last week, I was asleep for more hours than I was awake. At the end of the (very long) day, I know that all of this is worth it.

Since I am extremely busy, and tired… and mushy, I haven’t had the inspiration to write in the past few weeks. I also knew that anything I would write during those weeks would be as exciting as watching paint dry. Today is my most “normal” feeling day since last Monday’s chemotherapy so I thought I’d take advantage of this day. What’s new on my end?  I’ve been having extreme stomach/indigestion issues from chemotherapy so they decided to cut back the Taxotere (of TCHP) by a “pinch” in hopes that it would help solve some of the issues. I knew it sounded too good to be true; the only thing that changed from the new regimen was a delayed response. So my REALLY tough days landed on school days. When a classmate said “you look like you’re struggling today,” she was SPOT ON. Struggle bus city. The other change since last blog is the intensity of chemopause. Chemopause is like menopause, but for chemotherapy patients… hot flashes and all. And yes, they’re just as fun as they sound. Being a naked mole rat also makes it very confusing and difficult to stay at a normal body temperature.

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This is the chemopause DREAM. (Picture taken from Young Survival Coalition)

 

The good news from these crazy couple of months? The tumor has shrunken in size SIGNIFICANTLY. It cannot be felt by examination :] Two more rounds to go!

As promised, here are the question’s I received for the AMA:

How did you know you should go to the doctor?

  • Something in my gut (or my severe anxiety ;]) wasn’t feeling comfortable with the lump that I noticed in my breast. I did not believe my OB/GYN when she brushed the lump off like it was nothing. I wanted to shut up my anxiety. As the tests continued, I began to have a weird feeling that it was cancer.

Do you go in weekly for chemo? How many weeks do you have to do it for? When did you start?

  • I go in every three weeks. I’m convinced that it’s every three weeks because it takes that long to start feeling like “normal” again. For me personally, every round becomes more exhausting than the previous one too.  I have six rounds of chemotherapy total, and started August 1st. So come the middle of November, I will be DONE with chemotherapy :] 

What does stage 2 grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma really mean?

  • This means that I’m a lucky lady :] But really. Though the tumor is larger, 3.1 x 2.2 x 2.7 cm to be exact, it is contained within the breast. “Grade 3 cells look very different from normal cells. They grow quickly in disorganized, irregular patterns, with many dividing to make new cancer cells.” < Which means they are aggressive. I took that directly from breastcancer.org – To find out more about IDC and different breast cancers, click here.

For those of us that are limited in energy or whatever, we want to send to you the best encouragement and support. What helps you most? How can we provide it?

  • I’m a simple lady, every little comment, message, text means the world to me. I am a SUCKER for both giving and receiving cards. So I would have to say sweet words of encouragement, personal letters are my personal favorite ❤

What’s the best thing that has happened to you since your diagnosis?

  • OU GOOD QUESTION. I think one important thing for me, as someone who has always suffered with self-worth issues, is that I have come to realize how many people I have in my corner. I was blown away by everyone who came to join me for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. It brought tears to my eyes at one point. I had people join me from almost every stage of my life thus far, and that was really humbling to me ❤
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    I LOVE YOU ALL (not everyone pictured) – You all blew me away.

    What are some things that keep your mind sharp after chemotherapy?

  • GOOD QUESTION. I have no idea. I am Queen Mushy Brain. I love to read, but I need energy to read and I have been lacking that as of late. I’ve been thinking of adding podcasts back into my drives… so hopefully that? Short walks help a little too.

If any of you have ANY questions ever, never hesitate to reach out. Please ❤

This song came on in the car today and instantly brought a huge & creepy smile to my face. “Maybe you were made this way, maybe the pieces were intentionally different”

Noah Gundersen – The Difference

 

At the end of the day-

At the end of the day-

 

What a two weeks it has been. Last week was BY FAR the the most difficult week through all of this so far. Everything hit me at once. By that I mean, emotionally, physically, mentally, I got hit by the rock bottom bus.

Monday was my third round of chemotherapy. I am exhausted. I am not myself. Chemotherapy takes away the growth of cancer cells… but it also takes away much more. It takes away energy, personality, sleep, independence, motivation; it takes away who I am.

(it even has taken away about 50% of my eyebrows and eyelashes)

Chemotherapy is like a cocktail. Well in the medical aspect, my cocktail is Taxotere/Carbo/Herceptin/Pertuzumab. In the ‘living’ aspect, it’s always a surprise mixture. Currently I am 70% tired, 30% motivated to do homework. Some days my head is so foggy I can’t even hold a standard conversation.  Some days my head is clear but physically I’m so weak that I do not want to talk. Most days look like this:14423674_10207944407385009_2036926596_o

Too tired to do anything. Watching TV even is out of the picture most days because it requires paying attention which surprisingly takes a lot of energy.

I knew that chemotherapy wasn’t going to be a cake walk, but MAN I didn’t know how exhausting it would be. The fact that I can’t be ‘myself’ is so damn frustrating. I feel like I am nothing more than a lump on log. Thankfully, there are moments (even a day or two) where I’m feeling almost normal and those are the times where I gain motivation. My definition of motivation is slightly different from what it once was, but it will always involve the words “keep on keeping on.”

At the end of the day, cancer and chemotherapy can’t take away my heart. My heart is so full of love for the people by my side, that keep me going, that take me places (literally I don’t have the energy to drive most days), that take care of me, that check in on me. Every single person that has reached out to me, thank you. It helps more than you know. Sending a text can even be difficult for me- so thank you for your patience.

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This beauty finished her last round of chemotherapy on Monday. Thank you for being a role model…. and agreeing that the word ‘moist’ is one of the worst words to ever exist ;] Grace will continue to inspire through the rest of her journey. #teampuffyface