Monday, February 27, 2012

Hair Evacuation

How to handle when the hair on your head decides to leave because of chemo honestly it one of the toughest things to do early on in chemo treatments. Not all chemo makes hair fall out but it is a reality that you probably want to think about early on in treatment because it is emotional. Up to this point in my cancer journey my hair has evacuated my head twice.

June 28, 2010 I took a shower and while washing my very thick and curly hair I was brushing out gel and hair products when my brush kept filling up with hair. I usually maybe filled my brush half way up by the end of the shower and that was "normal." On the 28th I filled up my brush twice full and it would have kept coming but I stopped brushing I could not and would not deal with it that day, and at that moment I knew I had to take the bull by the horns and cut it and shave it because if I had woken up with it all on my pillow I knew my level of emotions could not handle calling my mother to come home and get me out of bed.

July 29, 2010 I had decided it was the day for it to come off. I had 10 inches of hair so I was able to donate hair to Pantene Good Lengths which was another reason I felt I needed to take the bull by the horn and cut it off because along with wanting to be in control of the loss I did not want my length to go to waste.

Here are the weekend before picture and the soon after pictures 
I am in the black before my best friend's wedding

A few days after the shave, I still had fuzz since it all hadn't fallen out
I will say I may have over reacted the first go around about my heavy shedding of hair by shaving it but honestly at that point I COULD NOT HANDLE THE EMOTIONS. I cried myself to sleep every night it seemed for a month dreading the possibility of my hair falling out on my pillow in mass one night and waking up to an empty house while my parents worked to find the shock and horror of a pillow covered and bed full of my hair. With ABVD(my first chemo regime) my hair grew back slowly but it continued to grow throughout treatments.

This was my hair 2 1/2 months after I shaved it
Now let me explain to you the second time my hair evacuated my head April, 2011. Once I started intense chemo which mandated 4 days in the hospital to receive I had been warned that my hair would fall it, it was just going to be a matter of when. This go around I decided to be passive and experience my hair falling out on its own and it was definitely an emotional roller coaster.

April 20, 2011 I left the hospital after my 2nd round of ICE chemo and my hair was definitely loose. I told my parents and my mother said to stop touching it because she didn't want it to fall out (this was a bad theory overall and I should have just shaved it but I didn't want to). April 22nd my parents left on a cruise and I had friends staying with me and keeping me company for the weekend until my brother came into town on April 24th to stay with me for the week and he was bringing his beard trimmers to take care of the hair. On April 23rd I took a shower and honestly it was worst shower of my life, my hair was so loose and apparently most had evacuated its roots by then that it was just ready to fall out. I stood in the shower and clump after clump just kept coming as I was trying to wash my hair. Thankfully I had a small plastic bag in my bathroom so I hopped out of the shower soaking wet to grab the bag and I saw myself in the mirror and broke down. I spent probably 30 minutes sitting in my shower with the water flowing and a comb filling the bag with hair and crying.  I then realized some hair was still getting down the drain so I grabbed two paper towels (we don't use hand towels for sanitary purposes) and covered the drain to try to lessen the pipe back up issues and surprisingly it worked. Again this was THE. WORST. SHOWER. EVER. My brother got to town the next afternoon and finished up with the little bit of hair that didn't come out in the shower and I was thankful when it was all gone because I felt so terrible about myself with a few chunks of hair left. It was just awful and so emotional and possibly even worse than the first hair loss. And if my hair falls out again on the chemo I start this week I really don't know how I will handle it a third time. **I also did not photo document this time period very well because of hospital time and what not**

My hair took almost 6 months to grow back after ICE chemo, a SCT, and 3 weeks of radiation. This just proves how all chemos and cancer treatments effect not only hair evacuation but hair growth. My hair has been growing faster though since October and in 4 months than it did for almost 10 after ABVD chemo so the growing back is always an interesting experience.

Hair loss is just terrible, it is so emotional. Honestly there is NO WAY to make hair loss easy I wish there was but it's difficult no matter what you do. My best advice is to deal with it how ever you want. If you want to wear wigs, wear wigs or if you want to wear a hat buy 20, if you want to flaunt your gorgeous bald head go for it, and if you want to wear scarves learn how to tie them. I will have a post on head coverings to follow this up because there are a wide varieties of things that you can do to cover your head but the key is do whatever makes you feel comfortable.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fertility Rescue

This post is on the semi-controversial topic but ever so important topic of fertility salvaging before chemo or stem cell transplants. I originally started a post a year ago upon meeting with my fertility specialist the first time but it is so hard to put the entire experience into words everything in my head onto paper blog. Being 23, now 24, and single is just really weird/awkward to be discussing my fertility at all much less in a blog post.

I met with a fertility specialist to rescue and preserve my abilities to have kids with my future husband at some other point in my life and honestly it was probably one of the best and most important decisions I did in my journey to dominate cancer so far. It is so weird to think about and act upon fertility salvaging at such a young age with no prospective beau in sight. But with the chemo and SCT(stem cell transplant) was just that much worse on a body and with being told it renders most sterile my decision was pretty easy. My doctors recommended rescuing of eggs even though we didn't know the state of my eggs just from the cancer and my original 6 months of ABVD chemo. Faith and trust in your fertility specialist is key and during my first meeting with Dr. D he said "we might as well try because we can." and so we did.

After 3 weeks of fertility shots I was able to harvest 29 eggs and of those eggs 28 were viable which I feel has to be a percentile record or something since it was understood typically 1/3 of eggs harvested are not viable. 

The experience of fertility salvaging was one that I hold with extreme emotion still. Fertility salvaging is not for the faint of heart. I had to get over my fear of needles significantly with fertility salvaging. I had gotten over people taking my blood at the age of 21 when I coughed up blood and life started changing forever, but it was another step to have to give myself a shot was something that blew my mind. I mean I looked at the nurse like she had 3 heads when she told me I had to give myself shots. I did it though, I overcame, I conquered and I only gave myself a bruise once in three weeks of shots. One night I ended up on some reality show following alternative conception stories and a nurse was going through fertility shots and she had bruises all over her stomach so I felt much better myself and my shot giving abilities while praying she never gave a patient a needle of any kind.

Fear not though you will survive the daily blood draws, the invasive sonograms, and shots because at the end of the chemo you may be like me and your monthly gift from mother nature may not return. I have not had my fertility checked since the chemo and SCT last summer so I don't "officially" know it's gone for good but when normal natural functions are gone I begin to wonder. Fertility salvaging is a humbling experience because I at least know that when I have to tell my future husband about the side effects that chemo and my SCTs did to me and I have to explain that I may not be able to naturally conceive I have set up a back up plan that can be explored. I also say that to say this I have always believed adoption in my future as well and that was long before cancer and chemo ever came around and messed with my fertility. I am happy I looked at my options and was able to get egg harvesting fit into my tight scheduling windows.



This is the first post of the new blog that I have started to hopefully start a topic based blog on my experiences as a 24 year old cancer patient. My goal is to tell my story on a variety of topics related to cancer and I'm talking good, bad, and ugly I will probably get down right uncomfortable but well that's what happens with cancer and what people really want to know about. Please follow the blog and check back for updates.