Tag Archive | hair growth

2014 in Review

2014 was a pretty big year for me. Not quite as big as 2013, but quite a bit still happened in my cancer journey. Therefore, I think it’s worth a look back on the year to see what changes occurred.

I started the year recovering from my mastectomy and going through radiation. While radiation wasn’t as hard as chemo, I really didn’t appreciate breaking out in hives at the end of the treatment.

Hives from the radiation treatment

Hives from the radiation treatment

With hindsight being 20/20, I’m wishing now that I didn’t decide to try reconstruction after my mastectomy. It was a pretty close decision, and now it’s looking like I went through all the pain of expansion and living with the expander (never did get anything close to comfortable with it) without the benefit of an implant at the end. It’s not a big deal living without a right breast. When I’m just going to be home, I don’t even wear a bra much.

I did finish up all my active treatments – radiation and Herceptin were the treatments in the beginning of the year. Now I access the port only to flush it.

No more of this!

No more of this!

My hair is still changing as it comes in. It’s much curlier now than it was at the beginning of the year. I think I’m going to keep it short for a while, especially now that I can go four months or so in between hair cuts. Getting a hair cut every two months gets expensive, even at the cheap place I go!

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the end of the year - so curly!

My hair at the end of the year – so curly!

Things to look forward to this year: not as many doctor’s appointments, since I’m not in active treatment. I’ll have another MuGA scan and a mammogram, but I’m not sure what else in terms of tests. I’m down to every six months with Dr. Engel, and I something similar for the oncologist.

My big goal is to get my port out. I’ve finally gotten used to it and hardly ever notice it anymore (it only took about 15 months), but I still will be happier with it out. If nothing else, it will open up my bathing suit and mastectomy bra options.

Let’s see what the year brings, shall we?

 

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No Doctor’s Appointments!!

It’s a minor miracle that I have no doctor’s appointments this week. In fact, it’s the first week all year (if you don’t count the vacation week, which I don’t because I wasn’t in town) that I have not had to go to a doctor’s appointment for either myself or the kids. If you take the kids out of the equation, there’s been one other week all year, but I had to go and sit in a doctor’s waiting room for them. so I’m including the kids in my record. Pretty sad that we’re nearly half-way through the year and I’ve had, at the most generous, three weeks with no appointments. Don’t worry, I’m back to the doctor’s office next week. You needed worry I’ll miss those waiting rooms.

Since I have no doctor’s appointments, I’ll talk about something frivolous – my hair. I actually got my hair cut before I went on vacation. I was debating whether or not it was long enough to get it cut, but it was starting to annoy me and not flip up correctly. Besides, if I got it cut, it would have some actual shape and style as opposed to just being how long everything happened to grow in.

Before - looking a bit wild and crazy

Before – looking a bit wild and crazy

Not having a lot of experience at the hair dresser’s, I wasn’t really sure what to tell her. The conversation went something like, “I’d like it to flip up in front, but not be so crazy in back, and keep something in front of the ears, but maybe not so much. Can you do anything with that?” Luckily, she could.

After - much more tamed.

After – much more tamed.

I was quite pleased with how it turned out. It’s not too different from what I came in with, but it all works together better. I am amazed that hair an inch long can still manage to stick up funny in places. The curl seems to be coming back, and it looks a little darker than before chemo. That’s probably just because all the sun-bleached highlights are gone. I am glad to note that I can make it look presentable after swimming without needing a mirror or brush. Overall, I’m quite happy with my hair. The question becomes how long I can go between haircuts…

Choosing a hair style

One unexpected result of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is the requirement to choose a hair style. I’ve never really had to choose a hair style. I’ve chosen minor things, like what to do about bangs, but never associated with how to cut my hair. Now I have to decide what I want to do with my hair. Do I leave it short? Do I grow it long again?

I must admit, I’m enjoying the hair length I have right now. I finally got around to spiking it, at least in the front, and I love it like that. It makes me smile every time I see it in the mirror. I never would have cut my hair, but now that it’s short, I think it looks surprisingly good.

I love my spike.

I love my spike.

It reminds me a little of Tintin’s haircut.

tintin-appears1

The flip in front doesn’t take much to do, as I’m sure others have found. As long as I flip it up when my hair is wet, it will stay. I did go out and buy some product to make a little more of the hair stand up.

My hair wax. I've been told a little goes a long way.

My hair wax. I’ve been told a little goes a long way.

I’ll try it out one day when I don’t have to go out so if I totally mess up the hair I won’t need to share my mistakes with others. Now the question becomes, at what point do I have to go out and get my hair cut. The bits over my ears StatsGuy can trim for me, but I want to make sure the spike on top is a good length. All I know is I’m not there yet.

Radiation presents

In an effort to lessen the dread of the daily trips to the Cancer Center for radiation, my mother brought me a box of presents the last time she visited.

My radiation presents

My radiation present box

I’m allowed to open one present every day I have radiation. I’ve decided to open them after radiation, mainly because I leave so early in the morning that both the kids aren’t up to see what I get. They are just as excited about the presents as I am. I know they’re little things, but it adds an element of excitement and pleasure to an otherwise dishearteningly long series of treatment. As a bonus (as a friend pointed out to me), I get to visually watch the box get emptier and emptier the closer I get to the end of treatment.

In the spirit of the presents, I thought I’d share what I got on a weekly basis. I only had two treatments last week, so I only got to open two presents. I started with the biggest present, because of course.

Present #1 was tasty!

Present #1 was tasty!

Popcorn, that we promptly ate for afternoon snack and highly enjoyed.

The second day, I went for an envelope, because there’s quite a few of them stuffed in the box.

Blue gum

Blue gum

A pack of gum, which I needed since we’re about out at the house.

One last bit of housekeeping – an updated photo of my hair.

Even more hair.

Even more hair.

I keep thinking to myself, now I really have hair, and then a week later saying the same thing. I did have my mom trim the hair along my ears the other day, since it was starting to stick out funny. A little bit longer and I’ll be able to spike it like my son’s soccer coach. I might need to get a little product for that to work well, though.

I can’t stop running my hand over the top of it when I’m sitting around. Even so, I’m still surprised sometimes when I look in the mirror and see how little hair I have. I’m not sure what I’m expecting, but it isn’t the super short hair that I have. When I see pictures of myself with long hair, even that looks odd now. I’ll be curious to find out if and when the internal image of myself matches the external image.

How do you like my sleeve?

My new LymphaDiva sleeves came in, so I picked them up on my way to the Cancer Center (more on that appointment in a later post). The woman I’ve been working with at the Pennsylvania Artificial Limb and Brace Company (yeah, it’s a mouthful) has been extremely helpful and knowledgeable about what’s available to help a breast cancer patient.

First, we tried on the sleeve.

The Flutter LymphaDiva sleeve and gauntlet

The Flutter LymphaDiva sleeve and gauntlet

I’m pleased with the pattern choice I made. I also got a plain beige one to wear under long sleeves, but I wanted to try on the pretty one first. I had help putting it on this time, and I’m sure it will be much more difficult to do on my own since it’s so snug. I got the small short sleeve and the small gauntlet (for my hand). The sleeve itself isn’t too noticeable when I wear it, but the gauntlet makes the muscle in the ball of my thumb cramp up. I might wear the sleeve around just to get used to it, but there’s no way I’m wearing the gauntlet unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Since I was there, I mentioned to the assistant how lop-sided I am after the final fill on my expander. It’s going to be months before I get the expander exchanged for the implant, and I was wondering if there was anything I could do to even things up. Turns out there is. I can get a breast form to up the size on my left breast so it matches the expanded right side. I can also get a partial form for the right side so there isn’t quite the drop off on the underside of the breast. If I’m going to go in that direction, I probably want a mastectomy bra to hold the forms in place as well, so I’ll have to go back for a fitting and to pick out a style that will work without irritating my port.

Oh, and while I’m at it – check out the hair!

Look - there's hair!

Look – there’s hair!

It feels like real hair, finally, and you definitely can’t see my scalp through what’s come in. It’s even long enough to stick up occasionally! I’m still waiting to get to the point where I can style it, but at least it’s enough to keep my head warm around the house now.

First day of physical therapy

Once again, I got to drive to physical therapy after some pretty nasty weather. The temperature was still in negative numbers when I left the house this morning. Luckily the minivan started because the battery hasn’t come in for the other car and it won’t start in these cold temperatures.

PT started easy with some deep tissue massage. This pretty much involved me lying on the table while Amanda massaged my chest and upper arm. After the massage she did a little stretching and was impressed with the improvement in my range of motion. It’s not quite back to normal, but I can at least get both arms near vertical again.

Once the massage was over, it was out to the main room for some stretches and exercise. I had to lay on my back on a foam tube to provide negative space behind my back. First, I did some stretches with my forearms flat on the ground and pulled up toward my head as far as I could go. The trick with this move was to keep my shoulders relaxed so I stretched my pectoral muscles and not my back. Next was the seal clap. Hands together over my body, extend the arms perpendicular to the body to the floor. Next was snow angels, keeping my arms extended and my hands on the floor. Finally, I held a broomstick and lifted it over my head as close to the floor as I could get. Each time, I was able to go a little farther with my right arm, so progress was made.

As a bonus (and a good reason to talk to the therapist), I got a stretch to help with the tingling in the edge of my palm and pinkie finger. Turns out, that’s the ulnar nerve and you do upside-down goggles to stretch it out. Here’s a picture since I can’t explain it easily:

Ulnar nerve stretch.

Ulnar nerve stretch.

And, since it’s been a while, here’s a picture of my hair:

Hair check - it feels like hair now and not just prickles!

Hair check – it feels like hair now and not just prickles!

I’ve actually taken my hat off in public the past week – it’s definitely long enough to fake being an actual choice instead of just growing in from complete loss.

 

Sleeping isn’t easy

I was surprised when I came home from surgery that sleeping was more painful that I expected. In most things, you wake up and feel best in the morning, but I found that I am very achy and stiff in the morning. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I have only one sleeping position for the whole night. Good thing I’ve always been a back sleeper. Once I’m up and about, the stiffness and pain in my chest goes away quickly.

The first night back from the hospital, I found out I couldn’t sleep flat on my back. I didn’t realize this fact until I tried it since I’d been in a hospital bed, propped up at least a little since the surgery. I laid down to go to sleep and discovered it hurt to breathe. OK, fine, I thought. I’ll just sleep on the recliner in another room. However, getting up off my back was a difficult and painful process. Both rolling over and sitting up require the use of chest muscles, which were painful from the surgery. I eventually managed, but it did not improve my mood that night. After that first night, I slept with one of those long, triangle-shaped pillows under my regular pillow in bed.

My sleeping boost - just enough so I could breathe without pain.

My sleeping boost – just enough so I could breathe without pain.

As for a current update, I’m feeling quite good and ready to do stuff. My only complaint is the drain. I swear I can feel it moving under my skin in my armpit. That’s the only part of my body that hurts, and it hurts more the more I do. I think I need to make today a quiet, sitting day since my armpit is sore already this morning. I also think the drain is irritating my body, which is making more fluid around it so the drain amount isn’t decreasing the way it should. I have a meeting with Dr. Kang tomorrow morning and I WILL be getting this thing out of me then.

To end on a positive note – check out the hair! My family came down yesterday and I didn’t even wear a hat when they were here.

It almost looks like a hair-do again. Now I just wear hats to keep warm.

It almost looks like a hair-do again. Now I just wear hats to keep warm.