Recent Diagnosis

SS73
SS73 Member Posts: 4
Hi all, well it's been a head-spinnng few weeks.

Diagnosed on 24/4 with BC - grade 2 - in my right breast and right lymph nodes.

Started with a GP appointment for a lump I had been ignoring for several months, then mammogram and ultrasound, followed by core biopsy, MRI, CT scan, PET scan, another biopsy and several hundred (feels like) vials of blood taken. A visit to a surgeon then oncologist.

Next week I have an ECG on Monday and start Chemo on Tuesday.
Will be having Mastectomy after Chemo then radiation after that, apparently.

I am 49 with a Husband, 2 kids and a few pets. Had loads of things planned for the next 6 months which are now on hold. Daughter sitting her HSC this year (she really didn't need this roller coaster this year)

I have taken next week off work, but I do plan to keep working as much as possible.

Does anyone have any tips for getting through chemo? 
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Comments

  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    edited May 2023
    Dear @SS73

    Bad luck! No-one really wants to be here but welcome anyway. Chemo is a bit of an unlucky dip - if there are any reliable indicators as to how an individual will react, I’ve yet to hear them. For most of us, there’s no testing before you buy. But it’s important to remember that it remains one of the big guns in the armoury for getting rid of cancers. In general terms, a number of people will have a lousy time, feel really ill and hate every part of chemo. At the other end of the spectrum, some will have relatively mild, manageable reactions and their lives will not be disrupted.

    Most are somewhere in the middle - good days and bad days, some difficult reactions, some changeable as many have two different chemo treatments, some things not as bad as expected. I had some long term reactions, but most of the time I felt fine, lived normally and worked throughout treatment. So the best you can do is have plans A and B.

    You may want to look into cold cap to try and hold onto your hair, and ice treatment on hands and feet to protect against peripheral neuropathy, particularly if you have one of the taxanes. 

    You can discuss options about work - I took a day off when having A/C every three weeks, but only a couple of hours when having Taxol weekly. Luckily my day oncology clinic was close to work. Some people prefer to concentrate on themselves during treatment but I found work an excellent way of getting out and about, and out of myself! But mostly it depends on how you feel, sometimes it’s just not an option. 

    Keep your eyes on the prize. Chemo
    ends. It’s tempting to look back to your pre cancer/chemo life but it really doesn’t help. Look forward, there’s lots of life after cancer and you and your family will get there, you just need to be a bit flexible with the schedule.
    Very best wishes. 
  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,565
    SO sorry to see you join our exclusive club @SS73 .... but you are in the right spot for advice from those who've been there, done that. xx. Have you been assigned a Breast Care Nurse yet?  They can be terrific support for you - and your 'go to' person for many queries.

    You'll still be in a bit of shock, I would imagine & are now on the 'conveyor belt' of treatment, surgery & more treatment, which will keep you incredibly busy over the next 6 months or so .....

    This bloody disease actually mucks with your BRAIN even more than your body, I reckon.  If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed & not coping too well, your GP or your Cancer Centre should be able to put you onto a psychologist or counsellor who can give you 'coping mechanisms' ....  We also have a help line that you can contact Mon-Fri 1800 500 258 

    A well known cancer psychologist, Charlotte Tottman has put together 2 lots of podcasts about how breast cancer impacts your life - she was actually diagnosed with Breast Cancer herself in the last few years, and was surprised that it impacted her WAY MORE than she thought it would .... and these podcasts follow HER journey .... 
    Upfront About Breast Cancer – What You Don’t Know Until You Do, with Dr Charlotte Tottman and the 2nd one:
    https://www.bcna.org.au/understanding-breast-cancer/bcna-resources/podcasts/charlotte-tottman-podcast-series/

    I didn't have chemo, but I nursed my husband thru 2 lots ...  I went with him for all his treatments - some people may like to be on their own .... the staff are brilliant - and so caring.  Not everyone gets nasty side effects - so keep a journal nearby to write down anything you think they should be aware of - as they should be able to minimise many of the side effects.   Drinking lots of water after each session helps 'wash it' out of your system .... Sometimes your appetite can be affected - so just eat whatever you fancy!  Small serves, more often, can be better for you than 3 set meals ... 

    Jump onto this thread & read up a bit about the forum - what to take to hospital etc .... we have lots of 'off topic' stuff you can jump onto (pets, gardens, art & craft etc ....)  There are also some 'tick sheets' you can print off (down the bottom) where you 'self assess' between appointments - just take them with you xx

    https://onlinenetwork.bcna.org.au/discussion/23477/a-big-welcome-to-all-our-new-members#latest

    I see that you are Central Coast - do you have to travel to any of your Appointments?  If you have to go to Sydney or Newcastle, you should be able to claim for some fuel and accommodation costs - we have a private group for people who live in regional, rural and remote areas ..... where we try to keep up with ongoing changes in policy.  I am Mid North Coast. .... and had my surgery in Sydney & Radiation in Port Mac.  Some hospitals have subsidised accommodation for yourself & family members - maybe ask your Breast Care Nurse about that .... or go online & sign up for it .... 
    https://www.iptaas.health.nsw.gov.au/

    Take care, and all the best with your ECG on Mon & chemo on Tues ..... take some warm gear, as it is cooling down now - you should be fine inside, but may start to feel the cold a bit more after treatments. xx 

  • SS73
    SS73 Member Posts: 4
    Thank you @Afraser and @arpie. I have been reading/researching lots, but trying to not let it overwhelm me.
    Yes, I have met 2 breast care nurses and they are wonderful!
    Thankfully all my appointments are local - so far anyway.
    I guess I will just take everything as it comes and hope I handle it all to the best of  my abilities :) After having a really lovely weekend, I feel set and in a good frame of mind to tackle the start of chemo on tuesday.
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    Good luck and best wishes. I did my chemo
    on my own, much preferred it that way but it’s useful to have a reliable other for the first time - just in case. Most people quickly get to
    know their own chemo pattern, and then you are much better prepared. Count the sessions down - every one completed is one less to do! 
  • SS73
    SS73 Member Posts: 4
    @Afraser, Hubby will be dropping me off and picking me up on Tuesday, I have a good book and some music ready to keep me company :)
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    Perfect!
  • Abbydog
    Abbydog Member Posts: 482
    Above is some great advice. As Afraser said Chemo is a bit of a unlucky dip.
    I was relatively lucky. I never needed anti nausea drugs, I had no nausea.
    I was diagnosed Feb 2020, just when Covid became a new and scary thing.
    I chose not to work during all of my treatments. I am a nurse and felt keeping away from potential infection risks and Covid. Also in my work it is not easy to leave during a night shift, there is rarely a replacement during the night. I also used Income Protection Insurance, in my Superannuation.
    My Chemo suite did not allow visitors in, and we all did it alone. For me that was fine.
    I did use the Cold Cap successfully.
    Take one step at a time. ask lots of questions. 
    I always seem to have a new list of questions very time I see the Oncologists.
    Have you been told what Stage your Cancer is at?
    The Grade refers more to the speed of growth. 
    All the very best.
  • SS73
    SS73 Member Posts: 4
    Thanks @Abbydog. I may have been told what stage the cancer is, but I don't remember.
    Well 1st day of chemo is done and dusted, I was pretty crook last night, but anti-nausea drugs did their job and today I just feel a bit tired.
    We will see what the next few days bring then hopefully back to work nextweek.
  • Abbydog
    Abbydog Member Posts: 482
    Some people really notice a rhythm or pattern to how they feel. I didn't really.
    I sometimes had trouble sleeping Chemo nights and the next day. That can be the effect of Dexamethasone. Constipation was a problem for me also for first couple of days, I only needed a couple of colonel each day foe about 2 days.
    Do you feel slightly less anxious now that you have one session done?
    Knowing a little more what to expect.
    I don't know if you told us which Chemo you are on.