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How my hair came to fall out, more experiences with cancer treatment

 

I remember when I learned about my latest cancer (#3).I knew that once again my life would be consumed by all things cancer. After major comprehensive surgery (they took almost everything out), it was time to settle into chemotherapy. My oncologist, Sara Jordan, had explained the reasoning behind the treatment she proposed. Chemotherapy would be part two after surgery and before vaginal radiation. I figured she might be able to cure me which sounded appealing and worth the effort I would be expending. This picture shows my hair, but it was taken after surgery and before chemo.

The chemo was to be a commonly used combination of Taxol and Carboplatin. Six sessions in 21-day cycles. Hair loss is definite and is estimated to be 2-3 weeks after initial infusion. This allows a little planning time. My hair stylist, Audrey, cut my hair into a short pixie. Much better than a butch or a clean shave. The second part of the plan was to shave it when it started falling out.

About day 19 after the initial infusion, my scalp began to hurt. It hurt on a level of 7-8 on the pain scale. Sharp pain. I found that when I gave some a gentle yank, if fell out and the pain disappeared. Over two days I went from a person in pain with an obsession to a bald woman with a happy head. I was amazed that I was so glad to be rid of it. Besides I have a well-formed head. Looks good bald.Cream. No Make-up. Just me. Aloe Vera with sunscreen to my head.

 

This was my experience. Being unique people, we will all have different experiences and we will make different choices.

I enjoy this cap.  cotton, comfy, summery.

 

The thought of being bald was a tough one, but now my head has about 12 different head coverings including a fun new wig and it really isn’t so bad after all.

 

A few resources you might enjoy.

Hair Loss                     the American Cancer Society              https://www.cancer.org

 

Why and How Hair Loss Happens    Breast Cancer            https://www.breastcancer.org

 

12 Ways to handle hair loss from chemotherapy   WebMD                https://www.webmd.com

 

Chemotherapy and hair loss: what to expect during treatment   https://www.msayoclinic.org

 

 

 

 

Cancer Girl New Mexico is back in business

My other blog which will no longer be neglected is located here: https://cancergirlnewmexico.com/

As I was recovering from my hip replacement, my RA doc thought it might be time to try the biologic Actemra. It worked for me before hip issue. It was time to do it again. But, she said, first we needed to check out the change in my uterus that was noted on my hip MRI.

She ordered an ultrasound of my uterus that included a vaginal probe (didn’t know they could do it.) Actually, she handed me the probe and told me to put it in. I did it.

Results showed a thickened uterus consistent with tamoxifen use. It also showed a mass.

Next stop was the GYN doc who thought it was a polyp not cancer since there was no bleeding.

Next stop was outpatient surgery of a D&C and biopsy. She was optimistic.

The results weren’t good. It is sometimes called Uterine Serous carcinoma, or uterine papillary serous carcinoma (UPSC), or serous adenocarcinoma. It is easily googled just writing serous cancer.My doc said she didn’t know much about this cancer. She referred me to a GYN oncology surgeon who I saw in three days. In the meantime, I googled it. And it scared me,

Serous cancer is a rare, subset of endometrial cancer that is aggressive and carries a poor prognosis. It is erratic in its behavior similar to that of ovarian cancer.

I am in the lose hair stage of carboplatin/taxol first infusion. Not as bad as I thought it would be,

So here I am, back in the world of cancer. I was expecting it, but not expecting it. Hope I can be of some use to my fellow cancer travelers.

 

Cancer Number Three and RA

 

It is almost a month since I had a robotic radical hysterectomy and it has been four days since I had my first chemo. I feel pretty good all things considered. Additionally, a minor surgical procedure placed a power injectable SMART PORT under my skin connected to a catheter that was threaded into my jugular vein and down to my superior vena cava creating fast access to my body’s circulation.  It is not as bad as it sounds. Sloan Kettering has a PDF that explains the procedure. My skin has been tender, but the lidocaine ointment works and relieves the discomfort.

My RA is complaining with all joints hurting morning and again evening time. Walking hurts my feet even though I have custom shoes and custom triple layer inserts.  I am glad I take methotrexate injections, Plaquenil and meloxicam. I take 6 mg Medrol and can boost the dose into a dose pack if needed. So far, I am holding steady.

With RA I think it is important to move. Aerobics are nice but not practical in my situation. So, my old routine of activity alternated with rest works well. I read the Washington Post over coffee and then make breakfast. Next is the activity of showering and dressing. Showering and dressing is an activity when in cancer treatment or in an active flare (some of us are in a variation of a flare all the time.) Next is a short rest period with rereading Mukherjee’s book, Gene, or writing a letter to a friend.

Next activity for me is to check the garden. Fill the feeders and the bird bath. Water the container plants. Next will be a rest period while I check email and google something I’m researching, or I just watch the local squirrel munch on the zucchini plants. He is an incorrigible, determined squirrel. It has taken me this long to realize he is the culprit eating the zucchini.

My cancer is uterine papillary serous carcinoma. It is a very aggressive subset of endometrial cancer affecting 5-10 % of those with endometrial cancer. It behaves similarly to ovarian cancer which also affects the serous cells. Tamoxifen can cause it. My immune system is compromised with RA. Close relatives who have colon cancer match genetically. My brother had colon cancer.  Serous cancer was isolated in 1982. Before then it was lumped in with endometrial cancer. It has a high death rate whereas endometrial cancer doesn’t.

Treatment is aggressive surgery, six cycles of Taxol/ Carboplatin, and brady cuff vaginal radiation. For me that should finish it off. However, you never know with this cancer.

My oncology nurse, Trisha, recommended that I premedicate with the Zofran. I have done so. Nausea is light, but I have no appetite. Protein shakes will probably be the answer.

It is almost two months since my diagnosis with this cancer, my number three. Initially, I was scared. At the time I understood that once again my world would be consumed by things cancer. It is. Tomorrow, I see my hair stylist, Audry, who has experience with cancer patients. She will chop off my hair very close to my head. Hair loss starts about ten days into this chemo. It is better to cut it than have it come out in clumps. My Cathy sent me an adorable cap of daisies on a pink background. Tomorrow I will start wearing it.

My summer and fall have been mapped out for me. I know what to expect. I know where I stand. I will be immersed in this cancer in my life. I am good. I am okay with it.