Wednesday, June 4, 2014

6 (Six) Years Post Treatment

Six years after completing treatment.  Sounds like a long time, and for a lot of things, it is.

For me, though, and maybe for other cancer survivors, it doesn't seem like that long at all.  In fact, when I hear how long it's been, and think of how life has gone on day to day, cancer treatments and the continual process of healing is still in the forefront.  A lot of life has happened in this past six years.

I refer you to my daily blog, ,  if you'd like to catch up with me. I try to include the little nuances of how my body is different now "after cancer".  Like the itching and/or numbness around the axillary wound when the lymph fluid is backing up. And the wound bed on the breast is always sore if touched.

I remember when I was diagnosed, and trying to find information about what it's like 5 years down the road. I didn't find much, if any. So today's pictures are 6 years after treatment.  I date my anniversary from the last radiation treatment, which was June 6, 2008.  (Funny, the dates we remember...)

My weight is basically the same as when I was diagnosed, approximately 145 pounds. I'm now 58 years old with a birthday next month. My cognition has improved, though it's not what it was "before cancer". I still have trouble thinking if I'm tired, fatigued, or hungry. Sometimes I just don't talk, because the words aren't there. Or I lose the train of thought and forget where I was going with the conversation. I don't like that, so I just don't talk. This is being recognized now in the medical community as "chemo brain" or "chemo fog", and there is no help for it. I seem to get overwhelmed by lots of stimulus, like busy, noisy, crowded places, and do better if I'm not there by myself.

I have learned to breathe, to calm myself, and trust myself, and trust that God and His angels look out for me.

I'm overall healthy, although I missed a step going down the stairs and turned my right ankle pretty good in mid-May. I didn't seek treatment, as I was able to bear weight, the bruising wasn't excessive, and I ice it, elevate when I can, and keep it ace wrapped the majority of the time. It seems to be doing ok so far. 

I still see a massage therapist about every 5 weeks or so. Not only for general well-being, but to move the lymph fluid out.  It collects over the ribs on the side and around to the back, as well as in the breast itself. My left arm will also get achy as that lymph fluid backs up.

These pics are taken after a massage; everything looks pretty good here.

Both of the scars are lightly discolored still, and they are both indented. When the lymph is backed up they are more deeply indented and puckered. Also, on the bottom picture, the scar from the drain is visible.

The wound bed on the breast is still tender and sore, more so again when it's full. The massage therapist is wonderful about treating my breast, armpit, and ribs/back area. I highly recommend finding a therapist who can do this for you. I pay out of pocket as my insurance doesn't cover it. But some insurances do. It's worth a phone call.

The left areola is fading in color, and the nipple doesn't erect much any more (like when it's cold).  The discoloration below the nipple is from the radiation burn. The discoloration on the top is from when the dye was injected pre-op.

In all the pics, the little round black tattoo on the sternum is visible. It's one of the markers for radiation positioning. There is one on each side, too, but they don't show on these pics. There are earlier postings/pics of the markings.

Thank you for following my journey.  I hope these pictures help you in some way.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Tape Treatment 10.03.2008

Ike put this kinesia tape on the incisions/wounds/scars to see if it would help with the puckering or indenting of the wounds. If it does, great, and if not, no harm, just a little tape.

The star shape just over the nipple looks pretty good, and the underarm one you can see that the indentation is there. We'll see how it goes...

Friday, July 4, 2008

4 Weeks After Radiation

These pictures were taken 29 days after my last radiation treatment.

There is still discoloration under the breast, and the top of the breast, and around the axillary incision.

The skin is mostly healed, with some peeling still on the nipple, in the fold at the base. The incision on the breast looks really good, and the axillary incision is still red/brown. You can see the fullness, too, around the axillary incision. Ike can move that fluid from there, and when she's done, the skin is flat.

Straight on. As the breast is healing, it's drawing up. You can see the dimple of the incision on the breast.

Leaning forward, you can see the difference in the sizes. Surprising to me, there's not much difference in the fit of the bra cups at this time.

This will be the last of the breast pictues for a while. Now that it's healing and looking mostly "normal" (or, the new normal) I'm going to reclaim them.

I plan to do pictures at intervals--maybe 6 months and 1 year--to see just how it does.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. If these photos have helped you, please comment--I love feedback.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hair, 06.30.2008

These pictures were taken June 30, 2008, after my second haircut.

Notice the eybrows and eyelashes!! The lashes are full, and between half and full length.

The hairdresser, Lauretta, says she thinks it's much thicker than before, and definitely wavy. I don't know that I'll let it grow out much more than what it is in the back; that's how short I kept it Before. The top is what feels so much different to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Breast Pictures 06.22.2008, 17 Days Done

These pictures were taken 17 days after completing radiation treatments. The skin is much improved, though I'm still using silvadene ointment on the nipple and areola where the last of the "flakes" came off, and aloe vera/elta cream on all of the other skin.

There is still discoloration of the radiation field in general, and the smaller field is discolored, too. The swelling is less in general, but, talk about itch. It itches from the inside, and sometimes aches, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Breast Pictures 06.14.2008

These were taken June 14, 2008, nine days after completing radiation treatments. The areola and some of the skin above it sloughed off, revealing new pink skin under it. But there are still small areas of dried, almost scabby looking, flakes. I'm one to pick at things, but these flakes I'm leaving alone.

The breast is swollen and full, as well as tender. After a lymph treatment with Ike, the axillary (underarm) incision is nearly smooth, as is the one on the breast.

On the outer side of the breast where is is shiny and looks almost leathery, that's how it feels to touch it. Kind of like leathery plastic. Very strange.

06.10.2008 Areola Wipe-Off

After my shower Tuesday, I was toweling off, being ever-so-careful with that tender nipple and breast. I patted the water, and--OH MY GOSH!!!! WHAT"S THAT?!?!? It looked like eraser stuff on my skin. You know, the dark skinny rubbery stuff the eraser leaves behind? I looked again, and realized my skin is rubbing off!!!! whoa. Take a breath. My heart's beating pretty fast. I looked again. Oh my gosh. It looks like all of the colored skin is sloughing off. Just rolling up and coming off. Well, that ink stain rolled off, too. And it's pink underneath it. That's ok.

As I realized it didn't hurt to come off, and it was going to come off anyway, I debrided (removed dead tissue) what I could and cleaned it up. I then applied silvadene ointment and aquaphor to the pink, newly exposed skin, and aloe vera/elta cream mix to every place else.

These pictures are 5 days after completing radiation treatments.