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Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:56 pm
by biggles
I was diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer on 14 Feb and have since had surgery to remove two large tumours. For me that was the easy part, despite all the worries, trauma and upset being diagnosed entails. For me the worst is to come - 6 months of chemo followed by 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy (bar weekends). I count myself lucky that the cancer has not spread but I am terrified of what the treatment will do to me mentally as well as physically. Since being diagnosed I've not looked ill and nobody would know to look at me that I am a cancer sufferer. All that is about to change big time. Any help or advice from a fellow sufferer would be much appreciated.
Hi Maria
I have taken your post (above) and put it here where I hope it will get more exposure, so to speak!

There are quite a lot of people on the Forum who have BC or are in remission, if you haven't poked around on the site then do have a look. There are also some posts with tips on coping with chemo etc.

What follows is my experience, I can't say that yours will be similar as we are all different, but I do hope it helps, sorry it is long.............;

I was diagnosed with BC, had a mastectomy and then 7 sessions of chemo followed by 5 weeks radiotherapy. Then I had 5 years on tablets as my BC was hormone receptive. That was in 2006/2007 and I can happily say that I was discharged from the hospital in February this year - yippee!!!!!!!

Looking back, I can well remember the fear of the first chemo session. I had few problems with the op itself, I recovered well and, apart from a being a bit lopsided, I looked fine. My huge fear was losing my hair which, in the event, was no big deal. I knew that to carry on a normal life I would have to have a wig, possibly like you, I had a horror of people looking at me and thinking "cancer patient". The wig was sorted well in advance, and I can honestly say that people who didn't know me well, simply thought I had had a new hairdo.

I was lucky, I coped well with the chemo and after the first session I found that it followed a pattern. We lived our life to the pattern.........chemo Monday, OK Tuesday, awful Wednesday, better Thursday, OUT on Friday. All our close friends knew of the cancer so that they weren't phased when I was unavailable, but we didn't tell anyone else. No-one knew that I was sick, I looked pretty much OK, I did most things as usual (bar the down days). In fact, we took the chance to explore our bit of France as when I was "up" I wanted to be out and about.

I am not saying that I felt fine, I didn't. I had all the usual side effects, but it was copable with. I had my off days when I was depressed and didn't want to moan to my husband as I seemed to be in constant moan mode. The dog had a bit of an ear bashing!

Radiotherapy......................... five weeks (for me) of traipsing to hospital for a couple of minutes blast which leads to severe sunburn. It was VERY tiring, mainly because of the constant travel. Otherwise, not too painful. Having had a mastectomy it was my chest that was zapped, if you had a lumpectomy then presumably it will be your breast. That could be much sorer. After the first session, I drove myself to the appointments. I felt OK afterwards and did the shopping on the way home. That would not suit everyone, and many people took a taxi. I was fortunate in that the appointments ran very much on time, so there was no hanging about, (I was in and out within 30 mins maximum) lots of waiting might produce extra stress.

Don't hesitate to send me a PM if you would like any other information. Believe me, I and many others on here, will be feeling for you at the moment.

Biggles ;)

Re: Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:43 pm
by dubs
I notice Biggles that you say your cancer was hormone receptive .My cancer is also H.R.I finish my radiotherapy next week. My oncologist says I will be taking hormone treatment.Can you advise me regarding the questions I need to ask .I am just concerned regarding the side effects of this treatment.etc.

Re: Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:33 pm
by biggles
Hello Dubs
I had two years on tamoxifen and then three years on a variety of "aromatose inhibitors" which are drugs which stop the production of the trigger for the hormones, if you see what I mean.

So far as I know, the drug regime is based on age as well as type of cancer so you may or may not follow the same pattern as me. Most people seem to get the two years of tamoxifen and one lady I met at the clinic, who is not yet menopausal, has had that for all five years.

So far as side effects are concerned, you need to ask what the most likely side effects may be so that you can spot them! The problem I find with the note that comes in the packet of tablets is that it lists so many possible problems that you can't really see what is the most likely.

Possibly the most obvious problem of both tamoxifen and the aromatose drugs is the hot flushes. Everyone that I have met has had that in varying degrees.

I would say that if you get side effects then don't go and take any other drugs to counteract them without asking your GP/oncologist first; I have been taking evening primrose oil for hot flushes and fortunately did ask the onco. Apparently that is OK but if it is coupled with additional vitamin E it can then prevent the cancer drugs from working properly. If you go to a health shop many of the evening primrose products come with something added - cod liver oil, extra this and that. So DO be careful.

Biggles ;)

Re: Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:03 am
by dubs
Biggles, many thanks for your helpful reply.I will read up on this information so I can get a better understanding of it all.

Re: Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:31 am
by pennycsf
Hi Dubs
You may find that your oncologist is reluctant to talk about side effects as they cannot predict what, if any, will affect you.

If you want more information in English, then the Macmillan Cancer website has factsheets on the main hormone therapy drugs used for breast cancer as well as one on tamoxifen. When you know what drug regime you are likely to be on, have a look at the Macmillan website and type in the drug name in the search box at the top right. It can be confusing to look at everything as you do not know what is suitable for you so I suggest you wait until you have more info from your doctor.

Hope that helps,
Penny :)

Re: Coping with Breast cancer

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 11:53 am
by termietermite
Dubs, I don't have bc I have oc but here goes anyway! My onc' presented me with an A4 sheet of potential side-effects and went through them one by one: "You'll lose your hair;" "You'll feel sick" "You might get tingly feet and if you do tell me straight away" etc etc. Then she gave me a massive prescription full of various concoctions to combat each one - some of which I was told to take regardless, others as/when/if the symptoms appeared. I needed a truck to get them out of the chemist's.

One thing's for sure - we are all different and everybody seems to react slightly differently to each type of treatment so your first line of defence are your own nurses and your oncologist even though other people's experiences do help, of course.

Bon courage.