Red Devil!

Tracey Derrick - photographer - breast cancer self portraiture: chemo red devil

“My treatment on chemotherapy drugs was called CAF, a common cocktail for breast cancer. The regime combines cyclosphosphamide, doxorubican (andriamycin) and fluorouracil. Adriamycin is one of the most toxic chemotherapy agents available, notorious for its drastic side effects. It is a fluorescent red and when one sees the fluid flowing into one’s veins, nausea begins and a feeling of helplessness takes over – the body produces a violent reaction and fights it.

Nausea becomes a way of life, also vomiting and extreme fatigue.” ~ Tracey Derrick

 READ MORE ABOUT THE WHAT, WHY & SIDE-EFFECTS OF CAF HERE



TAKEAWAY: Listen in to ABC’s Project Manager, Salome Meyer, chat with Kfm about why she’s determined to make her fight against breast cancer count!!
Click here to tune in!

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“Illness Cleanses Us” ~ Tracey Derrick


Tracey Derrick: 1 in 9 - breast cancer photography (Advocates For Breast Cancer - South Africa)

Treatment options for breast cancer are dependent upon the type of cancer and the size of the tumour. I was diagnosed with a grade 2, invasive ductal carcinoma, tumour size 30mm. It was suspected and confirmed after surgery, that 3 out of 21 lymph nodes under my arm were infected. These were subsequently removed.

Aside from surgery, the main forms of Western medicine’s attack on cancer are chemotherapy and radiation. The two methods are based on a single principle: generally, cancer cells are extremely fast growing. They divide much more rapidly than any of the body’s normal cells. Therefore if you administer cell-poisoning drugs to the body that kill cells when they divide, then you will kill some normal, healthy cells but many cancer cells. This is what both chemotherapy and radiation do. Chemotherapy is administered intravenously and travels through the bloodstream to every part of the body. The normal cells in the body that grow more rapidly than others, such as hair, stomach lining, mouth tissue, nose, nails, will also be killed more rapidly, hence accounting for hair loss, stomach nausea etc. At the end of a successful course of chemotherapy, the tumour is dead and the patient only half dead.

I chose (how much choice did I have? – I wanted the cancer cut out, eradicated, gone), a mastectomy and six sessions of chemotherapy because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and possibly to somewhere else in my body – cancer cells use the lymph nodes for travelling. After chemo I now follow a drug regime to reduce the possibility of the cancer returning.”


TAKEAWAY:

How to Manage Chemotherapy Symptoms Through Food

Barely there…

Tracey Derrick - breast cancer - self portraiture: hair - Advocates For Breast Cancer in South Africa

After chemo, Tracey wrote in her seminar paper about her hair:

“Then the hair dies. Initially, it feels as if one’s scalp is burning as the roots die, then the hair falls out. The first handful is an alarming relief; it is happening as you have been dreading that it would. The boundaries between public and private begin to melt, for all to see. My hair had been a physical, public security – it identified me and I felt naked without it. Then one experiences the head sweating constantly with no layer of hair to absorb it; the body chills quickly with no hair to warm it. As the hair on the rest of the body slowly falls too, all borders between inside and outside are laid bare.

Stacey describes it well, “the loss of pubic hair reveals what has remained hidden for years. Returned to pre-adolescence and yet prefiguring an aged body, time has nothing to tell. The nose runs without any tiny nostril hairs, sweat runs into eyes without eyebrows or eyelashes to catch it. Ears are tunnels for flies and insects to enter at their ease. The hairless body is uncannily silky smooth to touch, a familiar, yet strange state. A return to childhood and yet an inevitable ageing. A big bald baby but with adult organs”. (1997:84).

Physically and emotionally this “was me” but when I looked at myself in the mirror – was it me? I photographed myself repeatedly during this vulnerable time as an attempt to regain some power over my situation.”


 

TAKEAWAY: How & Why Hair Loss Happens Because of Chemotherapy

#ChemoBrain IS real!

You know that foggy feeling that comes after you’ve had chemo? The fumbling for the right words, the memory loss and the super-short attention span?

And multitasking? You can forget all about that!

If you are one of the lucky 30% of cancer patients who don’t experience chemo brain, then this blog is not for you. Otherwise, read on.

Chemo Brain IS Real!

The good news is that for most people the symptoms are what the doctors describe as mild to moderate (even if they may not feel that way). Usually things get better gradually, and within nine months of your last treatment, the fog would usually have cleared.

For some people, though, the symptoms can last for years

If that is what you are experiencing, the good news is that chemo brain is not a progressive dement­ing condition. In other words, it is unlikely to get worse. And the really excellent news is that chemotherapy may be associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The best advice we can give if you are experiencing chemo brain is to allow yourself a little time. Try not to get anxious. Let people know what you are experiencing so they can help you. And most of all, take a deep breath and try to relax.

This too shall pass.

 

Preparing for Treatment: The Long & the Short of It!

It is absolutely imperative that you thoroughly understand the particular treatment recommended for you. Make very sure you know both the benefits and the side-effects.

The initial anxiety surrounding the immediate effects of treatment can often distract us from properly listening to and understanding the long-term effects of the treatment being explained to us. Two examples, used by The Cancer Lifeline Programme, are:

  1. One woman was thinking about what the chemotherapy would do to her nails, hair and energy levels. “Will I still be able to work? Will I be able to properly care for my children?” And amidst this hurricane of worries, she may miss the fact that chemotherapy could potentially cause sterility.
  2. Another woman was worried about the Tamoxifen causing possible weight-gain – and didn’t take in the fact that Tamoxifen also carries a 5 – 10% risk of triggering endometrial cancer.

Though knowing each and every postive AND negative of one’s recommended treatment is daunting (understatement?), it is still infinitely more positive and empowering in the long run. Knowing the flip-side of the coin gives you time to mentally, practically and physically prepare for a worst case scenario — instead of it catching you off-guard and unprepared!

TREATMENT TIP #1: schedule two separate chats with your doctor:

  • one about the short-term effects, and describing – step by step – what it will be like for you to progress through the treatment
  • the other about the possible long-term side-effects of treatment

TREATMENT TIP #2: Google with caution!

 

TAKEAWAY:

Article: Knowledge is Key, Says Breast Cancer Survivor

 

 

 

{ adapted by kind courtesy of the Cancer Lifeline Programme, Dr Rosy Daniel of Health Creation }

 

Advocates for Breast Cancer - Dr Rosy Daniel - Integrated Medicine