The Neulasta Shot

I knew chemotherapy would be bad. I knew it would make me sick, nauseous, and tired. But I didn’t realize that the shot the next day would be worse. I had chemotherapy every other week. And the day after chemo, I went back in to get a Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cell production.

 

From what I understand, the Neulasta shot basically tells your body to start producing more white blood cells because the medicine in the chemotherapy is going to kill all the ones your already have. It’s like what happens when you get the flu – the way your bones start to hurt – times seven. I dreaded going in for the shot more than going in for chemo. Not only did the actual shot hurt (and I’m not a baby about shots, but this one was bad), but it also made my bones hurt. Bad. Like I couldn’t take a shower for several days bad because each tiny drop of water felt like a bullet hitting my bones.

 

But as much as I wanted to (and I REALLY wanted to…) I never skipped it. And I never got really sick. I was never hospitalized for low cell counts, and I was never hospitalized for extreme sickness, so for me, I have to say it was worth it. If you are on the fence about it, do it. And if you are thinking about skipping it, don’t.

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Product Review: Nioxin

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Product Review:  Nioxin

 

If you have read any of my story, then you probably know that I didn’t lose my hair during cancer. You can watch more about that in my YouTube video. But my hair did thin out quite a bit and so to combat that, I used a product called Nioxin. It’s just a shampoo/conditioner/scalp treatment for thinning hair, but it helped me tremendously. It thickened my hair and stimulated hair growth in the areas where it was most thin. You can get it from a beauty store like Ulta for just from Amazon. I highly recommend #6 which is specially formulated for thinning, chemically treated hair. Even if you have never had a perm or had your hair colored, go for the chemically treated one because you have so many chemicals in your body from chemotherapy.

 

Here is a link to the product on Amazon (I don’t get any kick back from this, so feel free to use it or not! It’s just here for convenience).

Product Reviews: Shakeology

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Product Reviews:

There are so many products I use, things I’ve discovered by trial and error and I wish someone would have just told me from the gate… so this is the first post in a series of products I would recommend to someone going through cancer treatments.  These are products I used, I loved, and I depended on during my treatment.

 

Shakeology

 

Shakeology is a nutrition supplement. You can add it into a normal diet or use it as a meal replacement. In my opinion, it is the best on the market. It is 100% natural, no artificial ingredients or sweeteners, and it contains more than $40 of fruits and veggies in each glass.

It also has over 70 super foods, including many that are associated with cancer fighting or cancer prevention (check out my board on pinterest for some of the ingredients that are thought to fight or prevent cancer and what they do!!).

 

I initially ordered Shakeology to lose weight after my youngest son was born. When I found out I had cancer and started chemotherapy, I decided to keep drinking it as a nutrition supplement. There are so many days that you just don’t feel like eating and I always felt that even if I didn’t have anything else to eat that day, I would feel good knowing that I had all those fruits, veggies, vitamins, minerals and super foods already in my body.

 

As I went through chemo, I realized that Shakeology seemed to be helping me deal with the side effects typically associated with treatments. Let me give you some examples…

 

One side effect of chemotherapy is constipation. On days of my actual treatment and 2-3 days after, I didn’t drink Shakeology. I developed an aversion to everything I ate on those days. And during those 2-3 days, I could not go to the bathroom. My nurses prescribed a stool softener for me but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I soon realized that as soon as I had my shake on Day 3, I would go to the bathroom within 30 minutes. It wasn’t a fluke. It happened every time. Even my husband noticed and when I would complain about constipation, he would tell me to go drink my shake. And this makes total sense! One of the things that Shakeology does is improve your digestion and regularity.

 

Another place I noticed reduced side effects was in my hair loss. One of the ingredients in Shakeology is Maitake mushroom (more on that in another post!). It is thought by the American Cancer Society to reduce hair loss during chemo (link) and it is in Shakeology! You can read more about my hair loss journey here or watch my YouTube video here but to sum it up – I didn’t lose all my hair! Over the course of 6 months, I only lost about 1/3 and kept enough that I never had to shave my head. And the rate it has come back in has been phenomenal. I’m not going to lie. My hair has always grown fairly fast, but since starting Shakeology, it’s growing at about twice it’s normal speed – almost an inch each month. And that’s not just my opinion. I’ve brought this up numerous times and my fellow Shakeology drinkers agree – it significantly speeds hair growth and improves the health of your hair.

 

I experienced very little nausea. I was given a nausea medicine via IV prior to starting each treatment. But I was also sent home with additional nausea medicine that I never had to take. And I think Shakeology might be part of the reason for that. The Maitake Mushroom among other ingredients is thought by the American Cancer Soceity to reduce the side effects of chemo, including nausea. And guess what. Yep, that’s right, it’s in Shakeology.

 

Finally, there’s the energy factor. Shakeology fuels your body with the food you need and the difference it makes in your energy level is amazing. I felt tired for 2-3 days post treatment but once I was back on my shake, my energy shot back up. I literally had more energy during my treatments than I had had for the four years prior. And I still had a newborn baby waking up several times a night!

 

This product literally helped me so much, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. I signed up to be a health and fitness coach through the company who produces the product so I that could continue to share it with my friends and family as well as other people who are going through cancer treatment. It’s a product that I fully believe in and have been drinking daily for a year and a half. And the way it makes me feel is so amazing, I will continue drinking it for the rest of my life.

 

*Just as a disclaimer – Drinking Shakeology did not cure my cancer. I believe that was caused by completing my treatment plan and through the power of prayer. But I do believe that Shakeology lessened the side effects of chemo because mine were significantly less than anyone else I know. I also believe that changing your diet will decrease the chance of cancer returning in the future. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am just an ordinary person, sharing my personal experience. You will have to decide what is best for your future.

 

Read more about Shakeology here!

 

Chemo and Hair Loss/Regrowth

When I found out I had lymphoma, I was in denial. I honestly had no idea what it was. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office – my kids were in the waiting room with my husband and I was back in the office by myself waiting the results of my biopsy. I didn’t expect to hear cancer but I was braced for the worst. My doctor came in, led me to the chairs and we sat down. In retrospect, I should have see it coming. They don’t sit you down for good news.

As soon as I heard lymphoma, I kind of tuned out. I didn’t know what it was but I was relieved not to hear the word cancer. Then he started referring me to an oncologist and scheduling me for surgery. I remember going through the motions without really realizing what was happening. I scheduled the appointments and went out to tell my husband. Somehow I managed to make it out of the waiting room without crying which is unusual for me because I am normally a crier. This was the start of a roller coaster ride of emotions. Up to this point, I had convinced myself that there was nothing to be worried about but now it was real. I had to call my mom and dad. I had to tell my kids I had cancer. And I thought that would be the worst of it, but nothing prepared me for losing my hair.

All of my doctors told me, with ABVD treatments, to prepare for my hair to fall out on Day 16. That’s how it happens – it starts to tingle and then falls out in chunks. I went to the wig shop to find myself a wig to wear when it happened. While I was there, I met a lady 6 months post chemo with such short hair and she told me to think carefully about the wig I chose because chances are I would be wearing it for over a year – not just through chemo but also for the year afterwards as I waited for my hair to grow back in. I left the store crying. That was news no one tells you and I was completely unprepared for it.

But for me, Day 16 came and went. I was living in fear, tempted to just shave my head to avoid the trauma of waking up to hair on my pillow. But my hair didn’t fall out in chunks. Every other week I went in for treatments and my nurses joked about how well my hair was still holding on. Over the course of the next six months, I gradually lost hair. I tried things to hold on to it – used special shampoo, tried different hair cuts, drank supplements – and all that helped some. In the end, I lost about 1/3 of my hair and eventually started wearing a wig or a baseball cap because it was so thin. The wig gave me severe headaches if I wore it more than about 2 hours so I only wore it to church and wore my one baseball cap everywhere else.

I have my own theory on why I didn’t lose all my hair, as I shared in the youtube video at the beginning of this post, but the bottom line is NOTHING prepares you for the emotional stress caused by losing any or all of your hair. I looked in the mirror and I felt ugly. That was not me. In my mind, I was still the girl with long blonde hair that I had always been and when I walked by the mirror, that was a stranger looking back. It was the single most tangible reminder that I had cancer and it doesn’t go away as soon as the cancer is gone. You have to continue to live with it.

About 6 weeks after my treatments ended, I got a pixie cut to even out my hair. I couldn’t dye it blonde, my normal regimen to disguise my gray hair, because I was warned that the chemicals in your body from chemo could affect the hair dye and not react with it properly. I actually got a lot of compliments on this hairstyle, but I didn’t believe them. I just felt like the girl with cancer, who everyone feels sorry for, and people were just telling me it looked good to make me feel better.

About 9 months ago post chemo, I got my third hair cut. It was a pretty short bob with even shorter bangs but for the first time in over a year, it actually fetl like I have a hair style that I might have chosen. It was blonde again too. And just like that, I could finally move on. That tangible reminder is gone. Just yesterday, someone complimented my hair and for the first time in 18 months, I believed them. When I realized that, I started to cry.

I know I’m not the only person to feel this way: My hair was part of my identity. When I lost that, it was like losing a part of myself and I wasn’t prepared for it because it wasn’t in any of the books I read. No one mentioned how much that impacts you, how much it affects you mentally. It’s not a superficial thing. It’s not being vain. And you are not alone in feeling this way.