Video | 5 Foods To Eat During Chemo

Two blog posts in one week? I know what you are thinking… Amazing, right?! Not only is this my second blog post this week, but wait for it… it’s a vlog post! My very first video! Since my career is in social and digital media, I’ve always been behind the camera. Now, I’m in front of the camera, unscripted and unedited. I hope you enjoy it! If you like these vlogs and want to see more of them, comment below!

In this video, I talk about the five foods that I’ve found help me during chemo when my taste is off and everything tastes disgusting.

  1. Grilled chicken tossed salad: I’m not sure if it’s because chicken is pretty bland, but this tastes great. It’s a good way to get your veggies and protein. Some Italian or balsamic dressing also tastes good.
  2. Soups – chicken noodle soup: My boyfriend makes a delicious chicken noodle soup that has chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery and pasta. It’s perfect for when you want something nice and hot.
  3. Jell-O: I feel like the last time I had Jello-O was when I was a kid. I’m not sure if it’s the texture, but something about strawberry Jell-O tastes delicious!
  4. Smoothies: Smoothies are a great way to get your fruits. My favorite is a strawberry coconut smoothie. I make it with coconut Greek yogurt, frozen strawberries, chia seeds, ice and water. YUM!
  5. Ice cream: Who doesn’t love ice cream? When my taste stinks, I can always rely on delicious vanilla or chocolate ice cream. You can never have enough ice cream, right?

What foods have helped you? Comment below!

Stay strong!

xo,

Monique

When everyone else’s life seems to go on

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post and I wanted to say I am so sorry! The 4th round of chemo came like a huge hurricane and wiped away all of my energy. I didn’t get off the couch for a few days and it was horrible! I didn’t want to do anything but lay down all day. For people who know me, you know that is NOT me. I’m always doing something or going somewhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot and of course wondering how this has happened to me because I am so healthy. Then again, I keep telling myself that cancer doesn’t discriminate. However, it’s also hard when everyone else’s life seems to go on. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it’s so difficult to be struggling for your life with constant doctors appointments, getting injected with poison and feeling so sick that you can’t move. It’s hard to see others happy and smiling like nothing is wrong. Everyone has a battle they are dealing with but because of social media these days, we are constantly reminded of the happiness in other people’s lives. If they are really happy, we will never know but the constant reminders make me feel a bit down.

Feeling left out is also another feeling I am struggling with. When I feel so sick that I can’t move, I feel like I’m missing out on spending time with my friends and family. My mom’s birthday was this past weekend and I wasn’t able to go out to dinner with everyone. I felt so awful that I couldn’t be a part of the fun. I hate the feeling of others having fun without me.

I just want my life to be NORMAL. Is this bad to think? I want to eat food that doesn’t taste like metal or plastic. I want long flowing hair that I can throw up in a bun. I want to go on a vacation and just relax with a pina colada. (This WILL happen when I am done, I promise you. 😉 ) I want to wake up early for work, go to work, come home, make dinner and hang out with my boyfriend and dog feeling happy. I want to live my life knowing that this cancer will NEVER come back, but of course, we don’t know what the future has in store for us. I don’t want to constantly worry. I just want to be happy with my life. It’s that simple.

As for now, I have to keep checking treatments off my calendar and thinking about how AMAZING I am going to feel when I am done. Everything is temporary and treatment will soon be over!

Be kind to yourself.

xo,

Monique

 

My chemo bag is full!

My fourth round of chemo is coming up and I am so ready to check another treatment off my calendar. That means I’ll only have 2 left. TWO!! I am so excited to be done this part of the journey and I cannot believe how fast time has gone. Being done with this phase of treatment, also makes me worry. It’s important to not let cancer ruin or run my life, but there will always be questions in my mind.

I thought I would share what I bring to chemo with me. I bring a HUGE black bag that holds everything and anything I may need while I’m getting chemo. I am a planner so of course I need to have everything just incase I need it.

  • Fuzzy blanket: It gets cold in the infusion rooms so my nice and cozy blanket comes in handy! My hospital also gives out heated blankets but there is something comforting with my own blanket.
  • Coloring books and colored pencils: I am OBSESSED with the new adult coloring books. I’m at the hospital for awhile so this definitely helps speed up the time. It’s also stress relieving!
  • Tons of water and fluids: It’s so important to stay hydrated while getting chemo. I bring a plastic water bottle and fill it up about ten times. I also bring Gatorade because the electrolytes are also good. (My hospital provides snacks and lunch.)
  • Hand sanitizer: Germs, stay away!
  • Lemon drops: Sometimes it’s good to suck on hard candy.
  • iPad: Just incase I get bored!
  • Sweater and scarves: Since the hospital does get cold, it’s important to bring layers. You never know when a hot (or cold) flash will strike!
  • My notebook: I bring a notebook with me to all of my appointments with my doctors. It’s a place where I can make sure I ask all of my questions and write down notes. I also bring this to chemo with me incase my chemo nurse has any other tips.
  • Tissues: My nose always seems to run so it’s great to have Kleenex on hand.
  • Symbols of courage: Some friends and family have given me special items and I keep them in my chemo bag.
  • Hand lotion and Chapstick: My hands and lips are extra dry because of chemo. These usually help!
  • Sleeping mask and fuzzy socks: Just incase I want to take a little nap. (This hasn’t happened yet, but as you know, I’m a planner and need to have them in my bag just incase.)
  • Support system: This has to be the most important thing to bring to chemo. My friends and family have been absolutely amazing. It definitely makes the time fly by when people are talking to you and making you laugh. (To my friends and family: THANK YOU for keeping me company!)

What do you bring to chemo with you? Comment below and talk to me!

How did you find out you had breast cancer?

Breast Cancer Awareness

I often get asked how I found out I had breast cancer. Many people ask me if my doctor found it. Actually, I found the lump in my left breast. I’ve always self-examined myself so ladies, make sure you check yourself every month! This is the key to early detection.

I’ve always been known as my breast specialist to have “dense, fibrous breasts.” I found my first lump when I was a sophomore in college. I didn’t think too much of it and I called my doctor for him to look at it. I had it removed and it came back as a benign fibroadenoma. Since then, I always had my breasts checked by a specialist every year just to make sure there were no other lumps. In 2012, I noticed that I had another lump on the opposite side. Again, I had an ultrasound and I also had it removed. This one also came back as another benign fibroadenoma. In 2014, I found another lump. An ultrasound showed that this was just a cyst and my doctor watched it every six months and it didn’t seem to get bigger. This past year is when everything changed.

I saw my doctor in July 2015 for a normal check-up just to make sure the cyst I found the previous year wasn’t getting bigger. I had an ultrasound to make sure and everything looked good. He told me to continue to check myself, but not to worry since all of my lumps have been benign in the past.

So in September 2015, I happened to do my monthly self-exam and noticed a lump right where the underwire of my bra is on my left side. This lump was moveable like the others but it was a bit harder. This one was a bit tender and the only reason I thought this was because my bra is constantly pressing on it all day. Is this seriously another lump? I felt silly calling my doctor again since I just saw him a few months ago and now he must be getting annoyed! (Of course he would never get annoyed, but I was thinking that!) I waited for one cycle to go by because cysts can come and go based on your period and hormone levels. This one seemed to stay and it actually felt like it was getting a big bigger. I called my doctor and he got me in for the following week.

I was so nervous going to this appointment. I never was nervous in the past but for some reason, I knew this was different. I’m not sure why I knew this was different. I felt like there was a voice in my head telling me to get this checked as soon as possible.

My doctor felt the lump and I remember him saying, “Wow. This definitely wasn’t there in July.” He said that it resembled all of the other lumps that I’ve had, but he wanted me to get an ultrasound. So I walked over to the Radiology department for another ultrasound. I remember the tech saying, “I’m sure this one is nothing.” I wanted her to just tell me everything was okay but she had to grab the doctor to read the images. The doctor walked down, sat next to me and put her hand on my leg (which is NEVER a good sign looking back at this now). She asked me, “What are your plans after this?” What does she even mean “my plans?” I told her that my breast specialist wanted me to see him after the ultrasound and she goes, “Well, this will definitely need to be removed. You’ll have to talk to your doctor.”

I left the ultrasound room wondering, “What the hell is going on? This clearly must be something concerning if she won’t even tell me what it is.”

I walk back up to my doctor’s and he mentioned he was going to do a biopsy but he was 99% sure it was going to come back as another fibroadenoma. He mentioned that one side of the lump looks a little ridged (which from my own research, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.) He also told me that he could tell a lot from doing the actual biopsy and how the needle goes into the lump. After he did the biopsy, he told me again the needle went in like sand which is another good sign. He told me not to worry.

Two days go by and then I get a call from him telling me he never thought this would come back cancerous. And that’s how my journey started.

My piece of advice to everyone is PLEASE SELF-EXAMINE YOURSELF EVERY MONTH. This is the key to early detection. If I didn’t check myself when I did, I would be in a completely different situation. It is for your health. Let my story prove that cancer does not discriminate and it can happen to anyone at anytime.

How to do a self check | Breast Exam

If you found out you had breast cancer, how did you find out? Comment below and talk to me!

How do you feel during chemo?

So my pink sisters, I’m halfway done with chemo! (Thank god! HUGE CLAP. SIGH OF RELIEF. Where’s the margaritas?! Just kidding… for now!) I often get asked how I feel during my rounds of chemo, so I thought this would be a great blog post. If you are undergoing chemo, your side effects could definitely be different than mine. I thought I would share what I experience and when I start to feel crappy.

For reference, there are many different chemo drugs. I am on Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. I get a round every three weeks for six rounds, a total of 18 weeks. My chemo regimen was supposed to be the typical A/C and Taxol, but my oncologist received data from a ten-year study with women who have my same type and stage of breast cancer and found that the Taxotere and Carboplatin regimen is safer for the heart and has less toxic effects on the body. So instead of 16 rounds of chemo, I only need 6. I was excited when I heard the change in my plan because this meant fewer rounds of chemo with less severe side effects. Yes please! I also receive the Herceptin infusion (which is not chemo) because I came back as HER-2 positive. I’ll also need this infusion for a year after my chemo is done, but this doesn’t have any of the chemo side effects. It should only be a half hour infusion every three weeks for a year. Also, my oncologist wanted to give me a drug called Perjeta which will help HER-2’s cousin, HER-3 from binding to cells and causing cancer to grow. This drug is usually only given in advanced stages, but my oncologist also received data that this helps with early stage as well. It definitely helps to go to a hospital that participates in all of these data studies because you definitely get the best of the best when it comes to your care plan. (*Please note that everyone is different and depending which chemo drugs you are on, you may experience some or none of the feelings I had. I’m sharing my experience just for reference. Also, I am not a medical professional and I’m just sharing the information I received from my care team.)

Chemo 3

Week 1:

  • Pre-Chemo Day: I take steroids on the day before chemo, so of course I have a ton of energy and want to eat everything in sight. This is when I load up on delicious foods because I know my taste with change in the upcoming days.
  • Chemo Monday (Day 1): Lets get this over with! My day lasts about 7 hours between getting labs drawn, meeting with my doctor and actually getting my infusion. When I get home, I usually feel good and I’m able to eat a normal meal.
  • Day 2: I usually wake up feeling tired. I take my steroids and anti-nausea medicine. The last two rounds I didn’t feel sick at all. This time, I actually got sick twice. I feel like I could sleep all day. On the night of day two, I take my Neulasta shot so I always dread doing that. Then, I treat myself when it’s over. (With chocolate pudding of course!)
  • Day 3: Eeek. I feel like I could stay in bed or sleep on the couch ALL day, so that’s usually what I do. I don’t feel like eating anything, but it’s important to have small snacks and to stay hydrated. I have a bit of bone pain from the Neulasta shot. (Taking Claritin the day before usually helps too.) I don’t feel like much of doing anything. I feel like I’m in a fog with a severe hangover with no energy. I listen to my body and take it easy, because lets be real, the sound of actually doing something is exhausting.
  • Day 4: Bone pain is a bit worse today with pain in my neck. This round I got sick on day 4, which was rare because I didn’t get sick on the first two rounds. My appetite still stinks and I don’t feel like eating anything. Nothing sounds good. Everything sounds disgusting. I could still sleep all day.
  • Day 5: This is when I start to feel a bit better. I usually get by with no naps but I definitely take it easy. A simple shower feels like it takes so much energy and I am tired. I usually get out with my mom and go for a ride somewhere because you definitely get sick of staying in a house all week!
  • Day 6: Energy is a bit better but this is when my taste starts to change. I start having an appetite, but nothing tastes the way it should. So why eat when you can’t taste anything? Blah!
  • Day 7: So metallic mouth is a thing and even water tastes disgusting. Food starts to taste worse. Energy is definitely better.

Week 2:

  • Days 8-12: Taste is awful. Water is the worst. Nothing tastes good. Energy is usually OK. I can go for quick walks without feeling so tired.
  • Days 12-14: Taste is improving. GIVE ME GOOD FOOD! Like buffalo chicken, quesadillas, pasta, veggies, anything GOOD!

Week 3:

  • Days 15-21: The last week is usually my best week. I have good energy, food tastes normal and I want to do things. I usually work out all week, do errands, and get out of the house for a bit. This is when I gain all my weight back that I lose during week 2.

Comment below and share with me how you feel! We are in this together!

xo,

Monique