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Bev Gillihan's Profile

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Hi, I'm a 60+ Great Grandma, Mother of four and a breast cancer survivor. What I am having trouble surviving are the side effects of cancer treatment.... THE THINGS YOUR DOCTOR DOESN'T TELL YOU! The nasty little surprises that attack you when you least expect them. We've been through the diagnosis, the tests, the surgeries, the chemo and radiation. We've woke up with clumps of hair on our pillow only to look in the mirror.......not a pretty sight but hey, it grows back. And while we're talking about the tests, remember all the tests we had to determine if our bodies were strong enough to endure chemo and radiation. They took out our blood, added something nuclear and then put it back to race through our vital organs to find some weakness or flaw which would prohibit some treatments. Then, after we were found to be good candidates for those treatments, the real fun began. What got me through the whole process was faith, humor and a wonderful support system. Although I wouldn't want to go through it again, looking back at those years, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. Once the fear of the unknown was resolved, it was just another routine, like going to work everyday....with a really terrible boss. When I had finished my third and last round of chemo and had only the "radiation" left.....I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel........almost done, almost well, almost ME again. Up to that point my least favorite thing had been the drain tube in my side. This quickly paled when compared to the course of radiation that I had opted for. Because I live almost 100 miles from my nearest Cancer Care Center I asked about alternatives to the daily radiation treatments. I was told about the {Brachytherapy~ Therapy) which is 100 hours of intense radiation done in the hospital in isolation. I figured this was the best way to go, five days away from home and it would be done. Now, I don't know if I was only half listening when the process was explained to me or if my selective memory had kicked in but either way I was in for a big surprise. Briefly I will explain what is involved in layman terms: 12 needles, roughly a foot long are inserted through the breast, from the underarm. When the needles are pulled back out a tube is left in it's place. After all 12 needles have been inserted and the tubes placed, the underarm ends are closed with what looked to me to be a nut and bolt. THEN, the radiation pellets are fed into the tubes and closed in the same manner. This is all done by a doctor in his hazard suit and protected by a shield. I don't have a suit or a shield so this isn't looking too good for me. I woke up to this mess of tubes and bolts, not at all what I had expected when I went to sleep..... and for the first time I seriously questioned my judgement and my doctors. So, here I was in total isolation for 5 days and nights, very uncomfortable and sooo very alone. BY THE WAY: They don't do this radiation treatment here anymore. This brings me back to the reason for this blog: WHAT THEY DON'T TELL YOU CAN HURT...... Side effect #1: Ten months after my last chemo and radiation treatment I became weak and had difficulty breathing......Diagnosis, HEART FAILURE. My heart was only working at 15 to 20%. This was the same heart that had been deemed "awesome" at the onset of therapy. With medication and placement of a stent I'm now beating at 30%....not great but I can live with it. What caused it? If anybody knows, they aren't telling. My medical team seem as confused as Iam but I'm fairly certain they know more than they're telling. The strange thing is....my Sister-in-Law had breast cancer too, had chemo, had radiation, was diagnosed with heart failure too! NOTE: There are no cases of heart problems on either side of my family! Read an excellent article which addresses this problem Read This Article! Side Effect #2: This one is strange and I'm hoping that some one reading this has had the same experience. I have bouts of not being able to breathe followed by losing my voice. I have only found one other person who has this problem and she too is a cancer survivor. My doctor completely denies any connection to my cancer or heart problems so.......please let me know if this sounds familiar. Side Effect #3: CHEMO BRAIN. My Husband just showed me an article about a study being done on the effects of chemo and radiation destroying brain cells in mainly.............breast cancer patients. They are finally saying what I've known for a couple years, there really is a side effect of cancer treatment which effects our brains. I first noticed small, subtle changes in my memory. I had trouble remembering names but I chalked that up to my age. Directions became a problem and a route that I had taken many times had to be explained to me every time I made the trip. I go into the kitchen for something and then can't remember why I'm there and I'm constantly forgetting where I put things. No one thing is a huge problem but it's frustrating because I know something isn't right. So, the article explained it, chemo kills brain cells. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Your input will be appreciated. I chose Lillysgrandma for my name because she is the youngest of my Great Grandaughters and my goal is to dance at her wedding FULLY FUNCTIONAL. If you're a cancer patient needing a little extra TLC or would like to volunteer to be a CHEMO ANGEL please check out the following website. My CHEMO ANGEL was Paulette. She was with me every step of the way and although we have never met I love her with all my heart. go visit the site! I meant to add something here but I've forgotten what it was.......

Vital Info

Posts

December 2, 2006

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Colville, Washington

May, 2012

Cancer Survivor

Cancer Info

Breast Cancer

In Layman's Terms: A rapidly Growing, Dirty Tumor

May, 2002

3.1 - 4.0 cm

Positive

Positive

Yes

No

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