Week 14- The Real Thing SHOOT. Photographer Paige Stoyer

Week 14- The Real Thing.  By international documentary photographer Paige Stoyer during Week 11 treatment 6.

I feel these images are fitting this week.  I’m at my lowest point both mentally and physically and, whereas most of the shoots have been fun, fantasy-style sessions, this shoot was documentary style showing a real day of chemo.  I currently feel the way I look in these images.  Concerned, exhausted and unsure what the future holds or if I’m strong enough to keep moving forward into more treatments that make me feel terrible.  I only have 3 weeks of chemo left, and yet it seems impossible to see the end when I’m in pain right now.  The thought of upcoming surgery, reconstruction and radiation feels like more than I can handle. Paige’s images capture some real emotions from both her and my perspective and I’m grateful to her for showing us this side of ‘beauty’ within fear and sadness.  Kimberli


Writing & photography by Paige Stoyer. I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with my friend and fellow photographer Kimberli Ransom, to document the real day-to-day experience of her fight with breast cancer.

It is an act of trust to be allowed into these very real and difficult moments of her life and a show of her bravery to be willing to open up this way to the world.

I think we sometimes feel we have to protect people from the difficult stuff, the reality of battling cancer, of being sick.  We strive to put on a happy face for everyone, to show how tough we are.

But being strong doesn’t mean you don’t also feel vulnerable, scared and overwhelmed. The range of emotions that accompany a battle like this are staggering and unpredictable, changing from moment to moment.

I know this first hand from having walked this path with my mom during her battle with leukemia.  That has allowed me to have a connection with Kimberli about her journey, and though everyone experiences illness differently, to have at least some idea of what this is like for her.

Shooting this project has really taken me back to moments with my mom, being in the hospital with her for chemo and being in her house surrounded by the towering piles of medical paperwork that makes an already overwhelming situation even more daunting.

It is rewarding to know that while I will sometimes take a certain shot based on my own experiences, as we all do, when I show the image to Kimberli, it often resonates with her as well.  That’s why Kimberli’s project is so important, because so many cancer patients and survivors will be able to relate to her moments.

Like the feeling of walking down those many cold and sterile hallways on your way to your next treatment or appointment.


I took the shot below because it reminded me of the feeling of being in the hospital for hours and days on end, where your life has largely come to a grinding halt and most things you do now revolve around this battle you are in.  Your world looks completely different now, but outside things go on as usual, the drumbeat of day-to-day life.  I distinctly remember during my Mom’s illness and before I went in for a surgery myself for a brain aneurysm a few years ago, looking out the window and feeling a disconnect from the world that was moving along outside.  Realizing that everyone else was going about their life as they always had, but you were inside this hospital, with everything riding on this surgery or this treatment.  We all go about our lives as if we are invincible and you just never know when your life will change in a moment.

The flip side to that is that when you come out the other side and are able to go on with your life, you will probably never take the day-to-day routine for granted in the same way again.


This photo is about the way you look at each treatment and the people who are caring for you.  You wonder will this drug do the trick, is this the one that is going help me win this war?  And how is it going to make me feel, what will my body do with this drug in it, will I have a bad reaction to it?  You look to treatments with such hope and dread all at the same time.


You develop special relationships with the people who administer the drugs and help you navigate the medical maze, and your doctors who see you week in and week out, because you literally are putting your life in their hands.


Those shared moments of humor help you get through.


This one speaks to me about Kimberli and who she is.  At the end of the day here she is looking right at us, showing us her both her strength and vulnerability and that she doesn’t intend to hide away but is facing this head on and asking us to come along on the journey with her.


As an artist I suppose there is a willingness and even a need, to explore these difficult and complicated aspects of our lives and our experiences, for Kimberli and I this is an opportunity to do this together.


I hope in our collaboration I am able to capture some moments that will help her to tell her story.




Self Portrait – Weeks 12 & 13

10/15/13  I’m surprised that my body has not changed much over the past several weeks.  My weight is remaining constant now and, for all the hell my body feels like it’s going through, it’s not changing on the outside.  Odd to me.

Self Portrait Wk 13
Self Portrait Wk 13

Week 13 – Answers to my earlier questions

It’s week 13, treatment 7, day 6.  I wanted to go back and try to answer some of the bigger questions I had early on.  I have 1 treatment and 3 weeks of chemo left.  I can see the end, yet the pain keeps me shortsighted.  Perspective shifts with pain I find.  It’s a gorgeous day, however, and on this Sunday I got to both the gym and the park on my bike.  If I don’t stop or look at my reflection I can almost forget I have cancer.  I feel very fatigued but somehow strong at the same time.

This is what I wrote originally.  See Week 6 – Chemotherapy side effects.  “The questions I had, and some I still have, that others may share:  What will chemo feel like?  What are the side effects?  Can I still work?  Will I be throwing up all the time?  Will I really lose my hair and when?  What is “chemo-brain”?  Can I have sex?  Will I or (insert possibility of new boyfriend here) even want to?  Will I have ‘moon face’?  What happens to my skin and nails? Will my old fibromyalgia re-emerge? Will the chemo kill me?  Will I wish I were dead instead of having it? Will it hurt?  What else might happen? Will I need help?  How much? Who will be there with me and who will not?”


“What will chemo feel like?  It feels like a bomb hit me some days. It feels like something exploded in my body and can’t get out at times.  It alters both mind and body with symptoms and fog.  Other days it just feels like fatigue – operating my body at quarter energy.  My spirit and clear mind come back during these days and I live life intensely.  I’ve written much on chemo already so I’ll stop here.

What are the side effects?  You can read the original post and updates for more gory details but basically I’m on the 16 week ACT program for breast cancer.  I received treatment every two weeks.  The side effects during the first 4 treatments of my A/C where different than they are now during the last 4 treatments of T.  I can’t say which I prefer.  Maybe the latter.  They both suck.  I advise avoiding them completely, if you can.  With the first 4 treatments, the worst side effects were nausea, fatigue, some pain, chemo brain, mouth sores, hair loss…   In that order of severity.  For these past three T treatments the worst side effects are bone pain all over my body, hot flashes, fatigue and nausea.  I hear more neuropathy in my hands and feet, as well as excessive fatigue, will increase with this third treatment.  Yippee.

Can I still work?  Not really.  Very part time.  I still have to work some, 1) for my sanity and 2) because I am self-employed and my sole support.  No sick time, no disability insurance, no good to get sick my friend.  I have a mortgage and studio to pay for in addition to all the medical bills.  At first I tried to work most of the second week of chemo treatment but was completely overwhelmed by managing the details when I still had bad chemo brain.  After crying with four clients in a row I had to stop.  I now take one or two clients at the end of each two week treatment and focus all my energy on them and hope they buy a lot.  That’s it.  I don’t pressure myself to do more and I let it be.  Whatever income I create will be enough until I can work PT or FT again.  Now is not the time to work, although I feel the financial pressure.  I’m living on savings, and have rented a room in my home as well as part of my studio.  I’ll miss the holiday season, my busiest time of the year, which usually gets me though the winter.  I’ll ask those clients to come after the New Year when the surgery is complete and I just have radiation to manage.  Post holiday photographs will be the new thing this year.  Spread the word, it’s all the rage.

Will I be throwing up all the time?  No.  Anti-nausea drugs are amazing.  I’ve felt nauseous most of the time, but haven’t actually thrown up.  It is better for me now during the T treatments than with the AC.  This was one very welcome discovery!

Will I really lose my hair and when?  Yep.  Two weeks after my first treatment, like clockwork.  My head, legs, underarms and yes, pubic, hair all gone.  My eyebrows and lashes are barely holding on but I’ve heard that may be short lived with the T drug.  Damn it, I thought I was going to get away with them!  I “leak” now whenever the wind blows as there are so few lashes to stop the tears from overflowing.  I’m happy to have had them as long as I have.  Eyelashes are lovely.  They will grow back quickly, however.  I’m still pissed off that my brows are thinning.  If they go I’ll start a riot!  The bright side – I’m happy not to have to shave my legs and pits!  My head grows stubble, which I shave every two weeks because I like the feeling.  Nice!  I hear it starts growing in as soon as chemo ends and grows back at about ½ inch per month.  It’s going to be a while until it’s any sort of style, but I’m glad I wore it short for a week and liked how that looked. Can’t wait to get that sassy bob grown out!

What is chemo-brain?  This is still hard to describe.  It’s a fog.  It’s like my mind working in slow motion.  I can see the pieces, but I can’t put them together quickly.  It’s like slogging through mud to get to the answer.  I’ve found myself asking people to talk more slowly on the really bad days.  I make lists to remember things and then forget to read the lists.  Fortunately, this is not a side effect that is bad every day.  It’s usually just the first few days after treatment and then it lessens.  It is much less of a problem with the T portion of my treatment these last 3 sessions.  I’m sharper now but dulled by more pain.


Can I have sex?  Will I or (insert possibility of new boyfriend here) even want to?   The one you’ve been waiting for.  Well, the answer is I don’t really know. (Damn it! And only 3 weeks left to find out…) The 24-hour rendezvous man fell away the same week as my hair.  Pity, I liked him.  To my great surprise, others have emerged and I’ve even had 3 interesting dates with someone and put off the attention of others.  Who meets people to date during chemo?!  That’s nuts.  I even shocked myself.  It’s been good to rally my energy on a good day and enjoy company and dinner once in a while.  My heart and my mind are slow to focus on a new romantic love and prospective relationship right now, however.  Sex, for me, is connected to those things (usually, at least), and so while I’m sure the answer would have been ‘yes’ in the context of a relationship (the interest is still there on the good days), the truth is I just don’t know.  Nothing rallies the mind and body like romance and I love the prospect.  I’m so glad chemo is almost over!!

Will I have ‘moon face’?  No.  As far as I know this is caused by higher doses of steroid than what I was given.

What’s happens to my skin and nails?  I heard horror stories before.  My skin has become very dry, however, virgin coconut has been my favorite solution and cured the problem.  I slather it on after every shower and then wear a hula skirt.  I also really like CV Skinlabs and Violets are Blue products that are made specifically for cancer patients.  Very excited about both of them.  Overall my skin has done very well with a combination of these products and coconut oil.  Radiation will be it’s own story.  My sister says she has horse utter balm for me from the vet.  My nails have been fine (and yes, I’ve had them done and they are sexy).

Will my old fibromyalgia re-emerge?  No, thank god!  However, the pain from the Nulasta shot that stimulates bone marrow does cause me pain that is as intense and does migrate like fibromyalgia.  It’s bad and it, like fibromyalgia, is very difficult to tolerate.  While the doctors ask me if I ‘ache,’ this is definitely pain not an ache.  Maybe I have a different level of pain than most. Perhaps that is from having some form of fibromyalgia and nuerological pain issues still underlying everything.  I do not usually experience fibromyalgia pain or symptoms now due to new medication.  (Don’t even get me started on the idiotic argument that fibromyalgia may not be real.  Anyone who has lived with it will tell you exactly where to put that ill-informed opinion.  That can be filed with cancer cure diets consisting of pot and cantaloupe.  I received both.)  My chemo pain feels as bad as fibromyalgia, or the surprise may be that fibromyalgia feels as bad as chemo.  The good news is that the pain does lessen and almost goes away before the subsequent treatment.  I can deal with this.  The drugs I’ve tried do take the edge off, but do not take the pain away.  The pain has gotten worse with each treatment and this most recent #7 treatment has been very painful.  During the first part of chemo I thought that overall it was still easier than 7 years of intense fibromyalgia.  Now that the pain has started I find the two very similar, except I know it will go away once chemo ends, which makes chemo bearable.

Will the chemo kill me?  Will I wish I were dead instead of having it?   Although some days suck, chemo will not kill me, and I’m happy to be alive.  My blood work is being managed and, although I am vulnerable, I am not in danger of the side effects of chemo taking me out.  I can, however, imagine why people chose NOT to continue chemo sometimes.  It’s overwhelming, exhausting and feels very out of control.  Everyone in chemo makes their own choice.  Many people are in chemo not to “cure cancer,” but to manage terminal cancer.  I have a new understanding of what it means to choose not to have chemo.  Where the side effects make the quality of life worse than simply living without it.   I can imagine a time I would not want more.  For now, I’m happy to do it and finish.  It’s much better than the alternative, and I am fortunately enough to have the option.

Will it hurt?  What else might happen?  Yes, it hurts me, but not all of it.  Receiving chemo itself does not hurt.  Some of the side effects and the drug Nulasta do hurt.  Almost anything else might happen and does. I’ve seen others experience a wide variety of complications, but have been fortunate to have followed a fairly predictable path.

Will I need help?  How much? Yes, a lot some days.  None other days.  I need different amounts of help at different moments.  It’s so hard to predict.  From making food to making sure I take my millions of pills at specific hours.  When the side effects set in I want to do neither.  I like the comfort of having people around, and the company friends and family provide.

Who will be there with me and who will not?

To be written about later.














Week 13 – Henna Tattoo SHOOT

Week 13 – Henna Tattoo Shoot

Photographed Week 9   9/13/2013

Photographer:  Owen Carey http://owencareyphoto.com  Henna Tattoo Artist Wendy Rover, Roving Horse Henna http://www.rovinghorse.com/

Henna Tattoo Shoot
Henna Tattoo Shoot

This shoot was done on one of my “bad” weeks, meaning just a few days after chemo.  I was exhausted during this shoot, but happy to be able to work with Owen and Wendy.  We planned this shoot during a bad week because I wanted to henna tattoo my head for Portland Fashion Week and that fell on that weekend.  The goal was to attend with part of the Kimberella team and my friend Tod Foulk, who was one of the founders.  I only had enough energy for one afternoon show, but it was worth it.  It was a curious two weeks while the head tattoo lasted.  As Wendy said it would, the henna was a gateway to allow others to ask about my bald head and cancer.  I had one woman run out after me in the bank and ask to look at it and take a photo.  The Race for the Cure in Portland was the same weekend and many women in the Survivors tent where I sat having breakfast (and crying with overwhelm) talked with me, saying they wish they had done something like that.

Photographer Owen Carey has been in my life for 26 years, since I was 18 years old and a young model trying to pay for college.  He was the first photographer I worked with in Portland when I moved here and the impression he made was huge.  I remember his kindness and genuine interest.  I never imagined I would someday also be a photographer.  Nearly 10 years after that I was in the middle of a new endeavor as a professional musician and needed a photo for the cover of my 2nd CD.  I again went to Owen for imagery.  When, at 38 I went out on my own as a photographer, yet another life adventure, and contacted Owen, who has guided me as a mentor and friend since then.  We now work in the same studio building and see one another often.

Email from Owen:

Just wanted to say thank you for putting your willingness, and your faith and trust in me, in all your strength, and in all your vulnerability.

Your quiet perseverance, beauty, intention and vision, looking cancer right in the eye, is inspirational.  Thank you for showing me that elegance and spirit that is so Kimberli – so Y.O.U. It was good to get to “play” with you for an hour and make new discoveries together.  To me, making art is all about “play” – and it is a process of discovery, so thank you for allowing me that gift.

I am honored to assist in this project – and would be happy to do it again as a means of supporting you throughout this process, as a healing, curative, spiritual, human endeavor, and to assist you in holding a mirror to the process of mastectomy and rebuilding and whatever comes next in the recovery process. May you live to be 100 and survive this cancer with many years of fulfillment yet to come. ( that’s not a death wish – “wishing you’d die at 100!” — hell I’ll be gone by then!)  LOL.

So thank you.

It amazes and saddens me that someone with such beautiful lovely breasts, (and yes, they are from the pix I just saw on your blog) be accosted by this insidious disease… or anyone for that matter- female or male – lovely – or not so pretty. I have known so many who also have suffered in this way – yet this is the first opportunity that I have been given to engage in such an artful and supportive process.  Most women tend to hide with cancer… and although our culture lends such importance to breasts, beauty – as you know, resides elsewhere, in the realm of the spirit. Superficial beauty is just that – superficial; so if you ever need a friend, a comrade photographer and co-conspirator in this fight with cancer, I am just upstairs and down the hall – and at your beck and call. who knows you might reconstruct  the breasts  to fill your clothes in an accustomed way – or keep the chest flat and have dragon tattoos made at the site of your surgery.

Beauty, as they say is in the eye of the beholder – and I might add in the spirit  as well – and that eye and spirit are yours to behold a new and cancer free spirit called Kimberli. Let me be a photographic partner in the process.

(Joni made some great images of you – I’m jealous.)

Sending you more hugs – and a whole lot of L.O.V.E.!



Week 13 – Why I write it down & how I’ve changed.

I’m writing it down because I plan to forget it.  When chemo is over in one month I plan to forget it, leave it behind, let new memories replace these.  I want it to be who I was, not who I am or who I will be.  Cancer won’t define me and chemo will be a moment in time.  Four months of my life, I hope.  If I am lucky.  Nothing, yet everything.  Nothing in terms of time in my life.  Everything in that it has fundamentally changed me.

The side effects will pass, my hair and strength will return, but I hope the perspective will remain.  I think it will.  Despite the many long days of fog when my brain has refused to be it’s sharp self there are moments of intense clarity. So much of what I hear and see does not matter to me now.  So much of life is not important and a few things are all-important. There is clutter everywhere and solid gold nuggets scattered in between. The basis of the Finding Beauty in Cancer project was that I get a blank canvas on which to recreate.  I thought that meant my body and how I look.  However, I’ve found it’s much more than the blank canvas of body.  It’s a blank slate of meaning.  I get to choose what has meaning in my life.  From the smallest detail to the largest concept.  I chose what is important, what is stressful, what gets my time attention.  Everything gets striped down to a few essentials – people and relationships.  Family, friends, community, world.  People, minds, souls.  Words.  Transgressions and quarrels are forgiven.  They don’t matter.  Love and being present for one another matters.  Saving face, being right… doesn’t matter.  Choosing to see and be beauty, even in a painful world, matters.

Week 12 – Medical Update

Week 12 medical update  I’m now more than half way through chemo and have had two treatments with the T part of the treatment Taxol.  My side effects have changed. While I still have the chemo brain and fatigue, I do not have as much nausea.  I require only one of the three nausea medications I did during the AC part. I’m no longer losing weight.  Note: contrary to popular belief, most people actually gain weight during ACT as the metabolism slows down like in menopause. I no longer have blurred vision and mouth sores.  The mouth sores became so bad at the end of the 4th AC treatment I needed antibiotics.  I have three new side effects with this drug.  Pain, hot flashes, neuropathy (numbness in hands and feet).   The pain is centered in my long bones, arms and legs, for the first several days, then lingers in my hands, hips and knees toward the end of the two week cycles.  I have pain medication that takes the edge off, but does not take it away. Sleeping is a problem due to the pain the first 5-7 nights.  Hot flashes started on the 2nd Taxol treatment and were every half hour for the first day.  A sneak peak at menopause!  I was happy being blissfully ignorant, thank you.  The neuropathy just started last night (week 12, 9 days into my 2nd Taxol treatment) when suddenly my toes began to tingle.  I’m worried about my fingers, as they happen to push a shutter button and play guitar strings and piano keys.  For some people it’s temporary and others permanent.  I meet with my oncologist next Tuesday before my 7th round of chemo and will ask her.  We’ll also discuss what’s next as I’m ALMOST DONE WITH CHEMO!!!  Just 2 treatments and 4.5 weeks left now. I’ll have 4 weeks of recovery then bilateral mastectomy surgery and reconstruction around November 18th.  Setting the surgery date has been more upsetting to me than I had imagined. My fears are around the physical pain not the emotional aspects.  Perhaps that will come later.  I want the cancer removed from my body now, but I’m afraid of the pain and fact that I don’t respond well to any type of pain medication.  Oh joy!

Thank you to all the people who came to my home over the past week and a half!  What a parade!  I so appreciate it!  My mom got sick with the flu and couldn’t come as she had been, for chemo week.  So in came my Portland family Pat, Katy and Dean Nida to the rescue – yippee family!!  I have the best girlfriends in the world!  Caroline Petrich, Becca Blevins, Wendy Weaver, Leisl Stientjes, Sarah Sharp, Machelle Brass, Whitney Pilsbury, Dennise Kowalczyk – thank you for the delicious food and visits!  Neighbors Joe Shoemaker and April Hansen thanks for your continued support and taking out my garbage!  Guy friends and fellow Portland Executives Association members, Dick Hartung (LCL Homes) and Casey Phillips (Phillips Electronics,) and Fred Graetzer (Standard Appliance): thanks for helping with my house this week.  When it rains it pours and the house needs fixing all of a sudden. Thank you to Shelley Cooper (Xenium Resources,) Patti Henry (Salon Shabumi) and the women of the Portland Executives Association who hosted a CABI clothing party in my honor and donated 50% of the commission to my medical fund.  You are really the best!


Week 12 – Red Lipstick

My grandmother, who passed away two years ago at the age of 98, (still living on her own, in red hair and red lipstick) always said, “Put your lipstick on.  You’ll feel better.” These are some of the photos that friends posted on Facebook in their own red lipstick.

Red Lipstick
Red Lipstick Facebook posts

Priorities/My brother’s addiction & The girl with noise in her head.

Written on Week 4  August 11, 2013

Priorities shift when you hear you have cancer.  What’s important, what’s not. How you spend your time and with whom.  Close friends and family get your attention.  People you like.  It becomes simple.  It’s amazing how much is not important, doesn’t actually matter. However, sometime a complete stranger becomes important.  I’m surprised by the utter connection I feel to everyone and questions I have about their lives.  They are questions about my own life, perhaps.  The difference is I sometimes make time to ask now.  I slow down and see the people I’m walking past.  At least on the good days when I have energy.  On the bad days I’m more directional and see mostly myself and look for the shortest way home.

A woman younger than me sits on the concrete slab in the empty parking structure pay station where I feed my visa into a machine.  Her dirty blond hair is clean but unruly.  Her shoes sit to her side, her feet are black.  She pulls a hand mirror out of one of many plastic bags, wets her index finger in her mouth and tries to wipe away the mascara that has smudged under her eyes.  She’s been crying.  She’s a junky.  I’m tired, having just left an event early to go home to nap, but as I watch her from the corner of my eye I wonder who she is and how she got to the street.  Suddenly nothing is more important than talking to the woman I would normally walk past and avoid.  “Hello,” I say as she looks up at me standing over her.  “Why are you out here?” I ask.  Blunt, I know, but that’s my question.  “I’m an addict and my family won’t take me in any longer,” she replies just as matter of fact.  My heart sinks in recognition.  Would he say this?  Blame us?  I immediately sit down next to her and take my shoes off.  My feet are also dirty.  She stares at me now.  She’s sizing me up. “Um, I may be like your family and you may be like one of my older brothers.  Can we talk?” I ask.  I ask her to tell me about her family, her path, her life addicted to heroine.  I’m torn between being fully present and on alert that I’m making myself vulnerable by just being with her.  Being present wins out.  I’m listening and she continues to talk.  Her narrative rambles and yet there’s wisdom and truth in the chaos.  She misses her daughter.  I know my brother misses his, too.  I try to understand how a drug can become more important than a child.  How it can skew a mind.  She tells me there’s nothing that sets her free and takes away the noise in her head like the drug does.  Nothing.  I start to see the evidence of her noise and the relief she must feel.  She was clean for six years after prison, but doesn’t want to get clean again.  She doesn’t want to be saved and I’m not trying to save her.  He recently said the same thing to me.  He doesn’t want rehab or a lawyer, we don’t understand him, have kicked him to the curb because we no longer give him money and instead offer rehab….  I know these are the ramblings of a warped mind, meth-induced reality, but I can’t help but wonder how he, or she, could fall so far from what is reality.  To be in a place where everyone else is wrong and only their skewed visions and addictions are the truth.  This isn’t the brother my family once knew, yet it is our current version of him. We love and miss him.

A policeman comes.  He looks at her, then me, then at her. He’s confused.  “You can’t sit here, you know,” he says to her.  She pretends she doesn’t know and makes an excuse.  “Can we stay here for five minutes and talk?” I ask him.  He’s even more confused now.  “Yes,” he says and walks away.  “He was much nicer than they normally are,” she says.  I imagine her life, being asked to leave everywhere she sits. Sitting places no one else sits.  Where do you sit when you don’t have a place?  Under the Burnside Bridge outside of my photography studio, I suppose.  We ask them to leave there, as well.  It’s not good for business, or our safety, you know.  I realize I wouldn’t talk to her there.

I tell her I have breast cancer.  I see both shock and immediate acceptance in a flash of her eyes.  We talk about our bucket lists.  She tells me she has something to say to the world.  She’s waiting for a sugar daddy so she can put it on billboards.  I ask her what it is she would tell everyone.  She isn’t sure, but it would be big and meaningful and the billboards would allow everyone to see it.  It would really reach people that way.  Noise in her head.  I think she’s crazy, and yet I wonder how often we all think that way.  Someone or something is going to sweep us off our feet and then we are going to do something big.  Say something important that moves people.  Have an impact.  Make a difference.  We’re just waiting until that time to figure out what that really is.  She tells me her real name is Diane, but everyone on the street calls her Sunshine.  When I get up to leave she asks me not for money, as I expected, but for a hug.  I ask if I can take her picture with my phone and she’s embarrassed, asks if it’s okay if she looks away.  “Yes, I just want it to remember you,” I say.



Week 9, Medical Update & drugs

Medical Update

Week 9,  recovery week after 5th chemo.

I feel tired.  Tired and in pain this past week.  I’ve started my new chemo drug Taxol. This will be the drug of choice for the remaining 3 treatments.  The symptoms are different, maybe somewhat better, maybe not.  I have pain throughout my body now.  It’s more than an ache and less than terrible.  It feels just like fibromyalgia pain did.  All over and intense at time. The nausea is less than with the A/C drugs, but still enough to need meds. The big bonus is not having to take steroid pills for 3-5 days after the treatment. They give it to me in the cocktail but it didn’t make me totally crazy this time. Semi-crazy.  Lots of tears.  Lot of fatigue.  Lots of pain.  Unfortunately, the first level of treatment for pain, beyond over the counter drugs that do not help, are steroids.  No! The mouth sores that kept me from eating or drinking regularly last week are healing after antibiotics.  They caused the worse pain I’ve had so far.  It hurt to talk, drink water and forget eating without numbing my entire mouth.  I’m on day 7 now and have not been able to work more than a couple of hours.  No energy, no stability (I fell down the stairs last night, but did not get hurt).  I’m having my suddenly-low blood pressure checked out tomorrow and have more IV fluids scheduled.  That may be another new piece of my treatment. Twice a week it’s back to the clinic for 2 hours of fluids just to stay hydrated so I can recovery in time for the next treatment.  Not the most fun I’ve had…   Not the worst time I’ve had – but close.

The photo below is of one week’s worth of medication and supplements.  I feel like I eat in order to take these pills every few hours.  The boxes do not include the 2 additional nausea medications I take every 6 and 8 hours, nor the various powders and potions from the naturopath that I mix into water.  I’m hoping to cut back the nausea medication with this new round of Taxol.  So far, it’s better than the A/C treatments!  Good news.

FYI- You may have your own opinion on taking so many pills and what you would do instead.   That’s great.  I’m not interested in ranting emails about miracle cures and diets, however. I’ll write a very funny post on the crazy, although well-intended, things strangers have sent me in the name of ‘curing my cancer.”  People who say, “If you’re serious about curing your cancer….”  as if I’m not already.  This photo is simply to show you what I’m actually doing.  It’s my choice to follow both my MD and ND recommendations in addition to a specific diet and exercise program.  I have faith they will work, but as with any cancer treatment, no one really knows.  There is no cure for breast cancer.  There is remission.  There is not seeing cancer cells too small to detect and calling it cured.  There is living the rest of your life in remission, living with breast cancer, and there is death from breast cancer.   One of these will be my path.  In the meantime, I do what I think is best and learn as I go.