Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My sweet Dot

Goodbye, sweet Dot

My sweet cat Dot died on Saturday. It wasn't a surprise - if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that Dot was diagnosed with congestive heart failure almost 1 year ago. The real surprise and blessing, for us, was that she lived so long, longer than the best case scenario the vet had given us - a mere 10 months. I was halfway through chemotherapy when she was diagnosed, and terrified that she would die. She was my buddy, my constant companion, purring at my side, always, when I felt my worst, a silent, furry, wonderful friend who asked for nothing more than a bowl of food, water, and to be cozy and near me.

The internet is a funny thing - here on this blog, I wrote when Dot walked into my life, January 2014, 5 years ago. I talked about getting her fixed, and those special first moments when I got to know her and saw how unique and sweet her personality was, but I left the story there and never continued it. It's heart wrenching to read how I tried to shoo her away, because there were too many stray cats.

I didn't know then she would become my Dot, the little cat that saw me through every up and down I encountered in the past 5 years. Life and love are funny like that. It's so hard to appreciate the life that you're living. On a certain level, you may know that you are blessed, but it's hard to quantify these blessings until they are no longer with you.

So, I am actually glad that Dot was diagnosed with heart failure last year - not glad that she had heart failure, or had to die, but glad that we finally had a reason for her vomiting and hiding and shyness - maybe the whole time I had her, she had been ill and in pain. Having a diagnosis made life harder, but we at least knew her time with us wasn't permanent, and we were able to fully appreciate the time she had left with us, to really savor it and love her, no holds barred.


Dot's story

So, here is the rest of Dot's story!

In January 2014, a very sad, wet little cat appeared in our garage. She looked older and in poorer health than the other strays that had taken up residence in our garage that cold winter. I got her fixed, along with 7 other stray cats, and continued feeding and caring for them as best I could.

Dot when we first met

In November 2014, I found Dot with an abscess the size of a tennis ball on her little face. I didn't take a photo, because just looking at it made me ill! I rushed her to the ER, where her little face was shaved, the abscess drained, and the vet told me she'd need a clean place indoors to recover. I had no desire to have an indoor cat - my room was tiny and cramped, but I made a little space for her.

Dot in her bowtie

Throughout the winter, I tried to find a home for her, but no home was in need of a sweet cat. So Dot became my cat. I had never shared a room with an animal before - I tried to be stern at first, but I quickly lost the battle for my bed.

I don't know when exactly, but at some point I realized she was my closest friend.

Dot in her favorite spot

Always there next to me, a quiet, loving, patient presence. She was there for me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, seeing me cry when no one else did. I actually sensed something was wrong with me, when Dot instinctively began sleeping very close to me, pressed against the very spot where my cancer was.

We got through it together, then I met the man who would be my husband. Our first dates were often hangouts at home - we started dating when I was on radiation, and I was always so tired. Dot kept us laughing with her silliness - we bought her special scratch pads and catnip, and in December, a Christmas hat.

In 2017, Matt and I got married and moved into our first apartment together. Matt was not a cat person, and I worried about our life together with Dot. I remember being scared that she would scratch his records or equipment, or our new bed. But none of that happened - Dot was an epically good cat. She left our belongings alone, never scratched furniture or jumped on our couch, but the bed was undeniably her domain.

Dot

In 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again, and again I had a feeling it was coming when Dot began sleeping closer and closer to me. Matt and Dot stood by me through all of my surgeries and chemotherapy.

Dot had a special, magical way of being near to me when no one else could, and seeing grief and worry I'd show no one else.

Dot

I never went to the bathroom alone thanks to Dot - which I found especially comforting when I was on chemo. Never, for one minute, was I away from her purring presence, when I felt my worst or most alone.

Dot

Dot warms my feet in the bathroom

In October 2018, as I mentioned, Dot was diagnosed with heart failure. The vet cautioned me that Dot could die at any time, including there, in the vet's office. I was discharged with 3 medications I had to give her twice daily. It was an epic struggle getting Dot to take her meds. Every time I thought I'd found the magic method, she'd get finicky, and start rejecting it. And there I was, at my lowest point in energy, struggling, and pulling myself out of bed to give her medicine.

Dot loved when I played the harmonica (although I wasn't any good at it). It was the only time she'd climb in my lap, and she'd sing along. :)

Dot loved the harmonica

Dot's health went up and down, and many days I was sure would be her last. This summer she got very thin, and I was constantly worried about her. Finally I tried Pill pockets, which she loved, and for a month or two she was at her best, taking her meds every day, looking the best I'd seen her yet.

Dot

We had just taken her to the vet, who was happy and surprised to see her. But that last week she began rejecting her meds in any form I tried to give them, and eating less and less. Last Saturday, she died suddenly in my arms, I tried to give her meds but it was too late, so Matt and I spent her last few minutes petting her and trying to console her.

Dot

When I look back, I see a wonderful trail of blessings, a beautiful path she walked down, with me. I'm not the person I was when she met me - I grew, and so did she, and so did Matt. I feel sad, but also blessed beyond measure. How lucky I was, to love and be loved by her. The greatest lesson I learned from Dot is that nothing in life is permanent - neither pain nor joy, so embrace fully every joy that is before you.

Dot in her happy place

We'll love and miss you always, my Dot.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

9 month update

weaving

Is it just me, or are the times in this country just getting heavier and heavier? The recent shootings in Texas, the situation at the border, all of it has me feeling pretty down. But I honestly have to ask "Is it just me?" fairly often, thanks to having started Tamoxifen three weeks ago.

I was more worried about starting Tamoxifen than about doing chemotherapy, if you can believe that! I had read so many horror stories online, and I personally know someone who's been on it who struggled with emotional mood swings and just feeling run down all the time. But I knew I had to give it a try - I had the option to take it the first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I didn't, and the cancer came back. To me, that was good enough reason to try it.

I've had numerous side effects, some common, some not so common. Hot flashes, although they're not as bad as I experience on chemo. Achiness, but that was more within the first few days, and it has since subsided. Clouded vision, dry eyes, and eye pain, which is worrisome, as my vision was already affected by chemo. Extreme fatigue, which thankfully is helped by staying active and moderate exercise. I'm thirsty all the time, which is good since I drink more water now. I also struggle with dizziness and brain fog which comes and goes - I don't get it every day, and when I do get it, it passes after 1-3 hours. But while it's on it is so hard to concentrate and I make silly mistakes and can't think clearly. Sleep disturbances - I'll wake 3-4 times a night, wide awake, and have trouble falling asleep again - but again, this is helped by exercise.

And last, but not least, the mood swings. The best way to put it is that I feel extremely emotional, almost all the time. I was always teary eyed in sentimental scenes and sad commercials - now I have tears running down my face. Thoughts and memories at random also make me want to cry. I do my best to talk myself through it, so I'm not a mess in public. I've also experienced moments of depression, that thankfully pass, but when they pass I am amazed at how low I felt.

So, I now understand why Tamoxifen gets such a bad rap! I'm going to do my best to stick it out at least six months before I decide what to do next.

Also, I'm trying to see the positive side of being on a medication that makes me unusually emotional - I find myself remembering things from my childhood, and experiencing the emotions I felt at that time, all over again. It is fascinating, as these are sense memories I thought I had lost. And maybe being so emotional is helping me emotionally connect to others in my life? I hope so.

I hope everyone is doing well, and thanks to those who read these updates - I hope they are helpful to you in some way!

Monday, June 3, 2019

6 month update

experimenting with English Paper Piecing

Thought I'd update you again - I like the idea of these updates being all in one place, for my future reference. :) As you see above I am dipping my toes into English Paper Piecing with hexagons - something I NEVER thought I'd try - the idea of a hand-pieced quilt always seemed so intimidating!

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, crafting-wise, which leaves me frequently with half-finished projects and downcast spirits. So I was shocked at how well I took to hand-sewing these hexagons - my biggest inspiration being a Creativebug class on English Paper Piecing by Liza Lucy.

She explained it so well, answering all the questions that mere diagrams in books left me bursting with, and I began!

experimenting with English Paper Piecing

I'll be doing a more in-depth post on this project on Feeling Stitchy, so keep an eye out for that!

6 months post-chemo
In health news, I am feeling better than ever, at my 6 month mark, post-chemo. Last week I had my first period since October 2018, which makes me so happy that my body is finally resetting itself. I wasn't liking the idea of menopause at 42, so I'm glad that everything is getting back to normal again.

Getting back to normal was a struggle, and I did have some false starts 3 months post-chemo. I had an odd series of episodes with fast, irregular heartbeats that sent me to the ER and urgent care, and ultimately to my doctor and a heart specialist. But happily, all the tests came back normal, the racing heartbeats subsided, and my doctor said that aside from a fatty liver (which I never recall having before chemo) and a vitamin D deficiency, I was doing very well.

My energy levels are finally back to normal, if not better than before! My achiness subsided as well - I've found that walking and keeping active is truly the best medicine for that. I've been working out again as of several weeks ago, so my arm mobility on my mastectomy side has really improved as well.

This is all a case of answered prayers - there were so many scary times when I doubted I would bounce back and get back to normal - I am just beyond happy at where I am right now.

Project A Month
On Feeling Stitchy I've been doing a series called Project a Month where my one goal is simply to finish 1 needlework project per month. What I've found by scheduling my time this way, is, of course, I have way more time than I ever imagined. Last month I found myself finishing 2 projects, so I'm hoping each month I'll be able to learn how to schedule my crafting time better and better.

Ultimate needlecraft haul

Up above you see the massive haul of vintage needles, scissors and pins I found at the thrift store for $5. I won't be needing a needle any time soon!

I hope this post finds you all well, healthy, and inspired!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dreaming of green

Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com
Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com
Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com

Here I am again, I know it's been awhile, just wanted to say hello and share a few images I'm enjoying lately - mostly I love when I am attracted to the same colors, over and over, unconsciously, in this case lime green.

I've been doing well, post-chemo - a lot of mysterious aches and pains, but every time I Google them, they seem to be normal side effects of women post-chemo. So, I'm just trying to bear with it, and each day I do feel stronger. Had a lot of pain in my hands last month, I've never had arthritis, but I imagine that's what it feels like. This month it's my knee and the ball of my foot, I just joke that chemo left me (I hope temporarily) with the body of an 80 year old.

Aside from that, I am keeping inspired - taking Karen Barbe's class on Color Theory on Domestika, finishing my Final project for that class (in lime green, as you see above), also taking Lisa Congdon's Creative Boot Camp class on Creativebug, which is SO MUCH fun, and starting on my next Project a Month for Feeling Stitchy. I'll give you a hint what the dominant color is on that one... lime green! :)

Hope you all are keeping well and inspired this Spring!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Chemotherapy update #15-16

2 lovely birds, made last year, given to chemo friends

Well, I am done with chemo! My last chemo was 3 weeks ago, and I couldn't be happier. There are no words to describe how happy I felt when I rang the bell, waved goodbye, and went home. Pure joy.

SIDE EFFECTS ON PACLITAXEL
- Swelling hands and feet, weight gain - a combination of the chemo, steroid, and lack of activity, I think.
- Light brown hair! I've always had near-black hair - an interesting surprise.
- Mood swings - the worst ones hit about 1 week after chemo, then got steadily better.
- Brain fog - off and on, getting better.
- Bloody nose - finally disappeared 2 weeks after my last chemo.
- Fingernail / tonenail changes - still weird looking, but getting stronger.
- Small spot of possible neuropathy on the heel of one foot - it's a small spot, at least. So glad I iced my hands and feet for Paclitaxel - it made a difference!

At 2 weeks, I was feeling better on all fronts, but at 3 weeks I am feeling the most normal since I started! Finally I am able to sleep through the night without issues, drink caffeine without being super wired, and walk at a normal, unlabored pace.

What can I say, but that I am grateful. Grateful to God for preserving me in this long, arduous trial. Grateful to my husband, my family, my friends. And grateful to all of you who reached out to me or left a comment to encourage me. Thank you!!!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Chemotherapy update #11-14

Piper Piping progress by floresita for Feeling Stitchy 12 Months of Christmas mmmcrafts stitchalong Dec. 2018
Progress on my Piper Piping ornament for the 12 Months of Christmas Stitchalong on Feeling Stitchy

Here I am, 14 total treatments in (4 AC and 10 Paclitaxel), and I'm almost done with chemo! Yay! It's hard to describe all of the things that I'm feeling, as I near the end of this part of my treatment.

I still have so much more to go - breast reconstruction, removal of my port, and through it all the lingering questions - will the cancer come back again, and if so, when? Will I have time to enjoy a married life, have a child, and if so, for how long? Of course, these are not the questions my husband or family want to hear, so I put them here, with a small layer of anonymity to protect them and myself. But I am overall doing my best to remain hopeful about my good prognosis, while maintaining a base of realism.

Here's a few updates on the side effects I've felt while continuing on my weekly Paclitaxel treatments...

SIDE EFFECTS I'VE HAD ON PACLITAXEL

- Hair regrowth - after my eyebrows thinned to about 20%, they started growing back! Also, the hair on my head is coming back as very soft baby fuzz. Still no considerable hair regrowth anywhere else.
- Eyelashes falling out - still have most of my top lashes, but the bottom have almost completely fallen out.
- Crusty eyes on waking - maybe a symptom of sparse lashes + extra dry skin?
- Dark and white spots on fingernails.
- Extreme exhaustion, dizziness, loss of balance.
- Hot flashes - these are worst at night - one second I am cold, the next sweat is pouring down my head and I feel like I'm on fire - ugh.
- Vision changes - foggy vision, hard to focus.
- Hearing loss - I'm always having to ask everyone to repeat themselves.
- Chemo brain - forgetfulness, etc.
- Bloody nose - every time I blow my nose, there is blood on the tissue.
- Bleeding in my mouth - 1 small spot on my inner lip - no pain, just blood, keeping an eye on it.
- Very erratic sleep patterns - think I can blame this on the steroid.
- Mood swings - again, the steroid.
- No periods - only 1 very long period in 6 months, after I started Paclitaxel.

Positives of my chemo experience so far

- No serious life-threatening reactions so far - and I'm very grateful for that!
- Clear skin - no skin reactions (other than dry skin) and clear skin throughout - only 3-4 pimples in 6 months!
- Vivid memories of things that happened long ago - pretty sure this is chemo related.
- Strengthening of relationships with family and friends.
- Becoming that person that people feel comfortable telling their problems to.
- Wig fun. :)
- Caring less about the little crap, and even some of the big crap that doesn't matter in life.
- Slowing down and becoming aware of others around me who are also sick, struggling, and in need of encouragement.
- Becoming ever more aware that God is watching over my every step and sustaining me in all of this.

An important thing to remember is that in spite of the laundry list of symptoms above, I am thankfully still functioning, still able to work and do things for myself. There are good days and bad days, but overall I am getting through it.

I'm very fascinated by the vivid memories I've been having from the past, so I wanted to describe that more. At times, they are so vivid, I feel like they are happening in that instant - it's amazing. I had a really sweet memory of myself as a very small child, looking up with excitement at the Christmas turkey, and it just filled my heart with warmth and thanksgiving.

So, I am pulling through - thank you for your comments of encouragement, for all of you who read this, and all of you fighting this fight as well, may God be with you! <3

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Chemotherapy update #6-10

Maid a milking ornament as stitched by floresita for her blog Things I've Made

I took a break from religiously cataloging my symptoms, because it got me down. But I still wanted to give you (and the future me) an overview of how I felt. :) This image seemed fitting to me, as it pretty aptly describes how I feel right now - it's the Maid-a-milking pattern I'm working on for the 12 Months of Christmas Stitchalong on Feeling Stitchy - she's pretty on the outside, but such hard work to put together, and many mornings I feel like this, sort of in pieces.

Carefully, I draw on my eyebrows, add some color to my face, cover my dark circles, put my long, pretty wig on, and dress carefully to hide my uneven left side after my mastectomy. This is all important, and this all makes me feel better when I interact with the world, but I am so good at what I do that often people don't know that I am sick or going through anything at all. And I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I would rather look better than I feel.

After a week break from the AC regimen, I started my weekly doses of Paclitaxel, of which I have had 5 so far. Here are the main things I've noticed.

Side effects I've had on Paclitaxel

- Eyebrows falling out
- Extreme constipation (I'll leave the details out, just trust me, it's gross) :)
- Exhaustion, weakness, dizziness
- Dehydration - I'm always thirsty, and want to drink liquids constantly
- Bone aches - minor, but there, and mainly first few days after chemo
- Fingernails flattening and nailbeds darkening, tingling in fingertips (before they reduced my dosage)
- Very dry skin

Things I've enjoyed about Paclitaxel

- More energy than on AC, but dizziness and exhaustion can hit at any time
- Able to eat more foods than on AC, still sensitive to spicy foods and coffee, but I can have a little
- No nausea
- Less chemo stink :)
- More energy to craft and be creative
- Slightly clearer head
- Less sinus issues

Day 1 - Chemo day - 5th treatment
I DID NOT enjoy the first treatment of Paclitaxel, as I was receiving it. I was given a heavy dose of Benadryl, which made me feel really sleepy and out of it. They put the cold mitts on my hands and feet to keep me from getting neuropathy in my fingers and toes. Having hands and feet so cold they ached for over an hour was pretty unpleasant.

I went home, slept for several hours, and woke up feeling much better. I was able to go back to work the day after chemo! The first week after I felt positively glorious, probably the combined effect of being off the AC for 1 week, and enjoying the lovely energy boost the steroids gave me.

Day 1 - Chemo day - 6th treatment
This time I wasn't given Benadryl. I was more alert and awake throughout the treatment, which I enjoyed. The cold mitts and booties were not very cold, which I thought was a good thing, but I felt more side effects after my treatment. Again, I felt very tired, fell asleep, and felt better. Again was able to go to work the day after chemo.

This week was very difficult - once the steroid wore off, I was so exhausted. Every time I tried to get out to the supermarket or to run errands, I felt I was dragging my feet to even lift them, and I often felt I was going to pass out. Also felt a lot of tingling in my fingernails, and could see the whites of them expanding, as if they were separating. They also seemed to flatten out and change shape, which was freaky, too. My fingertips look permanently pruney, as if I've just climbed out of a bathtub.

My eyebrows began falling out bit by bit. At my doctor's appointment I mentioned my extreme exhaustion and tingling in my fingers and she reduced my dosage a small amount, which made a big difference.

Day 1 - Chemo day - 7-10 treatments
After the dosage was reduced, I've felt pretty similar each time - exhausted right after chemo, then plenty of energy the day after. Second and third days after are pretty low energy, sometimes the fourth day after as well.

Overall, Paclitaxel has been easier than AC so far, but it's still hard. Looking forward to all of this being over soon!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Chemotherapy update #3-4

Here were my experiences after doing my second Chemotherapy treatment- this was the third and fourth of 4 doses of AC, every other week, after which I will do 12 weekly treatments of Taxol.

Day 1 - Chemo day - 3rd treatment
This chemo hit me really hard - I think it's because I forgot to load up on lots of water the night before, and take a mug of water with me. Instead, I'd been drinking a lot of tea, and had tea with me. I won't make that mistake again.

The last dose they gave me - of Cytoxan was pretty uncomfortable. Really felt it very strongly in my nose and neck and sinuses. Typically it goes away as soon as I leave, but not this time. My nose and sinuses were very irritated for days after. I also felt a stinging sensation at my port as we drove home. Felt very tired and cruddy all evening.

Day 2
Had an ok appetite in the morning. Took a Claritin right before the Neulasta shot. Felt tired mainly. Aches and pains started that night, along with a little trouble swallowing. Took an Aleve, which seemed to help a little.

Day 3
Saying that I feel less cruddy - well I still feel cruddy, right? It's hard to appreciate feeling less like crap, when you still feel like crap. :) I think the bone pain and aches were definitely less, but it was still uncomfortable and really a drag. So, even though I felt better, I still didn't feel well enough to do more than sit on the couch, which was frustrating. Took an ibuprofen, and the Claritin, which helped somewhat.

Day 4
Still very tired and a little sore - mornings are the toughest, and I feel better later on. The sinus issues stuck around, going through boxes of tissues. Took a short walk in the evening. Heat really affects me, as does bright sunlight - starting to feel like a vampire. :)

Day 5
Tired and dizzy. Find myself fantasizing about my favorite foods, but at the same time, don't feel like I can eat them. It's a weird feeling.

Day 6
Tired and dizzy, was finally able to get back to work. A lot more sensitive to strong smells - I had to throw out my bathroom soap bar because it was really bothering my nose and making me feel sick. I loved that smell before, too!

Day 7 and on
Recovered bit by bit - what I learned is that it always took my body a full week after chemo to begin to feel normal again. Not completely normal, but better.


Day 1 - Chemo day - 4th treatment
Loaded up on water the night before and I indeed felt much better throughout chemo, and immediately after. Had good energy and appetite that day.

Day 2 and on
Yes, I gave up on chronicling the every day aches and pains - but I experienced nothing new - just the same gripes, at different times. Soreness and pain from the Neulasta shot for an entire 24 hours afterward, as well as dizziness, nausea, severe acid reflux, throat pain, and exhaustion. Again, I felt that my body never really went back to normal until 1 week after my AC chemo treatment. Also, my period showed up almost a month late, but at least I had one, I guess.

Now that I have experienced the Taxol treatments, I feel like they are also difficult, but there are far fewer side effects than the AC. If you are on AC, or someone close to you is, just be patient, it will be over soon, and you will feel better when it is!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Chemotherapy update #2

Here were my experiences after doing my second Chemotherapy treatment- this was the second of 4 doses of AC, every other week, after which I will do 12 weekly treatments of Taxol.

Day 1 - Chemo day
Everything went well again, I had no reactions, and I was out around 12 PM again. When I came in they did a blood test, and showed me how much my white blood cell numbers had improved after the Neulasta shot. Then they followed with the treatments. Only the last thing they gave me gives me any reaction (which I now know is Cytoxan) - a tingly headache, and weird feeling in my nose, like water going up my nose after a dive.

I was anxious to take my anti-nausea meds as soon as possible, so they told me I could take them by 1:30. I was so hungry! I kept having visions of huge meals, and every food sign we passed made my stomach growl. I knew it was probably the steroid and other meds, so I tried to eat lightly. So glad I did, because by 2 PM the super hunger changed to dull nausea, which hung around all day. I'm beginning to realize chemo days are going to be a bust for me - all I could do was lay around and feel miserable, unfortunately. The nasty feeling didn't subside until 10 PM, so I stayed awake awhile to enjoy feeling better, then went to bed. Took a Claritin to prepare for the Neulasta shot the next day.

Day 2
Felt great - just a bit dizzy. My stomach was turning flip-flops every time I was due to take the anti-nausea meds, so I took them on schedule. That afternoon I had the Neulasta shot - I immediately felt dizzy and out of it, but mostly ok. Ate pretty well that day, although slowly. Around 10 PM was when the aches and pains started.

Day 3
Looks like the day after Neulasta is going to be a bust, too. I was in so much pain, from the waist up, especially in my neck and shoulders and back. Feels like you've been punched all over - I kept expecting to see bruises, but it was just aching. Spent the entire day in pain, took a Claritin around 10 PM, and then the pain slowly dissipated.

Day 4
Still a bit achy and dizzy, but better. Had to take my anti nausea meds again, with my stomach doing somersaults. Was able to eat pretty well, spent most of the day resting, took a short walk in the evening.

Day 5
Woke up achy and dizzy, so I had to stay home. Felt better towards the evening, when I took a short walk and saw a movie.

Day 6
Back at work, but feeling pretty dizzy. Stomach a little fluttery, but got by without the anti nausea meds. Didn't take the Claritin to see if that's what's making me dizzy. Ate well.

Day 7
Back at work - not dizzy, and much more alert. I'm thinking it's definitely the Claritin which has made me so spacey. Ate well, but acid reflux is keeping me from enjoying coffee - feels like I'm swallowing a lit match. Boo.

Day 8
Had a tough time sleeping, after waking up at 2:30 AM with a sore throat and acid reflux. Didn't have much appetite, felt nauseated, was only able to do a half day at work.

Days 9-14
The main thing that bugged me was acid reflux - can't tolerate anything with tomatoes, or even a little bit of pepper. A real bummer because I love spicy food and pizza, both of which are too hard on me now. Hair loss is still happening, but patchy. I have a funny cap of shaved hair going strong on the top of my head - which is great because with that natural velcro top, I don't need a wig grip. :)

Friday, August 17, 2018

Chemotherapy update - Wigs!

Here's another post I hope will be helpful if you or someone you know is losing their hair. I knew nothing about wigs and hair loss before this, so here is what I've learned so far!

I did a lot of online research about the hair loss process, so I would know what to expect. It really helped me to have a plan - I did my wig shopping in advance, knowing that when I was on chemo, I wouldn't have the energy or emotional stability to get through it.

Haircut and Hair Buzz
First, I cut my hair into a cute, short bob - I knew my hair would fall out, but there would be less of it to fall out. 2 weeks after my first treatment, it started falling out in handfuls, so I took the plunge and got it shaved off. I had no idea what to ask for, so, I asked for the shortest setting on the clippers, which is a 1. I didn't want to look like Mr. Clean just yet. :)

   

It is hard to look into the mirror and see a shaved head, but I was a lot less emotional than I thought I would be. I won't be winning any beauty awards, but it looked a lot less terrible than I thought it would. I kind of felt like Ripley in glasses. And my head was a lot less lumpy and awkward than I had imagined. Ugh, but all those spiky little hairs as they fall out and poke me in the head are a real pain!

Wig Shopping
My goal was to have at least 1 moderately priced, good-quality wig, and a bunch of other cheap fun wigs for running to the store, going out, etc.

After a lot of research on Youtube, I settled on a cute side parted bob by Estetica called Jamison:
Jamison by Estetica

Jamison retails around $216, but many online stores have good sales that could put it in the $150 range. After wearing this wig for several days, I do think it is a nice quality wig that looks very realistic. It is very light and pretty comfortable, even for people with large heads like myself. The permatease in the scalp is pretty scratchy, but the bonus is you get more body in your hair if you want it. You can also manipulate the part a bit and the mesh / lace makes the scalp area look very real. Everyone who has seen this wig says it looks like real hair. I had some quality issues with the wig I received and had to exchange it, you can read more about that farther down.

Color Issues
Color is a challenge - because all you have is this one small photo of someone with a hair color not even remotely like yours. Being Hispanic, there is a real lack of models who look like me, so I really have to use my imagination and go out on a limb when ordering.

The first color I ordered, R4-6, looked like my hair color in the tiny thumbnail:
 
But when I received the wig and tried it on it just wasn't right - it was way too brown, and kind of a golden brown, that doesn't really show in the thumbnail. Again, I think this reveals a limitation for Hispanic, and Asian wig shoppers - there aren't a lot of colors with the right tone for us.

On my second try, I ordered R2-4, and that was a better match, but still a lot more brown than it appeared in the thumbnail:

But seriously guys, look at those tiny thumbnails - do they not look the same to you?

My best advice is to go into an actual wig store and try on to find the right shade. But in my experience the saleslady refused to give out style numbers and colors, assuming I would order it online. That was really off putting because I would happily order in person, and pay more if I had a good experience with her.

Ordering Wigs Online- Exchanges, Ugh
Exchange policies - do your research! The Jamison wig arrived with damage I could not see, but since it was shipped directly from the wig manufacturer Estetica, I have no way to prove it was damaged by them and not me. When I sent it back to the store they saw the damage and assumed I was responsible. I have been going back and forth with the store for 3 weeks - they are charging me for 2 wigs, even though I only have one. The customer service people have been very unsympathetic, even though I told them I was a first time wig buyer and a cancer patient on chemo with a limited budget.

So my advice is do your research on the store return policies and ask as many questions as possible upfront. I think I could have saved myself a lot of time and money that way. Based on my experience I would not recommend the store I purchased from, I don't even want to name them, but I'll let you know when I have a better experience.

Inexpensive Wigs
I found a great local wig shop with really affordable prices and the best part was that all the wigs were in the middle of the store and I could just put on a wig cap and try on every single one! I highly recommend visiting a local wig store like this because you really can't tell from a photo if a wig will look good on you or not. It's a great way to find which styles work for you.

My favorite inexpensive wigs so far are Bobbi Boss wigs:

Bobbi Boss Jesse wig - Color 4

Bobbi Boss has full price wigs in the $50-$60 range, but you can usually find them on sale for $25 and less. Their color options are a much better match for me, they do have lighter colors but their strength is dark colors.

I had a great experience ordering from Ebonyline.com. They had a good sale going, and with their $4.99 Flat rate shipping, I ordered my wigs on a Sunday night and had them by Thursday. They also had the lowest prices compared to other stores I saw.

So that's my experience with wigs so far. Do you have any good wig recommendations? Please leave a comment and let me know, or ask me any questions you might have!