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!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Chemotherapy update

I thought I'd try to keep a log here on my personal blog of my experience of chemotherapy. I'm too shy to do a video log, but I found it so helpful to read through other people's accounts of their chemotherapy experience, I decided to add my own thoughts, for anyone who is curious and wants some insight into the process.

I am having 4 doses of AC, every other week, followed by 12 weekly treatments of Taxol.

My First Chemo Treatment

Everything went well, and I was out of the doctor's office within 3 hours. My understanding is I had a steroid and several anti-nausea meds, in addition to the chemo. Aside from the very last thing they gave me, which gave me a weird, prickly feeling in my nose (like when your head goes underwater and water goes up your nose) I didn't feel anything at all during treatment. I was alert, awake, and very hungry during and immediately afterward.

About 3 hours later, the nausea and dizziness kicked in. I had 2 anti-nausea meds to take - one is Zofran, a 12 hour med, and another to take if that one wasn't working. I was so nauseated that I took the Zofran first, then the other within an hour. Neither helped and I spent the next 8 hours feeling like I was about to throw up, although I never did. This was my most miserable evening - I tried everything to distract myself - reading, music, tv, and nothing helped - I just had to wait it out. In addition, 1 of these 2 meds gave me mild hallucinations, which were not pleasant.

Day 2
The next morning I felt better, though still dizzy and lightheaded. My stomach felt fluttery - like I was about to feel sick, and I had very little desire to eat. Even the thought of food made me feel like I might be sick, and I didn't want to smell food. I went back to the doctor to get a Neulasta shot - that went very quickly. I felt lightheaded afterwards, but that could have been just the chemo. The nurse told me that people who take Claritin in addition to the Neulasta shot feel less bone pain, so I gave it a try. I felt great that day, aside from my stomach feeling fluttery and not having much desire to eat.

Day 3
Sometime in the night, I started feeling very uncomfortable as I slept. My shoulders ached, my chest felt heavy, and it seemed hard to breathe. By the morning, I felt like my throat was swollen, and I was having a hard time swallowing. There was almost a clicking sound/feeling every time I tried to swallow. I felt pressure on my chest, like something was sitting on top of it, and making each breath difficult. Naturally, I was scared - I called my doctor, but as it was a weekend, it was awhile before they got back to me. Several hours passed, and I fell asleep. When I woke, I was feeling slightly better. The doctor decided it was not a typical side effect, and because I wasn't wheezing, they didn't think it was an allergic reaction. They told me if I started wheezing to go to the ER.

I felt better after that scare, and my major complaint was aching shoulders and a slight headache, and the same feeling, that I just didn't want to eat. Interestingly enough, as soon as I took my second dose of Claritin, the aching disappeared, I had more energy, and I felt much better.

Day 4
My main feeling was tiredness. I slept a lot later than usual (I never sleep in) and had pretty low energy. Still had very little interest in food.

Day 5
The same - I tried to wake up and get to work, but a wave of dizziness hit me, and I stayed home. This was the first day I didn't take the Zofran, and I was pleasantly surprised to find I was no longer nauseated. I started being able to eat a bit more, but I kept my diet very plain and simple - I just didn't crave anything else. I ate vanilla Greek yogurt, juice with a banana blended in, jello, applesauce, and something very small like a bean and cheese taco - for some reason that is the one normal food I HAVE been craving. :)

Day 6
I was able to go to work, but my walk from the parking lot was a struggle. I went up 1 flight of stairs and felt like my heart was going to pop out of my chest, I can't remember ever struggling so hard! Very short walks were likewise a struggle. By lunchtime I was wiped out so I went home, and actually felt so dizzy on the way home I wondered if I should be driving.

Day 7
A replay of the day before, again I was wiped out by noon, and had very little energy for short walks and stairs. But this was the first day I started craving normal foods - to celebrate, we ordered a pizza. I struggled to get down 2-3 slices - which is very weird for this pizza-lover!

Day 8
I dressed for work and was hit with another wave of dizziness and nausea, so I had to stay home. I spent most of the day sleeping, off and on. I had a bit more energy and appetite. I cooked our first real dinner that night, and ate well.

Day 9
Today is the first, most "normal" day I have had so far. I slept well, was hungry for breakfast, hungry for lunch, and for the first time craved coffee (which I normally love).

Updated to add:
Days 10-13
Feeling pretty close to normal - normal energy, able to multi-task. Main thing that has stuck around is the noisy stomach and acid reflux anytime I eat anything with tomato, drink coffee, or have anything spicy.

Day 14
Today, the day before my second treatment, was when my hair loss began. I'd been losing little bits here and there, which seemed normal but this morning, every time I ran my hands through my hair, hair came out. Every time. I'll let it stick around for a few days, and maybe get it buzzed this weekend.

Weird Things I Have Noticed While on Chemo

  1. Sudden exhaustion - One minute I'll feel fine - the next, completely winded and exhausted.
  2. Slow walking - I feel like I walk like an 80 year old. 
  3. Hard to focus - Particularly the first few days after chemo, it was hard to multi-task. I could only keep track of 1-2 things at a time.
  4. Not wanting to eat - It's hard to describe - sometimes my stomach will be growling, but I don't want to eat, or even think about eating.
  5.  I stink! Literally! There is a strange, unusually nasty smell coming from my armpit (but only the normal arm, where I didn't have lymph nodes removed.) I know, TMI, but I felt so freaked out, I'd like other people not to be taken by surprise.
  6.  Acid reflux, noisy stomach, and very frequent trips to the bathroom. I have to sleep propped up, or I'll get a burning in my throat. Some days, especially right after chemo, I felt like I lived in the bathroom. :)
  7. Dark under-eye circles - I noticed these right after my first treatment, because I have never had dark circles before.
  8. Hot flashes - Yup, I'm getting them.

I didn't want this list to be totally negative, so I thought of a few things that I see as "good things" that have come from being on chemo.

Things I Have Enjoyed While on Chemo

  1. I appreciate little things much more - when I do feel good, I feel so happy about it that I can enjoy it more.
  2. Reading - I've been reading through the Little House series of books. It's not difficult, and strangely comforting.
  3. Not being online - I go online as little as possible when I'm feeling poorly, and it helps me stay calm and focused.
  4. Not stressing about things that don't matter - when my energy is at a minimum, I put aside the things that are not deal-breakers, and don't let myself worry about them.
  5. Prayer and quiet time - When I'm feeling most worried, I pray. I also find moments to sit and just "be" without having any plan or goal.
  6. Walking slowly, you see more - Slowing down has made me more aware of what's going on around me.
  7. No energy for anger - I can't muster up the energy to be super-angry, so I'm not. :)
Well, that's the breakdown of how I am feeling so far after my first chemo treatment. To anyone going through chemo who is reading this, I hope it won't be a source of fear or discouragement, but maybe it will help you feel less alone if you are feeling the same things. Everyone is different, and not everyone will react the same way, so don't let this scare you! Another thing I have noticed is I have no energy for stitching and crafting on my weak days, so I just try to make up for it on days I feel well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Baring all today

 Wonderful Wednesday 59 - Free In Bloom pattern by Jess Wariorka as featured by floresita on Feeling Stitchy

First of all, I want to thank all of the readers who have found me here - I know this sparsely populated personal blog will never have the same reach as the lovely multi-person blog I contribute to, Feeling Stitchy, but I am comforted and encouraged all the same by the people who take the time to read my posts here. I did a post on Feeling Stitchy to account for my frequent quietness and absence lately from the blog, you can view it here. In it, I featured a lovely pattern by Jess Wariorka on the DMC site, because I thought it was a lovely way to "unveil my scars" and bare all, so to speak, you can find the free pattern here.

The long and short of it is, I have breast cancer. This is my second time around with hormone-positive (HER2 negative) breast cancer. My first time, in 2015 was relatively easy, in comparison - I had a lumpectomy on my affected breast and since it had not spread to my lymph nodes, and was caught early, all I had to do was 6 weeks of radiation, and no chemotherapy.

In truth, it was a confusing time - I found myself feeling at times, that I had never had "real cancer" because I was constantly reassured by doctors and other cancer survivors alike, that I had the "best cancer", the most curable cancer, a slow growing cancer that was very unlikely to kill me.

I felt like a fake cancer patient, like I didn't have the right to be frightened or worried, and I did my absolute best to plow forward. I was open with my diagnosis, but that backfired on me many times, as people, confronted with the knowledge that I had cancer, had so many intense reactions, and I found myself having to comfort them, and hear their stories of grief and loss, as they inevitably mentioned people they loved who had lost their fight.

As a result, I began to choose more carefully who I would share this information with, as I didn't want to cause distress to others (and by extension, myself). That was the primary reason I chose not to share my diagnosis online - that, and my desire to remain as private as possible.

My second time around, I simply felt it was time to share my diagnosis with you, and I think the turning point came when I began doing research for wig videos on Youtube. I discovered so many brave women, sharing one of the most intense and frightening battles of their lives, with courage, humor and grace. And their bravery and honesty brought me courage. There were so many different kinds of stories, and just as many different kinds of treatments, but the common thread was their positivity and their unselfish desire to do at least one thing to help calm the fears and worries of another person who is also facing this diagnosis.

Another common thread in these videos was the theme of trusting yourself, being persistent with doctors who are not inclined to diagnose you with cancer, knowing your body, and being aware of when it changes. I experienced the same thing, and I am glad I was insistent, as it would have been easy to accept the "all clear" if I hadn't been in touch with the differences in my body. I had numerous checkups with my surgeon and oncologist, and 3 clear mammograms since my last diagnosis. I had to literally point to the lump I found, otherwise the surgeon would not have noticed anything amiss in what looked like scar tissue.

My second time around I am experiencing what is called a recurrence - cancer in the same spot it was in last time, and cancer in 2 lymph nodes. I had a mastectomy on my affected breast a few weeks ago, and next month I will need to start on 6 months of chemotherapy. I won't lie, I am afraid - I have seen at least 1 person in my family go through chemo, and 1 close friend, and I am not looking forward to it. But I am confident that God, who has brought me safely to this point, will bring me safely through it.

So again, I wanted to thank you, however few you may be, the readers of my personal blog for keeping up with me over the years. Your comments and support and interest have meant so much to me. I'll chime in when I can, here or on Feeling Stitchy, do tune in there, if you haven't already.

And I just wanted to say, if you are fighting this fight, or have fought it as well, you are not alone. Sometimes, there are people like me, fighting it right alongside you, and you aren't aware of our presence. In the same way, God stands by you in your fight, although you can't always sense God's presence. My love and hope to all of you, my blog friends!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

China Obsession

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I have a new obsession to report and it is china. I stumbled on this obsession by chance when planning a birthday party for my sister, who adores Jane Austen. I thought, why not a tea party theme, with authentic British china?

And down the china rabbit hole I plunged!

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I initially thought, quite erroneously, that it would be easy to find lovely teacups in my local Goodwills and thrift shops. Perhaps it once was, but I'm afraid the vintage teacup craze has resulted in there not being much out there to find. And when you do find it, you must buy it immediately, as there's no chance it will be there when you return.

I tried to find lovely pieces that were well-crafted, and that had some historical significance. These pieces were all created in a Blue Onion type design, which originated in the 1740's. There are actually 3 different china patterns up above, you might pick them out stylistically, but I think they blend nicely with each other.

The lovely teapot is a Winterling design that I think was made to look like Meissen and/or Czech Zweibelmuster designs. I can't pinpoint the date exactly from the mark, but it could be anywhere from the 1930's-60's. I love the blue rose finial on the lid.

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The teacup is Blue Danube, made in Japan, while the saucer and plate are Noritake Fair Wind - I scored a set of 4 saucers and 4 plates at Goodwill, for $6:

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Although it's a thrill to find lovely old things at cheap prices, I really enjoy just looking at all of the items, turning them over in my hands and learning to tell quality items from cheaply made, mass-produced ones.

For example, while I think this tiny (2 cup) Blue Willow Sadler teapot is gorgeous and glossy in person, I notice its little defects. There are little gold smears on the inside of the lid, and a raised dot or two.

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In its defense, it is lovely in person - the glaze plays tricks on your camera and makes outlines look rough, when in person they're quite crisp and nice.

There was a small chip on the underside of the spout which the Ebay seller didn't mention, so I unfortunately won't be using it. But I think it was a steal for the price and it is lovely to have around.

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Adorable, isn't it? Do any of you have a china collection? I'd love to hear about it! :)

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Knitting Retreat

Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog

I've just returned from a knitting retreat, it is my third year going and each time has been something special. This year was misty and grey each morning, a bit cool, perfect for walks and quiet times of solitude.

Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog

I worked on 2 hats, the first in a nice gray alpaca wool for my husband, and the second in this marvelous Liberty Wool in a shade called Painted Desert. It was donated by a local yarn shop, in the hopes that we might make something they could give away, which I did.

I cast on 88 stitches on size 6 and 7 needles, and as I knit pretty tightly it was rather small, hopefully perfect for a child's hat.

Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog
Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog

I really loved the unique colors in this yarn!

Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog
Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog

It was such a marvelous gift, watching these ladies knit, and spending time with them in quiet and sometime raucous and silly talk. :)

Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog
Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog
Knitting Retreat photos by floresita, from her blog

As I always say, I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Baby Hats for my godson

baby hats for my godson, by floresita for her blog

We had an unusual cold snap in early January, and all I could think about was my little godson's tiny head - yes, I'm sure his parents had prepared for winter, but as cold as it was, I knew he needed wool. I finally put to use some beautiful wool my dear friend Amanda had sent me when I was recovering from surgery over 2 years ago - this alpaca yarn was so divinely soft, I knew it must be for a special project:

baby hats for my godson, by floresita for her blog

I couple of my dear friends in NY sent me that adorable ribbon, and it was perfect for this little gift.

baby hats for my godson, by floresita for her blog

I used the free Very Basic Baby Beanie pattern on Ravelry and lo and behold, it was a perfect fit!

He also seems to find the wool quite tasty, added bonus. :)

dear Teddy, by floresita for her blog

Saturday, September 9, 2017

On the perils of keeping poisonous plants

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Although I'm fairly sure I've driven off most of my readers due to neglect of this blog, I'll ask a question of the ether: what are your feelings on keeping poisonous plants?

That beautiful Dieffenbachia plant above was so inviting in the plant nursery that I bought two, one for my mom, and one for myself. The label seemed to have all the pertinent info about it - the temperatures it likes, amount of sun, how often to water, etc.

Nowhere did the label mention: extremely poisonous plant. And yet it is!

I felt so guilty giving my mom that plant that I immediately called to warn her. It's the sap that's poisonous, not the leaves, so gloves and skin covering (and eye covering) should do when cutting in, and no getting it near eyes and mouth. I'm fairly ok with keeping this plant on the balcony, out of reach of my cat (and with no small children in my house).

This one, I'm not so sure about:
Euphorbia tirucalli

This cute, spindly cactus-like plant was a gift. Likewise it came with a nice, descriptive label which I ignored, and began hacking into the extra stems I wanted to prune off. My sharp shears caught on the stems, and in the process I got a mess of very sticky white sap all over my arms and hands. I was lucky I was wearing glasses, and I resisted the temptation to rub my eyes just in case. Also I think I was lucky in that my arms were covered with potting soil, which showed me just where to scrub - since the sap dries clear and colorless, like glue.

Of course, nowhere on the label of the Euphorbia Tirucalli did it mention how poisonous that sticky sap is. The nickname "firesticks" gives you a clue, though, as my Google research told me the sap can make your skin feel like it's on fire, and cause temporary to possibly permanent eye damage. I thoroughly scrubbed it off after thoroughly freaking myself out about it.

No reactions occurred until the next day, when I scooped up the clothes I was wearing to throw them in the wash. My arm immediately broke out into a hot, raised rash with tons of tiny blisters. All I did was touch the clothes for a second. I can only imagine what prolonged exposure would have done.

So I find myself very on the fence about this plant - I'm clumsy, and can easily imagine myself tumbling down on it. Would you keep a poisonous plant?

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Honeymoon of Plants

My caladium

Oh boy has it been a long time since I wrote here last, and in that time, I've gone absolutely bonkers for plants.

Another caladium

I'm not sure quite when it happened. Somewhere after the hubbub of moving into an apartment with my husband, newly married, enjoying the quiet of this new shared existence, I was drawn to plants like I've never been before.

Begonia rex

Don't get me wrong - I have always loved trees, flowers, and being outdoors. But that's where it generally ended - outdoors. Something about seeing plants in pots never gave me a thrill. Until recently.

Unfurling caladium leaf

Caladium leaf unfurled

There's something so fascinating and so pleasing about watching plants grow. Such a thrill in watching a leaf slowly unfurl. To notice a stem or a leaf has turned towards the sun. I can't describe it, I guess. But it's addictive and wonderful.

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And there's such a beautiful, wide assortment of plants, and in my climate, luckily I can grow them almost year round. Each day the balcony gets a new friend.

Pineapple plant

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Potted succulent head

Right now I'm taking supreme joy in watching a cane begonia my mom gave me sprout slowly from its roots:

New leaf

Where will it end? Who knows! So far, I've been having a lovely time with my new friends!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Vintage Wedding Inspiration


So, I have a problem. I live in the wrong decade for bridal wear. :)

One of the reasons I find it so hard to get excited about wedding dresses is... they just don't do it for me. After a few searches, my Pinterest account became hijacked with images of modern bridal wear, and I realized I don't like any of it.

But after a few searches for vintage bridal dresses I realized I love wedding dresses, just not the ones from this century. :)

So as I go to get fitted one more time, for a wedding dress that still doesn't fit right, enjoy these lovely bits of bridal inspiration from previous years, all pinned to my Vintage Weddings Pinterest board...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bride and Groom

Finished Bride and Groom hoops!

So I haven't been around here too much lately, but I have a very good reason for that - I'm engaged! I finally found the perfect person, and I couldn't be happier. But I've been plunged headfirst into the odd world of wedding planning. I feel very out of my element - I've never been the "plan your elaborate wedding since birth" type. I like things simple, but lovely, and I like things to be a certain way. And I also know I want to DIY as many things as I can without it looking too silly or taking on too much to handle.

As a result, I've started planning a few simple projects along the way, which I'll post monthly to Feeling Stitchy. The first project is up above, a free pattern for two Bride and Groom hoops. The design is very simple - just the lettering, but you can adapt it in just about any way possible - with beading, fabric, and wrapping your hoops in a decorative way.

I opted for our wedding colors - navy and ivory, using a navy linen I've used in previous projects. I also used DMC Snow White for the bride hoop and DMC 822 (an Ecru shade) for the Groom hoop. I wrapped the hoops in ivory and light grey bias tape to give them a neat look. I also love the Chantilly lace on the bride hoop and delicate stitches on the groom hoop.

Did you DIY anything for your wedding? Would you like to see a DIY project in particular? Let me know! :)