It’s messy –

I found out that my SIL has breast cancer. I don’t know many details. We aren’t close. I want to be a support for her, obviously, but I also don’t know that I’m actually the best person to be there for her. Yes, I understand the challenges she’s currently facing, but I’m over here on an entirely different journey now. So I’m struggling with how to help or if she even wants to interact with me. After all, I’m a reminder of how badly this can end, ykwim?

We MBC ladies don’t typically interact with early stagers much. We have our own support groups, our own issues to face. This isn’t just a chapter in the book of our lives; it becomes the entire end of the novel, and we hope for as many chapters as possible. We’re not going to ring the bell at the end of treatment. It’s just not the same, and I’m struggling with my feelings around this, because I’ve done both. I rang the bell. I thought I was finished with this, and yet here I am. How can I offer support or inspiration to anyone at this point?

Sigh.

Fuck cancer.

The waiting.

On my way to the cancer center, I try to condition myself to hear bad news.

“There has been progression to the liver.”

“We see nodules in your lungs.”

“There are numerous new lesions to the spine.”

“The lymph nodes in your stomach grew.”

“Your tumor markers keep rising.”

“We will need to try a new treatment.”

No matter what I hear today, good or bad, I won’t cry in the office. I always save that for the car ride home. Except for the first time – when they told me I would lose my hair. I cried that time; sobbed in the office. Never again.

As I sit in the waiting room, I feel surprisingly calm. I can handle whatever the future holds.

the vag laser!

Yep – you read that title correctly. haha

Yesterday afternoon, I had treatment 1 of 3 of Femilift laser therapy.

How does it work?

Femilift works using precision laser technology via a probe that goes into the vagina. The laser beam leads to microablation of the vaginal tissue to break down old collagen and stimulate your body to produce healthy, new collagen and elastin. The vaginal tissue also develops new blood vessels that allow for increased lubrication and better vaginal health overall.

What does it treat?

Femilift is a choice for women of all ages. Whether you are postmenopausal or postpartum, Femilift treats the symptoms of declining estrogen levels such as dryness, burning, irritation, itching, and urinary leakage.

My experience:

I had to insert 5 ml of lidocaine into my vagina an hour prior to the procedure to help numb the area. Once I arrived, I undressed, feet in the stirrups, and put on a pair of metal goggles to protect my eyes from the laser. My doc inserted the probe and made three passes at varying strengths, which took a total of about 15 minutes. It was definitely painful – especially around the vaginal opening, which is where most of the nerve endings are located. I can’t have sex (or insert anything vaginally) for two days, and I go back in four weeks for my next treatment. I’m definitely uncomfortable, but I feel really good about it, and think it is worth it. I hope I see results soon!

How Much?

It’s not covered by insurance, though it absolutely should be. Don’t get me started on that. The three sessions total around $2k, and then you will need one session per year @ $650 for maintenance. If you can afford it, I think this is a great option for menopausal women – particularly for my estrogen based cancer ladies.

Local ladies – check out my doc. She’s fucking fabulous.
https://www.evorabydrbeckylynn.com/

I never really thought I’d be doing vaginal rejuvenation, but here we are. This is where being diagnosed with breast cancer at 33yo and being estrogen deprived for eight years will lead you. I’ve gotta get my bang on, ykwim? I feel so lucky that this treatment is an option for me.

treatment updates

Oof – the chemo brain is real. I’m just walking around in a perpetual brain fog. I used to be sharp; a bitch with a long ass memory. Nowadays, I can’t remember if I did something five minutes ago. Today I forgot that my child was in the house until he said good morning to me. I was legit startled. I didn’t set an alarm to wake him up for school, but luckily D did it for me. I took Trazadone and Tylenol PM last night, and finally got some good sleep. Fuck I needed it. I feel like a human instead of a zombie today.

Talked to my psychiatrist this morning. She is fucking amazeballs. She’s got a drug for everything and isn’t afraid to use that prescription pad. I have learned just how important palliative care is when living with MBC, so I am forever grateful to her. I will be starting gabapentin tonight, which should help with pain, anxiety, and sleep, but most importantly, it is supposed to be a miracle worker for hot flashes/night sweats. I am super excited. I wake up several times a night drenched in sweat. It is no bueno.

She even mentioned going on a low dose of Ritalin in the future to help with my brain fog/concentration issues. We aren’t there yet, but it’s good to know it’s available if/when I need it.

I also started a super low dose estrogen suppository this week, which will help plump up my vag tissue. I have some atrophy from all the years of estrogen suppression, and sex has gotten a bit painful. Y’all know this bitch loves to fuck, so I told my doc we had to fix it. I am not afraid to talk to my doctors about sex, and I write candidly about these things here because this blog has become a resource for women living with breast cancer. The drug I’m using is called Imvexxy, and I can honestly already tell a slight difference after just one dose. I know a lot of women with ER/PR+ breast cancer (like mine) are reluctant to try low dose estrogen, but the studies show that it is safe, and doesn’t enter the bloodstream, when used vaginally. It really does make a HUGE difference, too.

I have a consultation in a couple of weeks with my plastic surgeon regarding Geneveve, which is a procedure that restores collagen in the vagina. We will have to pay out of pocket for it, as it is considered an elective procedure (don’t get me started on this bullshit), but it will be well worth it considering the reviews I have read. I feel lucky that it is something we can afford to do, and I am hopeful that I will have good results.

So yeah – I’m fighting the disease itself but also the side effects of the treatments. I don’t know how much time I have left, but I intend to squeeze out every last ounce of enjoyment I can. What is the point of fighting to live as long as possible if we are miserable the entire time?

Don’t ignore stage 4

It’s breast cancer awareness month. Everything is going to sport a pink ribbon. Everyone will talk about saving the tatas, and fighting like a girl, etc. But nobody talks about metastatic breast cancer. Why? Simply put: mbc makes people uncomfortable. Because there’s no cure, approximately 40,000 women (and men) die from mbc each year. My goal, not only this month, but every day for as long as I have, is to teach you about mbc. Those of us thriving with mbc are tired of being breast cancer awareness month’s dirty little secret.

Marked

I like that you can see the marks left on my body from cancer. My port scar from chemo. The cancer boob with the slight dent. The mandala tattoos where nipples should be. The tiny black radiation tattoos on my chest and stomach. The tiny scars on my stomach from my hysterectomy/oophorectomy. I hate on my body a lot, I know, but this bitch has fought hard and is not only surviving, but thriving. I’m now, at 41, finally learning to be comfortable in my own skin. The scars, the wrinkles, the extra fat around my midsection – I’m thankful for all of it, because it means I’m still here.