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Chemotherapy

I started my Chemo journey at Loma Linda University Medical Center. It was both a terrifying & amazing experience. My first chemo cocktail was a weekly infusion of Taxol and monthly infusions of Herceptin, and Zometa. I am hormone receptor positive (ER+) & HER2+. Every tuesday, Russell and I would drive 1 hour down the mountain to spend all day at the infusion center.

My oncologist, dr. Yuan, was extremely intelligent but not at all comforting. She often paired good news with bad and focused on how sorry she was that I was at Stage 4. she told me she didn't want to give me any false hope. I completely trusted her judgement regarding treatment but geez, what a downer! 

I made many friends in the chemo waiting area. Women would come up to me with positive vibes and share their experiences. I swapped healthy recipes with other cancer patients & it was a joy to see them each week. the nurses in the infusion center were completely amazing. They gave me hope and encouragement- I remember on my first day a nurse came up to me and said, "you're young.. you don't have to worry about the things these older women are dealing with. You're going to be fine!" It really stuck with me because it was so kind, comforting, and positive. 

After a few weeks my psychologist started a support group for 20-Somethings with cancer. There were 3 of us. It felt so good to meet these girls and to listen to each other's stories. We had almost identical diagnosis stories, fears, and issues. Steroids we hate you!! It was so nice to share, connect, and be heard. 

within 2 weeks of chemotherapy i started to lose my hair. 
i shaved it all off on my lunch break one day.

Kim with her newly shaven head after starting to lose it from chemotherapy.
Feb 2012

I've been very lucky to have almost no side effects from chemo. While i was on taxol i was pumped with steroids and I gained a lot of weight. I had one physical reaction on my 3rd chemo treatment from the chemo being administered too fast; it was completely terrifying. The nurses were right there to shut off the machine and within minutes I was fine. The nurses took care of me and somehow convinced me to return the following week (hah); I've never physically reacted that way again. Throughout my treatment so far, I have maintained my appetite, have no nausea, and have never been sick. I sometimes (still) get cramps but otherwise I have plenty of energy and try to stay active. I've had very little neuropathy but did start to lose my fingernails. I also had dry and darkening skin on my hands, but I bought an aloe lotion that worked wonders. of course, all my hair fell out (hair, eyebrows, eyelashes). it sucks but makeup, wigs, and scarfs are lifesavers.

After 3 months of chemotherapy i had my first set of scans. The results were truly amazing! The bone scans showed scaring and healing. The CT scan showed the cancer in my left breast was completely gone. Lastly, the CT scan of my abdomen showed the smaller tumors in my liver were gone and the largest tumor shrunk from 4.8cm to 1.9 cm. Russell & I jumped for joy and we've never seen Dr. Yuan so happy. We decided to continue my chemotherapy since it's working & we want get the rest of the cancer out! 
After a few more chemo sessions, Russell & I decided to move back to my hometown of San Diego. Even though quitting my job resulted in losing my insurance I was lucky enough to find the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (BCCTP)- A government funded insurance for Breast cancer patients. I also am able to collect disability through the state of California. We said our many goodbyes & set up an appointment with Dr. Sinclair at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. I am so much happier being closer to my friends and family & living a more stress-free life. 

My consultation with Dr. Sinclair was very empowering and successful. I finally knew what I wanted in an oncologist and I wasn't willing to settle. We shared the same positivity, interest in nutrition/exercise, and ultimate goal: remission! The nurses are lovely & the atmosphere is totally different. The infusion center is much smaller & I'm only in treatment for 2-3 hours instead of 4-6. After a few weeks at scripps my fingernails were falling off and becoming infected. After soaking them everyday in white vinegar and taking antibiotics we decided to switch up my treatment. My new chemo cocktail includes Herceptin, Zometa, and a chemo called Abraxane (a newer form of Taxol). My new treatment is great because it does not require steroids (yay!) and it is less toxic. My nails have recovered and are almost grown out. My hair is even growing back! I have eyelashes again, almost eyebrows, and my hair is getting thicker and longer. It's so neat... I rock it without hats.

I had new scans at the 6 month mark of chemotherapy. The scans once again brought great news. No cancer in my left breast, no growth in my bones (possibly cancer-free but it's difficult to tell), and only a 1.2cm tumor in my liver. My oncologist said I'm about 10% from being considered in remission. My RN was almost in tears- just so happy to see great results. She said she reviews my scans each time I come to treatment because it's not often she gets to see such awesome results. 

today, I'm continuing my chemo journey. if it ain't broke, don't fix it! I'm happy to be so close to remission. I'm trying to live a stress-free, healthy, and active life. I really feel that being happy and positive helps my body fight cancer. Add cancer-fighting foods in the mix & cancer doesn't stand a chance!

Kim in a pink dress and her boyfriend Russell dressed up nicely to celebrate her 26th birthday in front of Olive Garden.

I Celebrated my 26th birthday with my boyfriend, Russell.
August 21, 2012
Update: As of March 6, 2013 scans show I'm cancer-Free! Continuing tamoxifen, herceptin, and Zometa as a backup. MY doctor's orders are to live a long and happy life!
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