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  • Writer's pictureAja McDonald

13 Week Summary

Photo: the fabulousness of Leo watching over me.

✨ It’s been 13 weeks since my mastectomy surgery, 9 weeks since I started chemo (with an intense fortnightly dose that has ended thankfully), and 5 days since I started the next round of weekly chemo.

✨ The steroids and chemo treatments have resulted in complete hair loss, massive mood swings and major weight gain. One of the hardest things to deal with when you lose connection with your body while it fights for a better day. I have found wearing head scarves be be the best option over wigs and have enjoyed lounging around home in shorts and tank tops.

✨ I’ve had hormone therapy treatment that has resulted in extreme fatigue (on top of the fatigue my body already had been experiencing) and hot flashes while we’ve been having a nice warm sunny Dunedin summer. Making homemade green tea lemonade has helped me have something to look forward to when it comes to keeping hydrated and replacing my Swiss gold filtered coffee since I’ve lost tolerance to its caffeine.

✨ While on chemo, I can’t go out in the sun due to the risks of chemo so I’ve been mostly indoors and unable to drive anywhere with a foggy mind and focus 10 out of 14 days at a time. Depending on others has played on my mental health as I’ve always been quite independent. Having to stop and experience complete physical and mental weakness (because your body really can’t even) is a game changer. In order to help combat this, I had my husband help me set up my hammock and umbrella so I can at least enjoy fresh air and the view of our growing garden space.

✨ On a positive note, six weeks after my surgery I started funded physio sessions and have had three sessions specifically focused on healing nerve damage on my left side and into left arm due to 27 lymph nodes being removed (of them 4 were cancerous). My range of motion since I first started had doubled and I’m excited to move into more full body healing. And being able to get into more intense gardening work that I’m still having to put on hold!

Yesterday, I had my first emergency where I was sitting at my dining table journaling and preparing to have a zoom meeting with my naturopath when I felt a heavy pain in my chest, more intense than what I had experienced just after surgery. When a minute passed, I yelled for my husband out of concern and he immediately messaged the cancer care nurses.

As I continued on with my zoom meeting, I mentioned this experience to my naturopath while it had finally calmed down a little and moved into my shoulder blade area. I figured it couldn’t be indigestion because I was on medication my oncologist prescribed for me and hadn’t had any symptoms of it since.

My resting heart rate had been high for just over a week, and I did have a bit of anxiety several days before as I had to have an MRI to have a closer look at my liver. This was the second time I’ve had an MRI for the liver (the first was right before I had my surgery where a spot of interest was detected and was revisited just to be safe) and honestly I found it hard due to the fact that you are prompted to breathe and then exhale and hold your breath many times over the hour that you are there. Having asthma, I never know what kind of day I’m going to have when these appointments turn up. And so, as you can imagine, my day was a bit hard with how fatigued I have been. Half way through my lungs had about enough of it all and anxiety started to take hold. I still powered through it all and thankfully the MRI results turned up the same day and I was told just before my chemo treatment that there were no signs of concern with my liver. Whoop!

While my naturopath and I went through my chest pains symptoms, I was made aware that it perhaps could be a result of my liver working overtime with the effects of chemo. When you have more fatty foods (we had takeaway burgers the night before – something different to the usual balanced meals we have at dinner time) this can lead to such symptoms. Keeping this in mind, my husband had updated me that the nurses at the cancer care clinic suggested I go to the ER and have things checked out.

I have had everything under control when it comes to managing symptoms so far but this was one thing I just didn’t want to ignore. When it comes to chest pain and chemotherapy, you cannot ignore even the smallest pain. Now having compromised health I am not one to take chances, and there are way too many unknown things that could have caused this.

So, my husband brought me down to the ER where we waited in line until a nurse came out and asked if anyone was experiencing chest pain. I was immediately brought back and put into the system.

I was given a bed, blood pressure checked, heart rate monitored and then moved to my own space where I would then go through a ECG, blood tests, and X-ray. Even thou everything seemed to be fine, my doctor didn’t want to ignore the fact I’m on chemo and blood clots could be an issue, so she ordered a CT Scan to be done. Honestly, I end up being the biggest nerd when I get all this kind of attention. I always feel like I’m getting called onto a photoshoot and then get mesmerised by the science and equipment. If anything, the specialists get a kick out of it and I move on with my day knowing my curious mind may have added a positive spark in what could be someone’s long and stressful day.

We were at the public hospital for around 6 hours total then finally got to go home with the good news that I would be ok. The fact that my resting heart rate is high and that chest pain happened could most likely be a symptom of the chemotherapy. Peace of mind is a powerful tool, even thou my adventurous curious mind was now dead and not interested in any more special photoshoots this day.

The one thing I am looking forward to most this week is that I will have my last steroid with this weeks treatment and then should not need to take them after with the following treatments. This will allow my body some space to process all the weight I’ve gained on them and hopefully smooth out some of that “Hulk Bulk” I’m carrying 😅

I have to give another shout out to my wonderful, patient husband who never left my side – until we were told (about 3 hours in) that bringing food back to my bed would be ok. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast so getting McDonalds was the best part of the experience ever (I know, more fatty food for my liver- but I was precisely where I needed to be if symptoms decided to come play!) So thank you, amazing husband, for always supporting me, feeding me and keeping me entertained while our poor bodies experienced ultimate boredom and soreness from sitting through that medical adventure.

As I move forward, I have found updating my blog to be more of a chore as I have limited energy and have many messages to answer, updating friends and family on my status. I appreciate so much those who reach out as I have never been the best at reaching out due to how busy I was with work before having to stop. I’m still working on that and appreciate everyone that checks in and hasn’t given up on me yet ❤️

For now, I feel that my energy is being called to keeping the balance of my Patreon in focus as I have patrons that have signed up for the benefits I want to provide. I am so grateful for this as I need to keep structure in order to not fully feel like I’ve lost my creative lively hood. It’s been hard not being able to have the energy to create every day, but knowing I have monthly goals and people that support them is what helps me push through to the other side. If you would like to check my Patreon out, there is also a 7 day free trial available with my Chrysanthemum tier. Click the link below to have a look!





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