Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top Ten Things to Know About Recovering from Breast Cancer

  • You will no longer by shy about exposing your chest. If a doctor asks you to undress, you will, right in front of him, no gown necessary. Oops. 

  • Your hugging technique will change. You'll find yourself turning your body to hug people sideways, so that the rock of an expander isn't pushing into them. Unfortunately, the time when you least want to hug people is the time when they most want to hug you, so you'll have no choice but to learn the technique.

  •  Many people know about "chemo curl." (Your formerly straight hair grows back curly after chemotherapy.) However, you may not know this: the carpet no longer matches the drapes. After chemo, the hair on your head grows back curly. The hair in the lower forty grows back straight.

  • Chemo-brain is real. You will start browning meat for dinner, go to the pantry to get a can of beef broth, forget what you wanted to get, think of something to look up and only when the house fills with smoke will you remember what you were originally doing. This behavior is not confined to the home. My office is a mess, with handwritten notes everywhere, saying things like "order paper" and "pizza on Friday" and "strategic plan." If I don't write something down immediately, it's gone forever.

  • Your body loses all its ability to control temperature. You learn to dress in layers and are chronically taking off sweaters and putting them back on. You'll have a heater and a fan on your desk and alternate using them all day long. All those notes you need to write things down as a substitute for your lost memory? Invest in paperweights!

  • You will think everybody who is bald or has very short hair just finished chemo.

  •  People who need to see your driver's license will give it and you a good once-over. You will get in the habit of saying "Yes, I changed my hair."

  •  At some point, you'll get a headache, or sleep wrong and get a stiff neck, or feel a strange ache. You no longer will ignore it, thinking it's one of those things. Your first thought will be "has cancer spread to my brain? is it in my bones?" This will even happen if you skin your shin or stub your toe or get the flu. All pains lead to cancer.

  • You will take the month of October personally

  • You will no longer worry about getting old.


  1. Ann,
    I've had to show my drivers licence several times while on holiday this last week and have had to repeatedly assure people that yes, that is really me. And, alas, I also no longer worry about growing old... I already feel 90 from the tamox side effects :)

  2. It's funny the double-takes you get! Especially for me, because the color is so different. People keep asking me if I'm going to keep it this way. I get compliments..but I still can't get used it it and it's been months.

  3. CoolBreeze, I recognize your name from the boards. I think we were diagnosed within days of each other last year. Good to see you doing well and looking good. You are 100% right -- I watched Survivor last night and thought "Hmmmm, that lady's hair is short. Wonder if she's been through chemo?" //grin. Thanks for the smile. Portergirl99

  4. Exactly, exactly, uh huh, yup, me too --straight down the line!

    I happened to have had my driver's license picture taken wearing my hair-hat (aka..wig) and drawn on eyes. Gawd!!

  5. This was so funny. I totally relate to the new hugging technique. I have two expanders in (since June) and boy am I careful hugging people, even my husband!They are almost mini weapons capable of bodily harm!
    I really enjoy the humor in your posts!


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