Hopeful Updates and a Quick PSA!

Hopeful Updates and a Quick PSA!

Well, about 10 days have passed since my last chemo (still celebrating!), and I thought I’d update everyone on the emotional roller coaster that was the last week. It’s been surprisingly eventful!

I took the past week off to get a few appointments and scans done. I forgot to update on this, but on my last day of chemo last week, my manager at work notified me that we’ll be closing our COVID negative results call center at the end of this week (Nov. 7). It’s not lost on me how lucky I was to be able to have work through this pandemic, especially a safe job that I was able to do from home. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that chemo and that job will be ending at the same time. Time to start thinking about going back to some patient care (eventually)!

On Wednesday, I repeated my mammogram and ultrasound. Mammo was quick & easy but the tech was running behind so didn’t say much about anything she might’ve seen on the images. I’m able to see the ultrasound, however, and it was clear that there continues to be a small mass (6mm – about 1/3 the size of my original tumor) still remaining in my left breast. The poor ultrasound tech probably felt weird with me reading over her shoulder because she called in the radiologist who reminded me that the MRI would give more information. Because the MRI is done with contrast dye, any cancer cells will light up on the image. If no “lights,” then the mass may just be scar tissue.

Thursday morning, I had my MRI, and then in the afternoon I went in to my oncologist’s office for (hopefully) my last Zoladex injection (#SaveTheOvaries). I ran into my oncology APRN there and he printed the impression from my mammo & ultrasound for me and just casually mentioned, “The MRI showed nothing.” I won’t really believe it until I see the words on paper, and don’t worry I’ve been obsessively opening MyChart to see if the results are online. Not yet. Still, not yet. But I’m currently taking his word for it just so I can sleep at night.

Quick PSA: If you have “dense” or “very dense” breasts, a mammogram can be less accurate at detecting tumors or calcifications in the breast. You should talk with your doctor about what other imaging can be done to be sure nothing is ever missed!
I’m going to post pictures below of my mammogram and ultrasound impressions to give you an example.

Otherwise, yesterday was Halloween, and I couldn’t miss a chance to dress up again! (Last year we landed in Japan at midnight on Halloween, and I wasn’t packing a costume with me.) Last night, Justin & I were able to get together for a socially distant dinner with his sister and her boyfriend which was so fun and I’m looking forward to getting to see more friends and family now that I won’t be so immunocompromised. We also got to make a quick pit stop at our friends’ place to see their new baby so all is right in the world ❤

And, as today is November 1, we are celebrating el Dia de los Muertos and reminding you to #FeelItOnTheFirst!! The first of the month is the perfect time for you do your monthly breast/chest self-exam!

Check yoself!

Due to COVID, breast cancer diagnoses are down by 51.8% — NOT because less people are getting cancer, but because they aren’t going in for their appointments! DO NOT DELAY your mammograms and OB/GYN appointments – your doctors and clinics are doing everything they can to keep you safe during this time. It could save your life!
*Remember: Men can get breast cancer, too, so encourage the men in your life to do their screenings!

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming to a close, please remember that breast cancer research does not stop needing support at the end of October and cancer survivors do no stop needing support once they’re “cured.” The fear of recurrence and survivorship in general evoke just as many emotions as the diagnosis and treatment. Treat everyone with a little grace and consider donating to cancer research if you have the means. I outlined some great breast cancer organizations in my previous post.

In case you’re following my Instagram page (@bri.d.pt), my sister-in-law Marisa & I had a great conversation about the inevitable thoughts of death/dying after receiving a cancer diagnosis or terminal illness. Check it out! If you’re interested in an intuitive angel card reading with Marisa, you can book one here!

I hope you all have a great week! Please stay healthy and safe, wear your masks, and wash your hands! Going into the holiday season, we want to be able to spend time with family and friends so the safer, the better!

Aloha ❤

Transgender Health & Breast Cancer

Transgender Health & Breast Cancer

As research builds for our transgender community, cancer screenings and preventative health must be encouraged. As hormonal therapy and surgery are often part of transitioning, trans people should be aware of their risk of developing certain cancers including breast cancer, reproductive cancers, or prostate cancer dependent on their individual treatment.

Risk of Breast Cancer in Trans Women

According to a Dutch study from 2019, for a trans female on hormonal therapy, the risk of developing breast cancer is slightly higher than in the cisgender male population, but still lower than the general cisgender female population.1 Just as hormonal replacement therapy has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in a post-menopausal cisgender female population, so it is for trans women.

Another Dutch study from 2013 noted that 60% of trans women whose records were reviewed in the study had dense or very dense breasts which is known to limit effectiveness of mammogram studies and puts someone at increased individual risk for breast cancer in all populations.2

Those with BRCA1/BRCA2 genetic mutations likely also have an increased risk of breast cancer, although more research is needed specifically for the transgender population. If someone has a BRCA mutation or significant family history of breast cancer, they should discuss screening options with their healthcare providers.

Risk of Breast Cancer in Trans Men

For trans men on hormonal therapy, the risk of developing breast cancer is lower than in the cisgender female population. Trans men also may choose to have top surgery which could include a breast reduction or removal of the breasts (bilateral mastectomy). The risk of developing breast cancer after mastectomy in this population is unknown at this time.1,3

Breast Cancer Screenings for the Trans Population

In the United States, some studies show that transgender people are less adherent to mammogram screening guidelines than cisgender people (often due to stigma or limited access to healthcare).4 However, it is important for these screenings to take place regularly as early detection of breast cancer can save lives.

Current guidelines for trans women who are age 50 or older and have been on hormonal therapy >5 years, a mammogram is recommended every 2 years.1

Trans men who have not had bilateral mastectomy or who only had a breast reduction should undergo an annual mammogram after age 40. After age 50, mammograms can be done every 2 years (but can be continued annually dependent on patient risk and preference). For trans men who have had bilateral mastectomy, chest wall examinations are recommended.3

Breast/Chest self-exams are recommended monthly for both transgender and cisgender populations to pick up early signs of cancer! To learn more about how to do a self-exam, see my previous post here.

Aloha ❤

Tips for Chemo-Induced Hair Loss

Tips for Chemo-Induced Hair Loss

So far things are going pretty well after my 2nd AC treatment last week. I caught up on plenty of sleep, forced fluids and attempted some short walks. I feel better today and according to my lab work, my white count is looking good this time around!

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working on my mindset around everything cancer, and as positive as I may come off on here, I forget to share that there are very real moments of anxiety and sadness that come with a cancer diagnosis. It’s important to me that I don’t put on a false front that “even though I have cancer, I’m totally fine.”

Yeah. There have been a few breakdowns here and there, especially this past week when my hair started falling out in big clumps in the shower. That’ll make a girl cry for sure. I have always been one to try different cuts and colors in my hair, but going bald wasn’t exactly on my list of things to try in my 30’s.

All jokes aside, it was a pretty emotional experience so I asked my husband if he’d shave it for me. Mind you, this is his first time using clippers and he nailed it! Taking control of the situation really helped ease my mind. Also, phone calls with your bestie and making inappropriate jokes really helps!

Here’s a few tips I’ve learned for chemo-induced hair loss:

  • Wash with baby shampoo for several weeks before hair falls out. My oncology APRN recommended this and I think it’s helped to reduce scalp sensitivity with the hair falling out.
  • Cut your hair in stages if you don’t feel comfortable shaving it right off the bat. I ended up loving my short pixie cut and it gave me an idea of what styles I can try as my hair grows back out!
  • Use coconut oil or lotion to moisturize the scalp after shaving and give yourself a little scalp massage to relax while you’re there!
  • Play around with fun head wraps, hats, and wigs OR just rock the bald look and show off your cancer warrior status. I just ordered some super cute, high quality head wraps from The Wrap Life and highly recommend (Click the link for $5 off your first wrap)!
  • Unofficial advice: Google pics of “bald female celebrities” and know you can rock that look too!

One more reminder as I wrap up today – It’s time to #FeelItOnTheFirst! Do your monthly self breast exam – it takes about 5 minutes and could be the most important thing you do all week! If you’re not sure what to look for or how to do one, check out my earlier post here!

Sending lots of aloha to you all today!


Mindful Breathing

Mindful Breathing

Happy Aloha Monday!

Photo by Naman Nayar on Pexels.com

Just a quick update today – It was a busy weekend with having my chemo port placed on Friday and my egg retrieval procedure today. Both went as well as possible and I’m so thankful the recovery has been really smooth.

I’ve been finding myself needing to take more “mindful minutes” to myself in the past week since starting chemo next week has me a bit anxious. In this video, I’ll teach you my favorite mindful breathing exercise to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system when you only have a minute or two during your busy day.

Feel free to add in your own affirmation with each breath or you could even do some EFT tapping as well! Some of my favorite affirmations are:

  • I am grounded & safe.
  • I am loved and cared for deeply.
  • I choose to live with joy and love.
  • I am enough.
  • I can heal my body.

P.S. June 1st means it’s time to do your monthly breast self-exam!! For more info on how and why to do a self-exam, check out my earlier post here. #EarlyDetectionSavesLives