ITW n°23: Dorothée – ex K fighter.
This week the talented Dorothée // illustrator of Rosedraft Illustration : tells us about her battle and her tips against her ex K of the breast :)
First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to share your K's story, it's really courageous and generous of you :) Together we are stronger
Let's get started:
Who are you ?
First name: Dorothée
Age: 45 years old
Where do you live: In Ardèche near Aubenas
Why are you agreeing to share your story today?
An important thing during my treatment was the information and discussions that I was able to have with women who were going through or had gone through the battle with breast cancer. When the diagnosis falls, it is the great journey into the unknown. As each patient is different, oncologists minimize side effects so that you don't rush out of the hospital. So we fall back on the internet where we sometimes find anything and everything. It is important to talk without taboo about illness, chemo, fear of death. Without falling into pathos, without miserabilism. With honesty and confidence in the future.
What are your qualities (in a few words)?
Creativity and patience.
What are your passions (in a few words)?
My passion is my job: drawing.
Can you summarize your (K fighter) story for us ?
In June 2012, I discovered a lump under my right armpit. A year before, a childhood friend (we were born on the same day, a kind of cosmic twin) died of breast cancer. In my head it's obvious. Before even consulting I know that I have cancer BUT I know that I will be cured of it.
I quickly put myself into warrior mode. With my head shaved even before the first chemo, I was determined to kill this alien.
In a few words, my treatment lasted a year: chemo, mastectomy, radiotherapy.
Looking back, this year was the longest of my life. But on the other hand, as time passes, bad memories and pain fade away. The scars remain. They don't really bother me. They are the symbol of my battle won.
Can you tell us:
What K (what cancer - grade if you wish / stage ditto):
An SBR stage 1 infiltrating ductal adenocarcinoma, 18mm long, in the upper right quadrant of the right breast.
When was it discovered? How old were you ?
In June 2012, I was 42 years old.
Under what circumstances was it discovered?
While taking my shower I felt then saw a lump coming out from under my right armpit. With a mother who had breast cancer at a fairly young age and a childhood friend who had just passed away, my antennae quickly made the connection. At the end of the morning I went to see my general practitioner, the next day I had a mammogram and 2 days later I met my oncologist.
If you are currently undergoing treatment, or in remission (for how long?)
I finished my treatment in June 2013. So in remission for 2 years.
What treatment did you have?
chemo: if you have had it: name of the cocktails
I had neo-adjuvent chemo of 4 sessions of FEC spaced 3 weeks apart, then 4 sessions of Taxotere spaced 3 weeks apart.
radiotherapy: if you have had it:
I had 24 sessions of radiotherapy after the mastectomy.
operations if you have had them (how long you were hospitalized):
I started by placing a PAC in the jugular vein before chemo. After the 8 chemo sessions, the surgeon performed a lumpectomy. Then, given the results of the biopsy, I underwent a mastectomy and an axillary dissection a month later.
A year after the end of active treatment, I began my breast reconstruction using liposculpture. I had 2 reconstruction procedures. 2 more to come at least.
Biopsy, placement of an archwire to guide the surgeon before the lumpectomy.
What tips directly related to K do you want to share?
(your feeling with the doctor, your good treatment organization plans, anything that seems useful to you ;))?
During and/or after K
1/ chemo: the helmet, your affinities with the nurses,
How did you live the day before, the same day, the days after?
And what were your tips?
The problem with chemo every 21 days is that you are asked to return to the hospital on the ONE day you finally feel well. Unless you're a masochist, you have to be really motivated to go there singing...
Every day spent in the hospital for chemo, I told myself that there was only more left... And like a marathon runner, I wanted to last the long time.
On the other hand, being in the oncology department regularly made me feel like “family”. No need to hide behind scarves and “everything is fine” postures. Everyone here suffers. We don't need to talk or explain to understand each other.
I was lucky to have a good healthcare team so no worries with the oncologists. For the nurses, depending on how they looked, I knew whether or not I was going to have major side effects. With a gentle, caring nurse who takes the time, everything was fine. With her colleague too fast, upset by her overtime, overwhelmed by the number of patients: side effects guaranteed!
I still don't understand why they give you food during your chemo. Just the smell of the meal trays in the corridors makes you want to vomit... I have also noticed that doing chemo on an empty stomach reduces the effects.
Filled with cortisone, I returned home without any problem. Then at the end of the day the side effects would arrive for 20 days.
2/ hospital: nurse / doc / caregiver contact
The oncology and surgical nursing staff were really great. Considering their workload, they really gave their best.
After the mastectomy, my bedroom became the latest fashionable living room. I was allowed to visit the AS regularly for a coffee, a cake… They seemed amazed by my good humor even though one of my breasts had just been removed. I saw that the chemo was OVER and that my alien was GONE. So everything is relative!
3/ alternative medicine, if you have done so
I did not use alternative medicine. Usually a fan of these practices, I didn't think they could help me with the toxic cocktails that were being put into my veins by the liter. But sophrology, meditation and yoga really helped me get through it.
What did you do to clear your mind/clear your head (before chemo, surgery & co)?
I was thinking about the progress of the treatment. At each stage, at each ordeal, I said to myself: “that’s done”. Like a very long list that we cross off gradually. First a quarter, then half, 2/3 of the treatment... The closer we get to the end, the more we say to ourselves, after everything I've been through, I must not give in now.
I quickly realized that my life after treatment would no longer be subway, work, sleep. For several years I had been considering a career change without ever taking the plunge. This was the opportunity. So I signed up for a training course by correspondence and videoconference to progress at my own pace. The school director played nice by adapting the curriculum to my situation. So, during the good days of chemo, between two operations and radiotherapy I escaped into my drawing, perspective and art history classes.
One activity that has helped me a lot is knitting. I made miles of jacquard and Irish sweaters for my darling. After the mastectomy, the movement of the needles helped my arm regain strength and mobility. And it’s a calming activity. I took books that were a bit technical, to concentrate on the diagram. Every rank was a victory. As a metaphor for my efforts to defeat the K.
What practical tips can you advise us?
During and/or after K
1/ beauty: magic creams / scars & co
A magic cream, Avibon. To moisturize your skin, so as not to lose your nails. Unfortunately I believe it is no longer sold. You can replace it with the “8 hour cream Elizabeth Arden” but there, it’s no longer the same budget…
For the scars I had light therapy sessions with my physiotherapist. http://www.medecin-laseriste.com/index.php/info-des-patients/35-info-patients/234-led-ou-luminotherapie-esthetique-quest-ce-que-cest-
I also bought an aloe vera to apply the clear gel from the inner part directly to the scars. With daily application the results are spectacular.
2/ look, your favorite look chemo, hospital, every day to feel good
I shaved my head before the first chemo. I started with an ultra short cut as soon as the diagnosis was made and then the hairdresser came to the house with the clippers. I only wanted my loved ones to see my slowly falling mane. As I was a fighter, I took the lead on the illness so as to be the one to decide from the outset. As the hairdresser used the clippers, I had a vision of shorn post-war women. I clenched my fists to keep from crying and it passed.
I had lots of scarves of all colors. I found them cheap on the market. After looking at accessories for chemo patients on the internet, I quickly understood that it was a real business... The hardest part was losing my eyebrows. I found that my face was losing its character and the K was gaining on me. So I switched to wigs. In an afro store I got some with very long hair that fell to my butt. Depending on my mood, I had a different look every day.
For clothes I found large organic linen tunic dresses on Etsy that came from Thailand. With the cortisone and even if my weight remained stable, I was swelling like a balloon. It is important to have clothes that make you feel good. My skin, dried out by chemo, couldn't stand synthetic materials. So it was tunics, scarves, jeans and flat shoes, a bit of a bohemian chic look.
Living in the countryside, I enjoyed the little moments of happiness that nature gave me. The wind in the trees, the birds, the color of the sky, the warmth of the sun on my skin...
3/ daily (sport, food & co)
I, who was a real carnivore, became almost vegetarian during chemo and I stayed that way. I was lucky to have a father-in-law with a generous vegetable garden. Every day I had my basket of fresh fruits and vegetables.
During a period, with chemo, I lost my taste. My mouth was made of cardboard, full of canker sores, in short, a horror. The only foods I “smelled” were blue cheese and sausage!
All this to say that when it comes to food, you have to follow your desires. The main thing is not to throw them up! For this too I had a technique, when I was in a period where I vomited a lot, I favored foods that were easy to regurgitate: bananas, compotes, etc.
Yoga has also helped me a lot. He taught me how to manage my energy and how to breathe. During the painful periods of chemotherapy under taxotere (where I had the feeling that my bones were being scraped with a knife) breathing and meditation allowed me to get through it. I managed to stem the waves of pain that invaded me.
After the operations, yoga allowed me to gently regain control of my body.
For lymph retention after axillary dissection, I use a Powerball. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerball
This allows me to strengthen my arm, activate blood circulation and thus drain the lymph. A 3 to 5 minute session every morning allows me to have almost no after-effects. If during the day I have to carry heavy loads, the next day I do a 10 minute session and the lymph circulates again.
Were you concerned about the views of others, were you afraid that their views would change? What did you do to counter it?
The looks of people didn't really bother me. From the start I told myself that I was in no way responsible for what happened to me. I didn't feel the need to hide my illness at all costs. It was a fact. I had a cancerous tumor that I was fighting, so too bad if I scared them. But I have a few memories of supermarkets where people moved away from me very quickly. Like Philadelphia. But no ma'am, cancer is not a contagious disease!
We can't blame them. The K is too often synonymous with the painful death of a loved one for people.
What are the nugget phrases (that you remember) that someone said to you during K and that you could have avoided?
A physiotherapist: “Your career at Crazy Horse is ruined”
The in-laws: “that’s what it’s like to not do mammography screening. Then no wonder” “She’s bothering us with her cancer”
An oncologist regarding lymph stagnation in my right arm following an axillary dissection: “You want to do too much. Your arm is mobile, that’s already it. »
How did your loved ones support you?
And what advice could you give to loved ones who accompany a K fighter?
I am lucky to have an extraordinary lover. He never looked at me as a cancer patient but as the person he met and loved. He always did everything to preserve us a normal daily life where the K had no place.
Because friends and family must never forget that we are not just a cancer on our legs. Despite baldness, we remain the same person with the same tastes, the same affinities.
Nothing is more terrible, in my opinion, than to inspire pity. People who look at you with "little" in their eyes... It's just not possible.
When you are well, it is important to be able to escape from the medical circle. Spend a day at the sea (for the iodine), a few hours at the cinema, in an exhibition. Escape from illness for a few hours to recharge the batteries. Relatives have an essential role at this level.
In any case, no one can endure the suffering for you. No need to try. The important thing is to be there. To relieve us of daily tasks that we can no longer do. And to paraphrase the great philosopher Pascal Obispo: “The important thing is to love”!
What would be the useful (internet) links that helped you during K?
The impatient website, the pink magazine. In 2012, American sites better suited my state of mind. Today with Rose magazine and blogs like yours, a new state of mind has arrived. More positive, more punchy.
What has the K changed in your life...?
(for example: your vision of the world, your priorities, your essentials, refocusing those around you, in your work, your philosophy..?)
The K made me reborn. I know that for some it is an aberration to say that and I think of the people around us who have left, but for me, the K was an opportunity. Before, people called me the feminine Jean-Pierre Bacri. Today, everything has changed. Like all people who have flirted with death, I am more alive than ever. The little worries of everyday life have no influence on me. I haven't gone completely crazy either, but I'm getting to the point. I keep away as much as possible what could interfere with my life. I am more attentive to myself. I know my body and its needs better. I no longer experience existential crises. I am at peace with myself.
Did this ordeal push you to change your life? (with new projects, changes in your life?)
No more compromises in professional or private life. I used the treatment period to begin a professional change from medicine to illustration, which had been close to my heart for years and which I had never dared to do. Today I am finally happy in my work.
I removed from my life all the people who interfered with it in order to better bring new ones into it.
I, who was always full of complexes, learned to love my body, to feel it alive. I fully embrace my scars, my eyebrows that are too thin since chemo. What does it matter to me, without Photoshop, no one is perfect!
Free field ;)
tell us what you want (which may not have been in my questions):
Mourning your breast:
The day before the mastectomy, I was crying on the sofa, my head buried in the cushions. They were going to remove one of my breasts. A piece of me. A part of my body that was going to be thrown away because it was contaminated. I had such sadness. I took one last bath with both my breasts. I watched them together one last time. And then I projected myself into the future. In two or three years, I will be able to take a bath again with both breasts. And two or three years in a whole life is peannuts. So, I held on and today I'm already taking my bath with one and a half breasts!
You have to know how to change pace:
At the start of treatment, we are in the mood of an active woman (home, work, children, household: no problem). Then the more we advance in chemo, the more the body is in pain, the more the management of the day becomes shorter. At the start of chemo, we can say, this morning I do this task, this afternoon another. At the end of chemo, we say to ourselves in the next 10 minutes of respite I'll do this and then I'll stop. I have a memory where I no longer had the strength to tuck the sheets in the bed. Now when I struggle to put on the duvet cover, I laugh thinking about it…
And then when the active treatment is finished, there is a big void. You have the impression that the doctors who ruled your life until now have abandoned you. Your physical strength is far from having returned, those around you supported you throughout the treatment, you are almost cured, and we expect you to move around. But since you have just experienced a tsunami in your body and in your head, you need time.
A physiotherapist told me that you have to double the time of active treatment to get back to your previous shape. I had a year of treatment, two years of remission, and today I can finally have a normal life.
This is what it means to be in remission from K: Having at least 2 more reconstruction operations, 3 years of antihormones, and saying “ I can finally have a normal life ”. Lol
Not having children:
With hormone-dependent breast cancer, we undergo early menopause, chemical castration. It's a fact, I won't have children. Not that I had a desire for motherhood before the illness, but I imagine what young women undergoing hormone therapy can feel. The choice to become a mother or not, that illness took from me.
I have read that a large majority of women do not want to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. Personally, I didn't want prosthetics. PIP no thanks. I didn't want to have the surgeon take a flap of the latissimus dorsi muscle and put it in my chest. I have enough scars and an arm with lymph, I didn't want to have back pain. I was therefore offered to reconstruct my breast using liposculpture.
The first procedure consists of taking a flap from the abdominal wall and grafting it under the pectoral muscle to form the breast fold. The surgeon performed liposuction on the stomach, centrifuged the fat cells to remove the water and reinjected them into the pectoral muscle.
Duration of the intervention 4h30. Pain 2/10
The second operation consisted of reducing my left breast. The surgeon performed liposuction on the top of the buttocks, centrifuged the cells and reinjected them into the right breast.
Duration of the intervention 2h30. Pain 1/10
The third intervention will be like the second, except for the liposuction which will be done on the thighs.
At the last operation the surgeon will redo the halo, either by tattooing or by skin grafting.
The advantages of this technique:
No pain linked to the removal of the latissimus dorsi,
The reconstruction tissue is its own, no rejection, no recurrence (the fat cells have undergone chemo)
The result is definitive (no prosthesis to change every 10 years)
The icing on the cake, for the rounds, we finally have an advantage, and at the end of the procedures we have a dream body!
The inconvenients :
You must be patient because reconstruction requires 3 to 4 operations depending on the size of your chest.
This is Charlotte. I have been as sincere as possible and I hope as complete.
See you soon
Thank you Dorothée for your sincerity and your beautiful vibes
Full of sweet thoughts