In late January 2021 I decided to take a break from social media for the month of February. What I discovered was I needed more than a month away. One month became two and so forth. Although, I am no longer on this break, I do limit my time I spend on social media.
I had originally planned on breaking this “social media break” into days and how it was going. In fact, I actually started off like that but I found when I broke it down to a daily recap, I wasn’t really on a break if I was writing about it each day. I believe if I had continued that way I would’ve only made it a week before giving in and returning to the mindless scrolling.
Why did I take this break? Honestly, I felt I needed a break from all the negativity. I’m not just talking about how people are towards one another these days but the comparison game your mind plays when you are only seeing a highlight reel of a person’s life. Around the end of October of 2020 I had found myself in a funk. October can be a hard month for women who have been impacted by breast cancer. I couldn’t seem to get myself out it no matter what I was doing. After talking with Keisha, one of the RAD coaches at Barbells for Boobs, I decided to take a break. I took all my social media apps and put them in a folder on the last screen of my phone labeled DO NOT USE. You know what? It actually worked and I still keep them in that folder, although the label has changed, it is still on my last screen on my phone. This works for me. Other people I have spoken to take it to the next level and delete the apps entirely.
Now that I am back and I go on to social media, I set intentions on what I’m doing on there and how long I will allow myself to scroll. Another thing I have done is turned off all notifications. This does delay my response time chats or responding to comments on posts. Basically what I am saying it’s not you, it’s me on why you haven’t heard back from me.
If you find yourself mindless scrolling through socials, try taking a break for a week or so then come back. If you try it out let me know how you feel after you’re done with the break. Did you learn anything new about yourself? Are you judging yourself less and maybe loving yourself more?
This is why I have been less active on socials for the past year. Also, you will start seeing more content here. I have a couple new post coming under cancer chronicles. One will focus on all my surgeries and another will go into my current chemo treatment. Then I have a fun post about me being a Barbells for Boobs X Puma model for a day, which will also include the launch party in NYC and meeting a bunch of RAD ladies. Check out their collection here.
Check out my Barbells for Boobs 2022 fundraiser here.
It’s that time of year again where soon everything will be covered in pink to bring awareness to breast cancer. Did you know that some companies just make it pink to get you to buy things thinking you are donating to breast cancer? Pretty sneaky right?
Every year since 2019 I have been fundraising for Barbells for Boobs. Barbells for Boobs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. They are a community taking action in breast cancer. Click on the link to learn more about their organization
What will your donation help support? By donating to my fundraiser you will directly help support their RAD programs. The link I provided here goes into their RAD programs. I am one of the RAD women in this program. I can not express how much they have done for me over the past couple years. I have discovered a community of women that also have be impacted by breast cancer. The relationships I have made through this community are priceless. They also have Coach Johnna, a strength coach, who has definitely helped me come out of my comfort zone getting me ready for Global GRACE this year in NYC. More on that later. Then they have Coach Keisha who is there for your mental health. There is so much that women go through just being diagnosed and then treatment. Most of the women I have met through this were physically active prior to their diagnosis. Then to have that taken from you in an instant is rough. The road to accepting where you are now versus where you were before cancer is a tough journey. I just completed one of their programs called B student. Where each week we would get on a zoom call and talk about a subject that was our homework for the week; it varied on which semester we were in. The semesters were Mind, Body & Soul. I would not be where I am today without the help of barbells for boobs.
One of the most amazing things was when I had the opportunity to go to Barbells for Boobs HQ in July and meet not only everyone who puts their heart and energy into making this organization run but I also got to meet other RAD women as well! Take a look at these beautiful strong women.
If you are thinking about how you can support women impacted by breast cancer just click here to make a donation. Thank you to all who have already donated it means a lot to me. 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.
Scanxiety is what most cancer patients say when referring to anxiety associated with scans.
Metastatic breast cancer means you live life a few months at a time. What do I mean by that? Every 3-4 months my oncologist orders new scans. I get two; a PET scan and a brain MRI. This is when we look at how my body is responding to my current treatment and determine my status. The goal is to be stable, meaning my current drug is working and nothing changes with my treatment plan. However, leading up to the scans my mind plays so many scenarios in my mind. Every pain, every headache makes one wonder is this the dreaded progression?
I just had my regularly scheduled PET scan and Brain MRI on January 22, 2021. I was a told at chemo on January 29, 2021 that they were good. A huge relief is off my shoulders for another few months. The even better news, well kinda depending on how you look at things, doc is concerned about toxicity. If you are new here or maybe you just don’t really know here’s a short recap. I have been on chemotherapy since September 2017 and only getting a “chemo vacation” for surgeries. My initial chemo was a cocktail that had 4 drugs in total which was only for 6 infusions(one of these drugs caused my hair loss, not all chemo drugs cause hair loss) and I was suppose to be done after that but my left cancer had other plans. After my mastectomy I began my current drug Kadcyla and we have been together since March 2018.
What is is toxicity you ask? This is my take on it; chemotherapy is basically poison which builds up in your body and can have adverse effects on your body. By adverse effects I’m not just talking about my physical side effects but the effects that are happening internally. This is why monitoring my bloodwork, my heart echos every 3 months and my scans are so important they paint a complete picture. I have been struggling really bad lately with treatment. Let’s just say I have more bad days than good days. After my doc told me about my scans he went into toxicity. The current plan is to still get the same amount of Kadcyla each infusion but push back the time in between infusions from 4 weeks to 5 weeks. Now this is the second time we have increased the time between treatments it was originally infusions every 3 weeks but after brain radiation my body needed more time. I still have to get my Lupron(or Zoladex since Lupron has been out of stock) injection every 4 weeks as the long term treatment for my right cancer, which hopefully won’t be for too much longer but more on that later. We discussed a lot of the issues I am having and how they have been getting progressively worse. Will this help alleviate some of the side effects, honestly I don’t know but I hope so. As for now I won’t have to worry about scans for another few months.
As 2020 comes to an end ask yourself what has this year done for you. Most will say this was the worst year of their life but was it really? Did you learn anything about yourself? Are you happy with who you are? Did you make any changes to love yourself more? Did you learn what really matters in your life or maybe who really matters? These are just questions to consider.
For me 2020 wasn’t what I had envisioned but it was exactly what I needed. I was not able to go to Ireland like we had planned. However, I did learn that chemo is kicking my ass and I need to listen to my body more. I learned it is OK to not be OK. I learned to rest when I am not at my best. On my good days I made sure to focus on what makes me happy. I finally got into a lifting routine that works for the me NOW not the me BEFORE.
As we go into the new year take what you have learned from 2020 and use it toward making 2021 better. The world needs more empathy and you never know what a person is battling. As this post is being published I will be receiving my monthly chemo, what a way to end 2020.
The day that should have been my last chemo infusion. My original treatment plan I had to have 6 chemo infusions that consisted of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Perjeta and Herceptin then I would continue on the Herceptin for an entire year. Herceptin is a HER2+ targeted drug not a chemotherapy drug. It’s used along side Perjeta which is a chemotherapy drug, this is also the drug I am allergic to and was removed from my treatment. Looking back on this treatment is hard since I know these infusions were unsuccessful. I also want to say that my infusion center does not have a bell to ring and I remember at the time I was confused on why it didn’t because I kept seeing people post about ringing the bell when they finished treatment. However, now I understand not everyone gets to ring that bell so I am grateful there isn’t one at my infusion center.
By the time I reached chemo #6 I was a week behind the original schedule due to my body and Perjeta having a disagreement (that’s a nice way to put it). I made it! These chemo infusions were one of the hardest things I had put my body through. I lost all my hair, I gained the lovely steroid weight, and I was mentally and physically drained. By the time this treatment rolled around I wasn’t fully recovered from the previous treatments.
Walking into this treatment I was so tired, I was just looking forward to my Benadryl before infusion so I could take a nap. I was told the more the chemo builds up in your system the more the side effects linger which would explain the exhaustion and other unpleasant side effects.
However, I had no idea what my cousin Jessica had been planning for me as a celebration of finishing chemo. My mom and I were each given a gift that we could not open until I was at treatment. Once mom and I opened our shirts my phone flooded with the beautiful and strong women in my family sending photos of themselves in the same shirts. Needless to say I was in tears and felt like each of them were in the room with us.
The rest of the treatment I was pretty much sound asleep. The plan after this treatment was my Herceptin infusions would be delayed until after my mastectomy which was scheduled for February 8, 2018. Why the wait? My cancer care team; which is my breast surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon, wanted my body to heal and for the chemo to be through my system before my surgery was to take place.
After my diagnosis and treatment plan was established a great friend of mine, Tom, told me if I made it through chemo there was a ticket to the Patriot’s first playoff game at Gillette Stadium in January 2018. He told me this back in September 2017 when I first began and January seemed so far away. There were a lot of factors that had to happen but not only did I make it through this chemo but the Patriots made it to the playoffs with a bye week, which I really needed for my own recovery. On January 13, 2018 I was sitting in Gillette Stadium to watch the Patriots beat the Titans!
October 6, 2017 came very fast and this was going to be my second attempt at round 2. Mom had stayed the week with me verses flying home just to fly back. She told me she wasn’t going to be missing any of the treatments. I understood completely. Now I was very anxious about this treatment. I was hoping my body wouldn’t reject any more of the remaining chemo drugs. I was down to just 3 chemo drugs now. They went back to the initial rate of infusion and told me this would be the normal for all of my upcoming treatments. It was successful and I was back on track. The side effects were very similar to the first round with the exception of the mouth issues, thankfully. I would also say they weren’t as amplified either but by no means were they easy. Having my mom with me helped out a lot. She would force food at me. This time Sunday I did eat some toast and drank some water then pretty much slept all day. Monday I was awake a little more and I ate a breakfast and some dinner.
Some of the things I’ve learned about chemo side effects, they don’t all happen right after treatment. My gastric issues start usually 4 days after and last for 4 days or so. The funny taste in my mouth starts 6 days after treatment and lasts for up to 2 weeks. I’m not sure how to describe the taste except maybe metallic. I learned using plastic silverware helps to taste foods, I always carry some with me. I was able to tolerate more flavor than others I knew going through the same treatment. I believe this was due to the Perjeta being removed because after my first treatment it was bland foods I could tolerate. Chemo brain is a thing; it gets worse the more treatments you have. I could be in the middle of a sentence and literally forget what I was saying. This is something I had never experienced before or perhaps never noticed.
I started losing my hair two weeks after my first treatment chemo treatment. It began slowly as I was brushing it and the brush would take more than the usual amount that comes out. I had very long blonde hair. I had asked one of my friends to cut it short for me. The thought of going to a salon and having it chopped just wasn’t appealing. I believe it was having to explain to someone else what was going on I just wasn’t in the mood for that. He came over and worked some magic I suddenly had a pixie cut with a little extra on top. That description sounds horrible but it was super cute. Thanks Craig! I was very lucky I didn’t have a large head like I thought I might. This cut I was able to keep through the second treatment then the rest just started coming out so I asked him if he could take it all off. Below is a timeline of pictures that show how quickly it happened all dated. The first photo I was maybe having more hair on my brush each day, the second is when it started coming out in chunks, the third is the first cut he gave me, and the last was when it all got shaved off.
I was very surprised to realize losing my hair was the hardest part for me so far. I find that nothing looks right on me or looking in mirror I don’t see me looking back. This effects everyone differently so be careful of what you say to those going through treatment. Most days I wore beanies or bandanas but I did have some fun wigs I occasionally wore.
This post is about events that happened on September 29, 2017.
If that title doesn’t get your attention. I don’t know what will. The reality of cancer is the treatments for it are extreme. They poison, burn and cut. Not much has changed in the way of how they treat cancer. Keep in mind my posts are about my experiences through this whole cancer journey. Everyone responds to treatments differently. If you are facing a breast cancer diagnosis or a loved one is remember I am more like the exception not the rule.
The day before my second chemo treatment September 28, 2017 my mother flew down to take me to it. I felt I had to get through the first one to know I could handle it before she could see me go through it. The morning of treatment September 29, 2017 everything was normal. I woke up and did 30 minutes on my spin bike before heading into treatment. Everything was going normal, well as normal as having cancer at 36 could be. I got to my cancer center and they accessed my port and they took my bloodwork. Then we met with Kelli(PA) in another room to go over how I was feeling and then mom and I were off to the infusion room to picked out a chair where our day would be spent. Soon enough we were off and running with my steroid bag followed by the Benadryl bag and finishing with my anti-nausea bag. The next part was when the nurses came out to verify the chemo drugs. This time since I had no adverse reactions during the first treatment they would be infusing them at the normal prescribed rate. Up first was the Perjeta, a HER2 targeted chemo drug, last time was a 90 minute infusion and would be a 30 minute infusion today. I was thinking this is great it’s not going to be another 10 hour infusion day. This was just about when everything went wrong. About 8 minutes into my infusion I told my mother “something isn’t right”; “I don’t feel well”. Then I began tasting it in my mouth, I was standing up to get the nurses attention and my chest was getting tighter and breathing was becoming very difficult. Around this point I was back in my chair not sure if I collapsed or what, then my entire throat closed up. I have never experienced anything this scary in my life that I can recall. I was in and out of consciousness, I could see everyone scrambling and I remember Selena, at the time I didn’t know who it was, lean over me and say I’m so sorry and stab my leg with something and another nurse shot something into my IV. I was hooked up to oxygen and was having all my vitals being taken. At this point I felt I had like 10 people standing around me shouting out numbers talking about the ambulance is on the way. I was slowly coming back to alertness and my doctor was telling me it’s going to be okay. I was being told I would be leaving in an ambulance to go to the ER for observation, this part was beginning to freak me out and I think they could see this and I was reassured this was all precautionary after an anaphylaxis reaction. When the gurney and firemen came into sight I was becoming aware of what was happening and I started to realize I was leaving my mom alone to take the car to the hospital. By no means do I feel my mom isn’t fully capable of finding the hospital, however she just witnessed all of this. I remember asking Selena to input the address into her cell phone so she wouldn’t have any distractions or frustrations. Mainly frustrations. I was also told treatment was suspended for a week and I would not be getting this medication any longer.
I had never been in an ambulance before so this whole experience was a first. They kept me on oxygen and kept asking about the drugs I was on and ones they administered and why I was on certain things. I was trying to explain they give the steroid, Benadryl and anti nausea medications as precautionary to prevent an allergic reaction, clearly unsuccessful with me. I realized they probably didn’t get a lot of chemo patients and weren’t aware this was common practice for the multiple chemo drugs treatments. I have always referred to these chemo infusions as my hard chemo just for future reference. I did learn when you come to the ER in an ambulance you get right in. I was brought to a room and hooked up to the wall, ok it was some machine that would take my blood pressure every 30 minutes. This was when I asked for fluids since they had taken mine when I got in the room and I still had my port accessed. That nurse told me she would check with the doctor and get back to me. It was at least an hour before the ER doctor would come in and do some checks, then she said they would have to check with the pharmacy to see how long this medication would stay in me based off the amount that had been infused. Apparently, this would determine how long I had to be observed. Hours went by before she returned to only get a phone call and step out and disappear. By this time, it was after 5 and Dr. Simpson showed up to check on me. We discussed what this meant for my treatment and he was very upset to see I was attached to the wall and I couldn’t be walking around with my blood clot being the biggest concern. He told me he would get things started to get me out of here to go home.
I received a prescription for Epi-pens which I would now have to carry with me. I asked them why since it was a chemo drug that put me into anaphylaxis shock and none of my other allergens do this. I was told once you have an anaphylaxis reaction you are now more prone to getting them with other allergens. Wow this just keeps getting better. This was when I believe it truly sunk in the severity of everything I was doing and realizing this treatment could actually kill me. However, I’m not going out without a fight.
The next post on my Cancer Journey series will be called Second Chemo Take 2. I will go into what that infusion was like and discuss the side effects I experienced throughout these chemo treatments.
I’m going to be taking you through my fight. We will be starting from the beginning. Everyone’s experience is different. I hope my experiences help women who are going through this or about to go through this or perhaps you know someone who is going through this and want to know more so you can help them. Since my initial diagnosis I knew I wanted to be able to help other women get through the toughest battle of all. I will talk about what treatment is like, surgery, how my body has changed, energy levels. It won’t be just limited to treatment, I will be discussing my diet choices, getting back to lifting, and my transformation both mentally and physically. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however, it isn’t all dark and stormy either.
I now see the world from a different point of view. My outlook on life has changed and I’m glad it has. I’m grateful for every day!
I first tried Daily Harvest in December 2019. I had been hearing about them through one of my favorite podcasts. I decided to use their code to save $25 off my first box and give them a try. After my first box I was hooked. My first box I did a variety of items, 4 smoothies, 2 oat bowls, bites(these are amazing), a soup and a latte. A few months after I started ordering they came out with the flatbreads, my favorite is the spinach artichoke. Then this summer they released their scoops, a delicious creamy treat(basically a dairy free ice cream) I got have the mint chip and dark chocolate. They are weekly boxes and I typically get 2-3 boxes a month. The size box I get is 9-11 items and typically is mostly smoothies since that is an easy way for me add protein in and get a good mix of carbs, fats and protein. If you are interested in trying daily harvest click here to save $25 off your first box. I also get $25 for referring you. They come frozen in a box with an insulated packaging with dry ice(careful). Once you receive your box store the containers in your freezer until you are ready to use them.
Here are a few of my favorites that make regular appearances in my boxes. I use water as the base however, you can use almond milk, coconut water/milk, milk or whatever your preference. Also adding protein is not something you have to do, I do this since I struggle with getting food down (chemo side effects) so when I make a smoothie I try to make it as nutritious as possible. When adding a protein powder I do add additional water and I mix it up in my nutribullet(any blender will work).
If you are interested in trying out this amazing small business click here to save on your first box. If you do try them let me know in the comments what your favorite flavor is. As long as there is no almonds I will give it a try.
October is breast cancer awareness. This year I am fundraising for Barbells for Boobs again. I would like to discuss what this amazing community is and all that they continue to do for me.
The following is taken from Barbells for Boobs mission located on their website “Barbells for Boobs is a 501(3) non-profit organization. We are providing support and education to incorporate physical activity as the foundation for breast cancer risk reduction, treatment and survivorship. We strive to improve the quality of life and outcomes in individuals impacted by breast cancer.” barbellsforboobs.org
2019 was a hard year for me. I progressed to metastatic breast cancer, had brain surgery followed by brain radiation. I really was struggling to find my way back even to my cancer normal. It was taking longer to recover from my chemo infusion than prior to brain surgery/radiation and also I was suddenly getting new side effects. Cancer the gift that keeps on giving. In November 2019 I decided to reach out to Barbells for Boobs and filled out an application to become part of their RAD program. I also did my first fundraiser with them because I believe in their vision.
2020 has been a crazy year to say the least. Barbells for Boobs has been working tirelessly to get the resources to those impacted by breast cancer through the many challenges 2020 has brought. My RAD intro call was so amazing. It made me feel like I found what I had been missing, a community that understood what I needed and could relate to me. They went over all the programs they had available to me. Barbells for Boobs RAD(resources after diagnosis) are providing physical activity(RADWODs), support(peer to peer groups) and education(exercise oncology, nutrition and mental health). I also was guest on their podcast Behind The Bra to share my story. I will include the link to my episode on the podcast website here.
My goal this year was to raise $1500 for Barbells for Boobs. I have hit this goal as of last week(thanks to all who have donated) I would like to keep going and see how much we can raise for them but I need everyone’s help. It would be amazing if we can raise $2020. I know 2020 has impacting people in so many different ways. If you are able to donate please consider making a donation on my page linked here. If you are unable to donate please share this blog post or my fundraising page with family and friends. It’s amazing how many people can be reached by sharing through your social media and emails. https://give.barbellsforboobs.org/fundraiser/kristin-lonergan
Here are some facts Barbells for Boobs provided that nobody talks about in October in a recent email sent out about what my fundraising efforts have done. Click on each link to read more about each statistic. 58% of women with breast cancer experience cancer-related depression. Approximately 80% of newly diagnosed patients with breast cancer experience PTSD symptoms. 32% of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer experience General Anxiety Disorder. Regular exercise can have a positive effect on depression, anxiety and stress. 92% of the women in Barbells for Boobs programs are physically active. Supporting Barbells for Boobsenables them to continue their work in redefining the standard of care in breast health and improve the quality of life, post- diagnosis. Every $20 raised funds one resource. The cost to support one woman a month is $120. One in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.
Other ways to support Barbells for Boobs is through their men’sand women’s collection in their shop. 100% of the shop sales goes to support their programs.
I discovered Barbell for Boobs in July 2014 at the crossfit games in California. I went as a spectator and I remember when I went to their booth how awesome I thought their mission plan was and it’s only continued to grow since then. I had no idea 3 years later I would be diagnosed with two breast cancers.
Barbells for boobs helps women get back into the gym after breast cancer and improve the standard of care in breast health. Something people don’t discuss is that young women are diagnosed with breast cancer and because it’s not the normal some of these women are not getting the care they need. Early detection saves lives and women shouldn’t be turned away from receiving mammograms based on their age.
This October was hard for me, it was my 3rd October since my original diagnosis but it was my first October since one of my breast cancers progressed to . Since breast cancer is a daily part of my life I wanted to continue breast cancer awareness beyond October. This is why I started a fundraising page for Barbells for Boobs. As the holiday season starts kicking off I want to say even a $1 donation will help. I ask you to consider donating to my page. I will be including the link to my page below as well as Barbell for Boobs site where you can see how they use the donations they receive. Zionna, the founder, just started a podcast which discusses what the organization does and has been interviewing survivors to share their stories. Check out the amazing stories below.