The End of Paclitaxel (Taxol) for Breast Cancer by Diann

Denise, Diann's son, Tyler, and Diann

Denise, Diann’s son, Tyler, and Diann

Special thank you to my sister, Diann, for writing this Blog Post to share her experiences with Taxol during her 5 months of chemotherapy for Stage 3 Breast Cancer.  She had her last Taxol on October 20, 2015     Denise


First, I would like to thank all the women out there who have written Denise, my sister, about my breast cancer diagnosis and sent your prayers and support. It means so much to me! This road is only understood by someone who has walked the same road!  I told Denise I thought I understood breast cancer treatment because I watched her go through treatment.  Going through it myself, I realize I had LESS THAN a 5% understanding of what extreme suffering a breast cancer patient goes through!

When my sister first asked me to write a blog post about my experiences with Taxol, I was a little hesitant as I had never written a blog post.  But, I will give it a shot.  These are my experiences with Taxol (Paclitaxel)- I had the 12 weekly dose version as my Oncologist said they have find there are less side effects by spreading it out.

I have found all of chemotherapy to be very trying. Adriamycin Cytoxan chemo did not treat me well. I felt like giving up. . Everyone told me Taxol would be better, and while it is better, it is not as good as I had thought it would be in my head! And because of that, I struggled with acceptance of the road I’m on.

I get chemo on Tuesdays. The thought of going and preparing for chemo is always worse than getting the actual infusion. After the infusion, I feel quite good and can go out to eat on the way home. I don’t sleep well on Tuesday nights though—I feel like I’ve had 12 cups of coffee! I’m told it’s  the steroids.  I am on an extremely low dose of steroids, the chemo nurses told me, however.  So I am grateful for that aspect!

Wednesdays I still feel pretty good, though fatigue hits after work. On Thursdays, I wake up fatigued, but I do go to work and manage about 5-6 hours. After struggling to get home, I’m in the recliner with my feet up. It seems like I live in that recliner.  Fridays and Saturdays are the same – living life from the recliner!

I watched Downton Abby, the award-winning PBS series to pass some of the time in the chair. So I pulled it up on Amazon Prime, and I watched all five seasons (like 50 episodes) in two weeks!  That tells you how much sitting I do!

I did have one Tuesday when I got the flu (vomiting, diarrhea, and a low grade fever). I was seeing the doctor that day for my infusion so I went, not knowing if the side effects I was having was the flu or just a side effect of chemo. They sent me to their cancer urgent care area and gave me 2 hours of fluids and meds to stop the diarrhea. No chemo that day! And the result was after the flu passed in a couple of days, I felt better than I had in months. This was a welcome break for me.

Here are the side effects I experienced during Taxol:

Heartburn often very severe

Extreme fatigue

Significant Coughing and mucous


Some nausea and gagging

Chemo rash on my face

Constipation and diarrhea

Then even MORE Fatigue

High heart rate (110+)

Elevated liver enzymes

My blood counts stayed really good throughout Taxol, so said my chemo nurses.  I tried not to pay too much attention to them as it would make me feel worse!  Everyone is different in this area!

My Food Cravings:

During AC – hot dogs and onion soup (salt I guess)

During Taxol – Tomatoes, watermelon, more onion soup

I’m trying to drink 68 oz of water a day (especially the 3 days following chemo) and taking a regular Claritin daily. I’m hoping the water will flush out the chemo (I hate smelling it in my urine!) and the Claritin stops the cough I developed.

I do ice my hands and feet during chemo. I did this one for my sister! I didn’t want to do it because I would have rather reclined in the chemo chair and relaxed during the chemo infusion.  Denise finally convinced me it would definitely help me from losing fingernails and toenails, and maybe even help or stop neuropathy which is a common side effect of Taxol.  As of my last infusion,  I still have finger and toe nails with occasional numbness in my hands and feet which comes and goes.  My Physician’s Assistant said it is okay if the neuropathy comes and goes, but to let her know immediately if it stays.  So far, I am happy to report, it has not stayed.

Let me say I’m very happy to be closing the door on Taxol.  Wiith God’s grace, I won’t be back.

My next step is Radiation.  I will let you know my experiences with Radiation.

After Many Seasons of Suffering, Light Appears

Some days the stars align, and you know, not just hope, that God is in control.  That happened to my family today.  My sister, my mom and I have had hundreds of medical appointments over the last four years for treating breast cancer in all three of us. We have separately and together driven thousands of miles to commute to our cancer center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  But on October 20, 2015, it culminated in six medical appointments within a few minutes of each other at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.  You couldn’t have planned it that way if you tried.  Some of the appointments had been made a year previously long before my sister’s diagnosis in March, 2015.

At 11 am, my sister, Diann, was receiving her sixteenth and final chemotherapy for Stage 3 breast cancer in the chemo infusion area after 5 grueling months, my mom was in an exam room for her 6 month check-up for Stage 1 Breast Cancer with Megan, our Physician’s Assistant, and I sat in another exam room with my (our) trusted Oncologist, Dr. Daniel Hayes for my semi-annual checkup which included a yearly mammogram.

The circumstances that led up to all of that happening at precisely 11 am at a busy cancer center were mind boggling.  None of it was planned as my sister had her last chemo postponed one week because she had the flu on an earlier infusion date.  My mammogram had been scheduled a year out and ended up being several weeks later than it should have been.  Mom’s checkup was changed and her appointment had been made 6 months earlier.  None of us realized that all of this was happening on one day and time until a few days prior to the appointments.

As we were leaving Diann’s house at 7:00 am in the pitch dark, Diann’s neighbor was out walking her dog with her sister who was visiting from out-of-town.  Her neighbor, also a cancer survivor, told Diann her entire church had been praying for her.  Then her neighbor introduced her sister to Diann.  Her sister’s name was “Joy.”

desertpictureAfter arriving at the cancer center, Diann and mom went to blood draw while I went to Mammography.  The blood draw area at the cancer center was packed. The tech you receive to draw your blood is randomly chosen out of many, many techs on duty.   Diann’s name was called.  The woman who would draw her blood on her last chemo infusion day was also named “Joy.”

Diann then went on to chemo, mom went to her appointment, and simultaneously in my exam room, Dr. Hayes had just reviewed my “CLEAR MAMMOGRAM” results from my remaining breast which had been administered earlier that morning.   Dr. Hayes questioned me, “Can you believe it has been four years since your diagnosis?”  I laughed and said, “I never thought I would be here four years later.”  Dr. Hayes sort of shrugged his shoulders, his body language saying he hadn’t been too sure either!   We have developed a doctor/patient rapport over the years and he jokingly said, “I should send you a fruit basket or something because of all the business you’ve brought us.”  I bantered back, “Absolutely you should.  I used to have a day away coming to Ann Arbor for medical appointments, now I have to bring the whole family with me!”

After test results, more appointment scheduling, reviews of Diann’s radiation schedule, a flu shot, the chemo drugs arriving an hour earlier than usual, and a myriad of future tests and evaluations for genetic testing, Diann, mom and I met up again in the blood draw area to walk together to the car.

While exiting the parking garage and handing over 50 cents to a new garage attendant,  I casually asked him, “Where should we go to lunch?  We have to celebrate my sister’s last chemo.”   Ann Arbor is known to be one of the restaurant capitals of the world, so I was expecting him to say somewhere close to the hospital.  Instead, the young man said that his favorite restaurant was 20 miles south.  I responded that we were headed south, so tell me the name of the restaurant.   He responded “Roy’s.”

In the car there was an immediate gasp, a knowing smile, and I saw tears fill Diann’s eyes.  You see, Roy, is the name of our beloved father/husband who died 16 years ago from pancreatic cancer.  My dad wanted us to know he, too, was in on the celebratory events of the day!

What a day of coincidences and good news.  Plus, two Joys and a Roy brought us much hope and encouragement!


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The Two Kinds of Cancer Patients – A Survey – What Kind Were You?

Diann, my sister who is in the midst of chemotherapy for Stage 3 breast cancer, was settled into the bed at the cancer center as the Oncology Nurse, Erin, came in with the drugs. Erin had been Diann’s nurse a couple of times before, so Erin knew that we were sisters and that I was a breast cancer survivor who had been through chemo at her cancer center.  We had  developed a rapport with Erin. She said to Diann, “Your blood counts look good.”  Diann’s response:  “Great.”  I’m sitting in an adjacent chair and ask Erin, “Can she get a copy of her blood counts?”  The nurse smiles and hands Diann the copy.  Diann immediately hands it to me as she was not interested in looking at the numbers.

As Erin is hooking up the drugs, the steroid shots looks a little different than usual.  I say to Erin:  “What dosage is she getting today?”  Erin smiles at me and then gently laughs and says:  “You know, you sisters represent the two different kinds of cancer patients I see.  One is laid back and lets the nurses do the work and asks no questions, and the other kind needs to know everything going on.  Neither kind is better and as chemo nurses, we appreciate both kinds of cancer patients.”

And we all laugh!       firewater2

Diann and I have different styles – we always have, we always will.  I envy her style and she envies mine.  Well, she might not tell you that, but she has to, don’t you think?  But I believe she is the better patient.  She trusts her doctors, her nurses, and lets them heal her.   Certainly, I trust them, but I need to know details, facts, studies and statistics over the past 10 years.

Please answer the following poll – thank you!

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25 things to do for a Cancer Patient

I’m always being asked, “what should I do for a cancer patient??  My answer is always the same:  “It doesn’t matter what you do, but please do something!”  Every kindness is never forgotten.  Many friendships are lost because cancer patients are ignored during treatment.  Being 3.5 years out from Chemotherapy, I have never forgotten one kindness extended to me.  Watching my sister go through Chemotherapy, it becomes even more real. And I learn from my sister that many cancer patients are stubborn!  When I ask my sister, “What can I do to help you?”  her usual response is, “Nothing, I’m trying to act normal.”  Knowing firsthand, there is no normal during chemotherapy, I ask her:  “How is that working for you?”  Finally, I get truth from her when she answers, “Not very well.”

If a friend or loved one is going through chemotherapy, trust me, they can use some help and lots of it!  Here is my Top 25 list of ways to help:

1)  Offer to take them to Chemotherapy and give them dates that you are available to do so.

2)  Drop off muffins at their front door — most cancer patients can manage to eat a muffin.  Lower fat content is best.

3)  Money is always an issue with 98% of cancer patients.  Cancer is so expensive no matter what insurance they may have.    A grocery store or drug store gift card, no matter what the denomination, would be extremely helpful.

4)  Send greeting cards and send more than one.  One of my dear friends sent me a card every week for one year!!

5)  Flowers are always welcome but ask the florist to send the least fragrant kind.  Some cancer patients are not able to be around fresh flowers, so if in doubt, ask a family member before sending.

6)  Mow their grass.

7)  Drop a small gift at their front door.  Often the cancer patient is just not up for visitors.  But a small gift will bring much hope.  I found many a gift just sitting at my front door!  What joy it brought me!

8)  Offer to weed their garden or water their flowers during warmer months.  My cousin and her husband came and planted my outside flowers when I was too sick to do so.  Their kindness still brings tears to my eyes.

9)  Offer to pick up groceries for them.  Going to the grocery store is one of the most challenging things during chemotherapy.  A dear friend of mine called me every week to see if I needed anything.

10)  If they have children, offer to watch the kids, offer to take the kids to school, or pick them up for school events.  This is so helpful for moms going through chemotherapy especially on their worst days.  Moms going through chemo are the women I most admire!

11)  Drop off soup or a casserole for the family — if you are dropping off food for the patient, be sure to ask what they are able to eat.

12)  Send them a cute chemotherapy hat as a gift.  This will lift their spirits.  Check them out at my online store FBlogoI will include a gift note card and special gift wrapping at no additional charge.

13)  Pedicures and manicures are not allowed during chemotherapy because of the risk of infection.  If it is a close female friend, offer to paint her toenails or fingernails.

14)  Offer to clean their house for 2 hours.  Set a time limit because staying too long will exhaust the patient.   Cleaning is on the bottom of the list of things cancer patients are able to do.  Offering to sweep for them, dust for them, or change their bed clothes would be much appreciated!!

15) Do their laundry.

16)  If they have a cat, change their cat litter for them.  Chemotherapy patients are not supposed to change cat litter because of germs!  This is something I do for my sister on a regular basis which she greatly appreciates and so does her cat!

17) Many agencies offer services or food or money to cancer patients, but the cancer patient does not have the energy to pursue this.  Do it for them, but be sure to ask their permission!!

18)  Send a card to their spouse or significant other to show they are not alone. The cancer patient will so much appreciate your support of their caregiver.

19)  If the cancer patient needs constant care, offer to sit with the cancer patient to give the caregiver a break.

20)  Offer to fill their gas tank or wash their car!

21)  Tie balloons at their front door to cheer them up!  I will never forget my aunt tied a “Congratulations” balloon at my front door on my last day of chemo!  It still brings me joy to think of it!

22)  Send them a list of things you are able to do for them with your telephone number – let them know you are really serious about helping them.

23)  Ask them if you can research something for them – often older patients who don’t access the internet, don’t know things that will help them feel better during chemo.

24)  Take out their garbage, especially if they live alone.  I finally got my sister to admit this was extremely hard for her to have the energy to dump her wastebaskets and haul her garbage can and recyclable bin to the street for garbage pickup.

25)  Ask if they are up for a 30 minute visit.  Do not stay too long.  It is very tiring for the cancer patient, but a short visit helps lift the spirits!

Inspiration from the Chemo Ward

Chemo Ward is rather a 1960s phrase — Infusion Area is the new, modern term.  But if chemotherapy is involved, I think it should be in the title.  So I will call it Chemo Area to blend the old with the new.  Going to the Chemo Area is inspirational.  Now I say that as a Cancer Survivor, not as a Cancer Patient!  I did not find it so inspiring when I was the patient.  But now that my sister is the patient suffering the horrid consequences of Chemo, and I am along for moral support and unsolicited advice, I can be more relaxed to realize all the inspiration that is transpiring.


Inspiration comes in the form of the patients who are gathered for the same objective on any given day: receiving toxic drugs to kill cancer or prevent cancer from recurring.  It seems to me fate has a role in deciding who will be your chemo “neighbors” on infusion day.  Somehow, they are always inspiring and just what you need to hear.  Like the woman who was in her mid 50s sitting next to my sister.  As she told us what her diagnosis was, my sister and I simultaneously tried to suppress gasps when she said “pancreatic cancer” as our father died of that horrible cancer.  But we were both so uplifted after talking with her.  She has been alive over a year, her tumors are being managed with chemotherapy, and she is hoping to live quite awhile.

The following week, the woman next to Diann was also receiving Chemo for pancreatic cancer.  Her husband said she was a “walking miracle” – and she was!   It was healing for both Diann and I to hear about great breakthroughs they are making in pancreatic cancer.

Then there was the 34 year old young man, diagnosed with testicular cancer.  It was so uplifting to hear his story and hear about all the people who were helping him make the several hour journey to the cancer center DAILY for 5 hour infusions!   He told us he had been with his employer only 2 weeks when he was diagnosed.  How marvelous to hear that his employer has been behind him all the way.  That made me feel so good as I get letters from cancer patients whose employers fire them with a cancer diagnosis after many years of dedicated service.

The Chemo Nurses are a special breed all their own!   Chemo Nurses are definitely at the top of my list for those people whom I admire!  One nurse who has 7 months to retire, has been an Oncology nurse for 40 years.  Talk about dedication!!

And anyone who reads my blog knows that as a result of going through chemo and seeing a need, I began selling Chemo Hats and created my online store at    As a result of constantly searching for new and different hats, imagine how I am around a bunch of cancer patients many with hats on.   I start staring at their hats – and I mean staring!  The other day a gal had on a darling sequined cap.  I get sidetracked and don’t realize there is a person under that cap – until she finally asked me, “Can I help you?”    I started to laugh and apologize at the same time.

Spending the day in a Chemo Area isn’t anyone’s first choice of how to spend a day.  But if you have a chance to accompany a friend, family member or stranger, get beyond your fears and do so.  Not only will you make a difference in their lives and do the cancer patient a kindness they will never forget, you will come away inspired by the amazing people you meet!

Lifetime Dosage – Adriamycin Cytoxan – AC Chemo

As the chemo nurse came in to administer #4 out of 4 Adriamycin Cytoxan Chemotheray to my sister, Diann, she said:  “Good news!  This is the last of your lifetime dosage of Adriamycin Cytoxan!”   Diann, who is going through treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer, was beyond relieved that she never has to get another dosage EVER of the Red Devil.  It is so strong that your lifetime dosage is measured!  What an accomplishment to finish that drug.  But the grueling side effects remain for quite some time before Diann begins Taxol, her next drug for 12 weeks. Any of you who have been through AC, know that you feel like dying through Adriamycin Cytoxan chemotherapy.  I certainly did.  When women write me for encouragement getting through AC, I tell them it is normal feelings to want to give up and die.  The drug does that to you!  It is torture, but it kills cancer cells – along with a lot of good cells.  You feel the death of all of them.  But once you are 3 years post-chemo like I am, you never take a day for granted that you did it, that you did not give up, and that you are still alive!  Diann and I did it and you can too!!

Here is some advice from Diann for those going through AC Chemo:

1)   Infusions –  #3 AC is the worst both emotionally and physically.  By the time you get to #4, you are so glad it is over, mentally you are better able to handle it.

2)   Mouth sores and metal taste – Biotene really helped me.  It can be purchased over the counter.  But make sure any nausea has subsided before you rinse your mouth with it or I would start gagging.

3)   Dry heaves and nausea –  be sure to take your anti-nausea meds ON TIME even though most Oncologists say “as needed.”  Don’t wait because you think you are okay.  The nausea will sneak up on you and then it takes much longer for the medicines to work.  If one medicine doesn’t seem to be working for you, call your Oncologist.  They can prescribe many other anti-nausea meds to help you.  Compazine worked for me better than Zofran.  But Zofran worked better for a friend than Compazine.  We are all different!

4)  Good Days – If you are having one of those rare good days, get out of the house and do something that you enjoy!  Even if it is just a change of scenery over to a family or friend’s house because of low energy and sit in their recliner rather than yours.  Anything helps to get off of the sick bed, couch or recliner!!

5)  Energy – Plan anything that needs more energy in the morning while you have it.  If it is necessary for you to go to the grocery store (try to get someone else to do it, though), do it in the morning.

6)  Work – If you are attempting to work through AC Chemo, try to make it part time.  Fortunately, my boss was very flexible.  I was able to work for 4 or 5 hours on the days I could.  During AC #3 and #4, those days became less.  But I did find it helpful to go to work as it made me feel more “normal” for a little while.  On my best days, I only lasted until 2:00 pm.

7) Naps – Take them as needed and take them as often as you can!  It really helped me both with nausea and energy.

7)  Children – As a single mom who raised 3 children on her own and now I am a grandma, I kept thinking of women going through AC Chemo who had small children and wondered how they do it.  If you have small children, you will need help and lots of it.  Say yes to the people who offer to help you.  Little kids give you energy as well, but you definitely will need help.

8)  Accepting Help – And speaking of accepting help, it will be most challenging, but learn to receive.  I needed help and absolutely hated to ask for it.  But I had no choice on some occasions.  This was one of my biggest lessons.

Diann gets tired of people telling her she looks great when she has her hats and headgear on from my online store  because she feels so bad physically.  But we can all agree, she does look amazing even during Chemotherapy!!  Diann’s favorite headgear from my store is the Breezy Collection which she can wear over a wig like she has done in this picture!

Click on her pic to get to my store and in Diann’s honor, get an additional 10% off already discounted prices with Discount Code   DIANN


Chemo, Steroids, Mood Swings and Bitchiness

My poor sister is in the worst of Adriamycin Cytoxan (AC) right now.  When the bottom falls out of her cell count, she feels like dying, she knows she is being poisoned, feels the death of her body, can’t get off the La-Z-Boy, and is so miserable there aren’t words to describe it.  If you have been there, you know.  It is so painful for me to watch.  I rarely cried during my own chemo nightmare because it made me feel worse.  Watching and empathizing with Diann, I cry.  I feel what she is feeling, and I’ve been there.  It is worse watching and listening to her than it was for me going through it.  But, on the other side, I laugh a lot too, at Diann’s expense.

Steroid Bitchiness – there really isn’t anything more pleasant you can call it. “Mood swings” may be a little more gentle, but the mood is always swinging in one direction.  And no medical person really tells you to expect a different person to emerge.   My mild-mannered, kind hearted, rather soft spoken sister has become a truck driver swearing, outspoken, raving maniac!!  The other night I took her for a drive so she could get out of her house.  As the drive began, I heard more swear words coming out of her mouth beginning with a “B” and an “F” than I had heard from her during her lifetime.   I can’t help but laugh at her because her personality is so opposite her usual pre-chemo self.  Yesterday I told her, “Diann, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a little afraid of you!”   Then we both burst out into laughter!


I did warn her this personality change would occur.  Now I was leaning toward the menopausal side of bitchy before chemo, but it still really reared its ugly head to the extreme.  Some examples stay with me and cause me to laugh even now!  My insurance agent dropped me and gave me to a new agent because during chemo when my insurance carrier wouldn’t cover severe storm damage and every other house in my neighborhood had coverage, words came out of my mouth I didn’t even think I knew!  I created a scene in Walmart when a woman ahead of me had about 84 items in a 20 item or less line. You understand the frustration of that one, but this time I could not hold it in.   It was such a scene that the entire line of people behind me and this filled-to-the-top cart person erupted into applause when I got done with my tirade!

My family members and a few understanding friends laughed at me as they thought I was funny.  Now I understand as I listen to Diann!  People who don’t know you that well or don’t understand about steroids, chemo and the impact they have on your mouth and moods really don’t know what to do with you!

If your loved one is going through chemo, they really cannot help or stop their behavior!  Chemo and drugs took the filters away.  The filters do come back, but it just takes awhile. And in the meantime, the anger helps them deal with the suffering they are experiencing.   Laugh with them, cry with them, and understand their moods and behavior.  It is not easy, but do it anyway!

Please check out my online store by clicking on the hats! Many great summer sun and swim hats for everyone, not just cancer patients!