Tips Learned During a 3 Year Journey With Breast Cancer

by Alyce Stewart

Today's blog post is from Alyce Stewart, (Omalayce) at WhatNext.com. She shares her experiences with four types of cancer including her latest, a 3 year run with breast cancer.  This is her story along with a list of Tips to help you get through your diagnosis.  

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My name is Alyce Stewart and I am going to be 72 in August.

In August of 2016 I told my GP that I had a strange pain in my armpit and going down the left side of my breast. I'd had it for several years and my masseuse and chiropractor could not relieve me of this pain, honestly I thought I had pulled a muscle. My GYN said everything was fine and advised me to put Primrose oil there and buy better bras.

When I told my GP, he instructed me to make an appointment with my GYN even though I had a mammogram that January of 2016. My GYN was not available but her PA saw me. She examined me and said she thought it was rib pain but ordered a mammogram and a ultrasound for the same day.

The day of the mammogram, 23 September 2016, I was told that it looked good so then I went for the ultrasound down the hall. The tech I had was beyond excellent, she listened to everything I said and targeted those areas. She finished and told me to get dressed which I was in the process of doing when she ran in the room and said the radiologist wanted more photos. I left there pretty sure my life was about to be rocked.

The following week on 30 September 2016 I saw my surgeon who did his own ultrasound. He told me he was sure it was cancer and it would be a stage 2 or 3. Since I had a vacation out of state to see my son and his family I did not have my biopsy until 12 October 2016. This confirmed the cancer and was followed by several weeks of tests, port insertion, meeting with the oncologist and my treatment plan.

I was diagnosed with IDC in my left axilla and DCIS in my left breast on 19 October 2016 as a stage 2 or 3B - it was 3B. My first chemo therapy was on 8 November 2016 and my last was on 14 February 2017. I had a lumpectomy on 6 April 2017 followed by 30 rounds of radiation from 19 June 2017- 5 July 2017.

I had no issues at my first chemo, felt great and then 2 days later, wham, I was so fatigued I could hardly move. When I saw the oncologist they sent me immediately for fluids as my counts were so low. After that I would have chemo on Tuesdays, followed by fluids Thursday and Friday. I did this until I finished chemo in February. I had issues eating and drinking, wound up with a sore mouth and extreme fatigue throughout but I wasn't sick to my stomach which I was grateful for. I did lose all of my hair, and 8 fingernails, I didn't mind, I was just curious as to what my hair would be like when it grew back. I thought I looked great until the day I walked out after struggling through the grocery store and two ladies in a car rolled down their window and yelled out that they would be praying for me....wow I had no idea.

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I learned I am resilient and that I loved sharing to educate and make others aware. It was determined I have dense breasts which is why the mammograms didn't show any thing. I have made it my "mission" to share this. I also was probably annoyingly cheerful at my cancer center. I would talk to everyone and smile and be upbeat. I knew others were far sicker that I was and many were struggling so I smiled and told patients that I was a talker and if they wanted to sleep they should probably not sit next to me. What you find out doing that is that many people want to talk they just don't want to burden their family and friends.

My family do not live close by but I knew they were very supportive of me as were my friends. My husband was awesome. He has a quick wit and great sense of humor. I especially like relating to others about the time he came home from work and I told him to feel my head as you could feel the hair starting to grow. He did, and without skipping a beat he said, oh, I have my own little Chia pet. We used humor throughout and still do.

My friends checked in on me and my next door neighbor somehow managed to come out every time I took the dogs out in our large backyard. It was so sweet having her make sure I was doing well and didn't need anything.

I am still in maintenance because even though I had chemo before my surgery and my pet scan said I was cancer free, I was not. The surgeon couldn't remove all the cancer along my chest wall and 4 out of 9 nodes he removed were still cancerous. So I am considered No Evidence of Disease, NED, and a higher risk. I am on medication due to being ER and PR hormone positive which due to my age the doctors said I may be on this for the rest of my life..

I had kidney cancer 27 years ago and have had 7 major surgeries over the years so, I just add this to the list and am glad I am still here. I enjoy life. Whatever lies ahead I will handle and I hope I will do it gracefully and with a smile. Writing has become one of my favorite things to do along with taking photographs. Writing soothes me and allows me to leave a written word for my children, their families and those to come. I am at an age where I want to make and leave memories and hope others can learn from some of my experiences and just enjoy others.

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Some Tips I've learned During My Cancer Journey…by Alyce Stewart


1. Remember all patients/survivors react differently to the treatments. Someone else's story will not necessarily be yours.
2. Use super soft toothbrush during chemotherapy. Oral B has a good one or use a child’s.
3. Mild soaps and creams without perfumes etc.
4. Use a straw to drink from. Drink a lot of water.
5. Neuropathy can develop from chemotherapy drugs. Tell doctor if you start to feel numbness and or tingling.
6. With many types of chemotherapy your hair will fall out after the 1st or 2nd treatment.
7. Nails may fall off with some chemotherapy. The nails will actually peel to a point where a new nail is starting to grow.
8. Use plastic utensils to eat with. The plastic helps with the metallic taste that can develop.
9. Use Biotin Mouthwash for dry mouth. Ask for Magic Mouthwash from doctor if you develop sores in your mouth.
10. Use an electric razor.
11. When your hair falls out ALL your hair is affected. Your nose hairs will fall out resulting in a constant nasal drip.
12. Your appetite might change. You may think you're hungry but after a few bites you are full. Protein drinks help. Talk to
a dietician, your clinic should have one on staff.
13. You may feel the heat or cold more.
14. You may have night sweats.
15. Fatigue can be like nothing you ever felt before, try to move about even if only in your house.
16. If you feel "wiped out" after a treatment, make sure you tell your doctor. You may need fluids due to your low immune system.
17. Say "no" to visitors if you are not up to it or if your immune system is low. They just want to be there for you but
sometimes it's harder to stay up and visit.
18. Try to not read about your diagnosis, treatments etc. on the internet. It will overwhelm you.
19. There are no silly or stupid questions, ask if you have a question. Your team is there for you, don't be afraid to ask.
There are some great websites to go to and talk to others about what is going on.
20. A good skin cream will help with the dryness of your skin which can result from chemotherapy or radiation. A good
lip balm.
21. If you have radiation treatment do not put on any creams in that area before your treatment.
22. Remember to put cream on both sides of your body if you have radiation-if you can't reach your back-purchase a
plastic non-slotted spatula to put on with.
23. A natural Aloe spray can be very soothing on your radiated skin.


24. Talk to your doctor about creams he wants you to use during radiation.
25. Radiation can also make you extremely fatigued.
26. If you have surgery and cannot take a shower, there are adult size wet wipes you can use.
27. Ask your doctor when you can see a dentist and/or an eye doctor after treatments. Make sure you tell both that you
have had cancer treatments.
28. Sometimes cancer treatments can cause your cataracts to progress faster. Be aware of any changes to your vision.
29. Be careful of the sun and heat during treatments. You may react adversely to them.
30. If possible, take someone with you to your doctor's and surgeon's visits so they hear everything that is said. If you can't
take someone with you, ask the provider if you can tape their conversation.
31. Head coverings can be very important as they protect your head from the elements. They can keep your head warm in
all conditions to include having medical procedures and treatments.
32. Your scalp may itch as your hair grows, the texture may go through several changes, ask your doctor if/when you can
color it if that is what you want to do.
33. Often hair will show up on your face first, under your nose, your chin and lower facial jaw. Don't panic this is normal
and there are treatments and specialized facial razors you can use.
34. https://imermanangels.org/get-support A site to ask for a mentor-you will be paired with someone who had your
type of cancer that is there to support you or you can be a mentor and support someone.

35. Your friends and family will want to help, accept it but tell them specifically what you need, clothes washed, rides etc.

Some Breast Cancer related tips:

1. Know exactly what type of breast cancer you had and what stage. This information is important to all your doctors.
2. Keep a list of all dates -mammogram, diagnosis, port implant (if one is ordered), surgery, chemotherapy start and
finish, and radiation start and finish. You are often asked for these from other providers.
3. Certain breast cancer treatments can cause your nails to peel off. You may save them if you use dark nail polish on
4. Keep your nails out of the sun whenever possible, again this may keep your nails from peeling off.
5. Discuss using ice packs with your doctor if you are to receive Taxol. This may help with your nails as well as preventing neuropathy.

Surgical Tips For Breast Cancer Patients

1. There are many products available to help you be comfortable after surgery.
2. There are special pillows that can help in the car and at home. Drain holders are available as well as blouses/shirts with
pockets inside them for the drains.
3. A recliner may help you sleep after surgery as it keeps you from rolling on your breast area.
4. Wear loose fitting shirts/blouses and inexpensive camisoles after surgery while you are healing.
5. Ask about having IV's, Blood pressure readings, and shots in the arm that is on the side where your breast cancer was.
6. Many x-ray facilities, labs, clinics have patient portals-these can be very useful when you need information for future
7. Check your insurance policy and Medicare to see if you are qualified for free bras, prosthesis inserts and or camisoles
after your surgery. You can find this information online or call your company. 

Useful Products Found

Some products that I have found:
Moo Goo Skin Care
Simply Beautiful Magnesium Lotion
Premium Formulations Shower Solutions Bathing wipes
Radia Guard Treatment Pack
Sovanni Hair Loss Shampoo w/Argan oil by Chummy Supply Co
Lindi Skin Line -www.LindiSkin.com

Zum products, found online and in Publix
Coolibar-clothing to help block the sun-www.coolibar.com Lands Ends and several other stores have these items as
www.softhats.com

Amazon has very affordable hats
Goat soap and lotions are a great choice for your skin and hair. There are body lotions, salves, hair products and body
washes available. These are available online, in stores like Whole Foods, at local markets etc.

If you feel a prosthesis is too heavy or uncomfortable there are the Knitted Knockers who knit protheses that are less
intrusive and heavy. www.knittedknockers.org

Breast MRI-a beast MRI takes 40-60 minutes-you lay on your stomach with your hands over your head, your breasts go
into two holes (a hole for each breast) https://youtu.be/b64PLWO0CmA Video link of a breast MRI

Alyce Stewart had Renal Cell Cancer and had her right kidney removed in December 1993
In July of 1994 she had Basal cell cancer removed from the right side of her nose
Over the years she has had Squamous cancers removed from her nose, legs and arms
In 2016 she was diagnosed with IDC and DCIS in her left axilla and breast-had chemo from Nov-February 2017,
a lumpectomy on April 6, 2017 followed by 30 radiation treatments from June-July 5, 2017

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