Part 2: My Diagnosis, Chemotherapy & Hair Loss

A couple of months before the 13th of March, I felt a lump in my breast. I knew I had to get it checked, but I had a feeling that it was going to bring me bad news. I looked up breast cancer symptoms and the information I read kind of confirmed my case.

I didn’t want to tell my mom before I saw a doctor, because I didn’t want to worry her until I was certain.

On the 12th of March, I was speaking to a friend on the phone and I told her about my lump. She insisted that she should take me to an oncologist on the same day and so she did.

On the way there, I felt very nervous. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the possible “what if’s”. Millions of different scenarios kept running through my head. I felt a little better when we walked into the doctor’s clinic. He was a very nice and pleasant man, probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s. I didn’t get the negative vibe I usually get from doctors. He seemed to be very caring and attentive, unlike most doctors who’ve become merely human technicians.

He welcomed us into his clinic and had a bit of a chat with us before he examined my lump.

Dr. M asked about my age. When I told him I was 23, he looked at me and said “23? You have nothing to worry about! You start worrying about these things when you’re over 30, but let’s get it checked.”.

As he was examining the lump, I could tell by the look on his face that there was something wrong. He asked me if I had by any chance bumped my breast into something. My obvious answer was no (even the clumsiest person is probably incapable of doing that).

I asked him if there was something suspicious. He couldn’t give me a straight answer, but he asked me to get a breast ultra sound and a mammogram, and return to him no later than the next day. At that point, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the bad news came my way.

I woke up the next morning and went to get my scans done. I picked them up a few hours later right before my doctor’s appointment and there it said ‘BIRADS 5‘ on the report, but I couldn’t understand anything else.

The friend who had come with me the day before couldn’t make it on time to my doctor’s appointment. Another friend came along. We walked into the clinic and my doctor took a look at the report. He looked at me and asked if Dina was my relative. I told him that she was my bestfriend. He nicely asked her to leave the room for a couple of minutes.

He told me that I probably had cancer but kept reassuring that I had nothing to worry about. He also told me that there was a 5% chance that the tumor was benign. Honest to God, he didn’t scare me and was able to contain my fear before it surfaced. I had nothing to say. I had no questions. I couldn’t cry. Again, I was in shock. The same kind of shock I was in when my father died. I wasn’t even sure if I was scared. I felt very numb for a while.

He asked me to get a biopsy done immediately. I’m sure he had already known the result, but didn’t want me to live on false hope, even if it was for just one night. And so he referred a pathologist and I did the biopsy.

I got a tentative result on the spot. The pathologist confirmed my carcinoma.

Only 2 nights before my diagnosis, I was out having fun with my friends and now I’m being faced with a life threatening disease. Too many decisions had to be made. Too many people had to be informed. I kept thinking about my mom. I didn’t know what to tell her. I was too worried that she would break down.

It was all happening too fast.

I still couldn’t ask any questions. My friends (whom I thank very much for their support) could tell that I was completely zoned out, so they started asking all the obvious questions. They specifically asked about the stage of my carcinoma and the type of treatment. They even asked about the possibility of hair loss from chemotherapy.

Only when they started asking all these questions, everything suddenly hit me.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know when and how I should tell my mom.

I called my psychiatrist when I got to Dina’s house and he asked me to wait before I told her anything. Meanwhile, he referred a doctor whom he said he trusted very much. I went to see him the next day and that was probably one of the worst days in my life.

He was a typical doctor. Same vibe I got from almost all of them. He took a look at the report and examined my lump and then casually told me that I had to get a mastectomy within a week at most. I didn’t know what ‘mastectomy‘ meant. When I was at the pathology lab, Dr. M called the pathologist and emphasized that he had no intention to put me through surgery at this age. He said that I was going to do chemotherapy for a few months and then I’m done.

When he explained what a mastectomy was, I broke out in tears for the first time since my diagnosis. I told him that it wasn’t what my oncologist had in mind. He kept trying to convince me that chemotherapy prior to surgery is ineffective and that it would be a complete waste of health and energy. According to him, I had to operate eventually.

I waited for him to finish what he had to say and dashed out of his clinic in fury. I was frightened, angry and sad. I refused to believe him and I’m glad I didn’t.

To cut a long story short, I saw almost 6 doctors altogether. All in one week. They all said the same thing with different approaches. All the oncologists suggested chemo prior to surgery and the surgeons suggested the other way around.

A few days later I told my mom and I thank God that it went much better than I expected. She was shocked just like me, but didn’t break down. It took her a while to absorb the fact that her daughter was being faced with a life-threatening illness, but she stayed strong.

I eventually decided to proceed with treatment with Dr. M. My mom and I went to see him at his clinic and he scheduled my first chemo session for the next day (21st of March). Of course, I asked him about the nausea during and after chemo. He told me that the type of chemo drug I was going to take will not cause these side effects. I felt relieved.

The weekend before I was diagnosed

The only thing he asked me to do to prepare for chemo was to cut my hair as short as I can in order to avoid hair loss. Apparently the shorter the hair, the more resistant it is to chemo. I had very long hair back then, half way through my back. I really didn’t want to cut it but he kept insisting that I should. He also told me that I should look at wigs just in case my hair eventually falls out. I didn’t look much into what he said, I really didn’t think I would lose my hair, but I still cut my hair to stay on the safe side.

I couldn’t sleep all night. I wasn’t scared especially after Dr. M told me that I will not be experiencing the horrible side effects I read about, but I was anticipating. I still didn’t know what to expect. I’m not afraid of needles, so that was a good thing.

I got dressed when it was time to leave the house. On the way to the hospital with my mom and her friend, I kept thinking about my father. I kept thinking about how weak and helpless he looked during chemo and how painful it was.

They checked me into a room as soon as we got to the hospital. I had a blood sample taken right before the session in order to make sure that I was fit for chemo.

The blood test came out half an hour later and Dr. M was happy with the results.

He personally inserted the cannula into my left arm. He told me that we were going to use this arm because we will not be able to use it after surgery. I didn’t know I was going to operate eventually. He had told the pathologist that I will not be operating. For some reason, I still didn’t ask.

I stayed for around 3 hours in the hospital. I didn’t feel anything during the session. I was only sleepy because I hadn’t slept since the night before.

I went home and slept right away. I woke up in the evening soaking with sweat, even though it was really cold. I still felt really happy because I felt ok. I didn’t feel nauseated or tired. I took a shower and went to see a friend. When I came back home, I started to feel tired. I thought that it was lack of sleep, so I slept it off. I woke up the next morning with horrible nausea. I could barely walk and I certainly couldn’t eat. Even a sip of water made me want to throw up. I felt so helpless and that was when I called Dr. M. He told me to take a pill of Zofran, which is apparently a ‘breakthrough’ medicine in the world of cancer. It didn’t help. I called him again a few hours later and told him that I was still feeling really sick. There was obviously nothing he could do. Those were the normal chemo side effects. I continued feeling ill for 4 days. I was really snappy all the time. I had lost almost 3 kilos in just 4 days.

On the 5th day, I started feeling normal again. My appetite was back and I had a bit more energy. I went back to my normal life and continued seeing my friends and going out. I wasn’t scared or depressed. I just dreaded chemo. I also resented my oncologist for lying to me about the side effects. He didn’t prepare me. I wasn’t ready.

The day before my second cycle (2 weeks apart from the first session), I started noticing thick strands of my hair falling out. I had hair on my pillow, on the bed, on the floor, in the bathtub. My hair was everywhere. With the amount of hair falling out, I could tell that I was going to bald in a week at most. That was also something Dr. M hadn’t warned me about.

When I asked him about it the next day during my session, he urged me to buy a wig before I completely lost all of it. At that point, I had made peace with the fact that I’m going to lose my hair. It was inevitable.

I felt sick during the session. Half way through, I started feeling a metallic taste in my mouth. It was horrible. Nothing would make it go away. I tried sucking on lollipops, chewing gums, crackers… But nothing helped.

The nausea was terrible. I felt sick for 9 days this time.  It was only then that I could relate to what my father felt. I moaned in pain all night. My mother was heartbroken and helpless because there was nothing she could do.

I knew I had to stay strong in order to make it. I had to accept what I was going through. I’ve always known that chemotherapy destroys the body. I knew that it was a painful process but I thought it cured cancer.

On the 6th day, I forced myself to go get my head shaved even though I was really tired. It was starting to look ridiculous. That day, I went in to shower and walked out with an empty patch in the middle of my head and a receded hairline. My mom advised me to keep it and cover it with the rest of my hair, but psychologically, I couldn’t. I knew it was going to fall out completely and I hated this kind of anticipation. My mom took to me to buy a wig first, and then took me to the hairdresser. I couldn’t really look at myself in the mirror when the guy was shaving my head. It felt very weird. As soon as he was done, I put on my wig and went back home. I wasn’t a skin head yet, but only a few days later, the rest of the small hair fell out.

Before I lost the shadow

Even though I had bought a wig, I preferred to go out with my shaved head. I didn’t mind it. I thought I should make the best out of it. And of course, when I felt like having hair, I put on my wig. Even when I was buying it, I didn’t care if it looked natural, because I knew I wasn’t going to use it much. I must say it has been very amusing watching people’s reactions.

In my next post I will discuss what happened on my 3rd session and why I decided to go for alternative treatment. I will also discuss why chemotherapy is not considered a cure. It is actually believed to kill more than cancer.

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34 Responses to Part 2: My Diagnosis, Chemotherapy & Hair Loss

  1. Djinn says:

    I love you. For your bravery, for sharing this with people because I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, for having the courage to say it all, as it is, no bullshit and for wanting to help others out at a time when anyone else would only think of themselves. I’m privileged to have you in my life. And I am with you every step of the way.

  2. Rana says:

    So inspiring for everyone fighting cancer out there! Thank you for starting a blog about this to increase awareness. Our thoughts & prayers are with you! xx

  3. Amro Al Sabi says:

    I really respect you ! U r a very brave strong person :) I swear I’m very speechless, I cant express my feelings .. Walla Heba we are all with you :)

  4. yousry says:

    I know we had our ups and downs, drifted apart even for some time, but you know I love you none the less!
    I’m not really surprised as to what I’ve read, I was just telling you yesterday how much I admire your strength and as djinn said in a time where no would even be able to get it together, I don’t even think most of us have that kind of strength in them… You are an inspiration… I’m proud of you.. Even more proud to know you

  5. Mohamed Zein says:

    I don’t really know you and you don’t know me but you’re such a brave person. Know well that no disease is irreversible.
    If you want your body to fight the disease, your brain will keep sending those signals.

  6. Dalia mamdouh says:

    From the first time I met with my daughter and ur friend, I knew there was something special about u. At that time,I only recognized how much u were well brought up,well cultured,well exposed to life and so much dedicated to be an A student with a long vision of succeeding in whatever career u will pursue. I was happy that my daughter had a friend like u..u simply entered my heart with no ifs or buts. As years went by and through all of the good times and hard ones u passed through,there was something inside of me that wanted to feel u r safe,happy because i always felt u deserve the best life has to offer.
    What u ve been passing through is magnificient,its not easy to be handled let alone accepted with such faith and a survival spirit to fight it and win at the end..because that’s what u”ll do..u will conquer this pain and U WILL WIN..I am sure about it and have not one single doubt.
    To add to the list of ur distinguished qualities, u r such a brave,strong,powerful and confident young lady, that is so rare to find..For me u were always one of a kind and now u proved to me that I was right all along
    U r not alone..I am here and will always be around and next to u..not because u need me but because I am learning from u a lot.. . I am learning how to be able to face the world,disease and anything I dislike with such a positive,confident attitude..I am learning from how to have such faith fm deep down. Thank u for being there to teach me..I am so proud of u and will always be..keep it up girl and knock it dowwn with every power u have..U R THE WINNER..

  7. PinkRibbon says:

    Dear Heba, your blog is very inspiring and it saddens me to read the effects of a materialistic conspiracy that is taking over our society. I have known many women that have suffered and struggled to deal with the consequences of chemotherapy and hope that one day inshallah we will be presented with an alternative cure that can save the lives of so many precious people instead of filling the bank accounts of others. I would like to ask, can you please specify what your lump felt like? At a young age many girls experience lumpy breasts. When do we know what we have to check out and what is considered normal? Would really appreciate your thoughts on this. The worrying issue is that due to a possibly environmental (hormonal?!) factor more and more women are getting diagnosed with cancer at such a young age. Quite often, the oncologists reaction is similar to that of yours and immediately dismiss the possibility of teenagers suffering from the disease. It is important to note that cancer IS becoming a fast growing epidemic and if pharmaceutical companies will not address this, then women must empower themselves with knowledge before its too late.

    • hebamitkees says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate everything you’ve said! :)
      There are millions of natural cures out there suppressed by the Big Pharma. It’s really a shame! In my latest post, I talked about apricot seeds which contain Vitamin B17, and is believed to be a natural cure for cancer and prevents it completely! This is only 1 of many cures that we don’t know of. It’s really a shame..
      About the lump, mine was hard lump which didn’t move (which means it has a root). By the time I went to get it checked, it had already protruded. I could see it on the side of my breast without having to feel it. Generally, any lump should get checked to stay on the safe side.

  8. Sara Mitri says:

    Hi Heba!

    I have only read this part of your post, and I’m really sorry for what’s happening to you. I have huge admiration for the courage that it takes to go public with this and discuss the issues of cancer treatment to help raise awareness.

    Obviously, I don’t know what you’re going to post next, but from my understanding, I expect that you will say that chemotherapy is a bad idea, and that one should turn to alternative treatments instead. I think it’s really important to think about this and to look into different modes of treatment.

    I myself am extremely ignorant when it comes to cancer or cancer treatments, so I can’t help you with that. But I do work in science, and I know that it’s important to get your information from reliable sources. There is so much crap out there, even if you look through the scientific literature. Of course, I have no idea, and maybe you are using very reliable sources. But I am worried that you might be finding biased information. The internet is amazing in making all kinds of information immediately accessible to everyone, but how do you know who to listen to?

    Without trying to sound patronizing, part of what I do every day is to go through such information and objectively decide what to rely on. In short, I would be happy to help you find such sources and look through the papers if they are very technical. Since I don’t know you, I think I could be quite objective about it. I have no bias either for or against chemotherapy.

    One good place to start is the Cochrane library http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/o/cochrane/. They have collections of papers that look through all the scientific literature on a certain topic and try and summarize it objectively every now and then. For example, there is a paper reviewing all research on “Preoperative chemotherapy for women with operable breast cancer”, published in 2009. That might be a good place to start.

    I hope you don’t find my message patronizing or annoying, but I also hope you’ll find this useful.

    Sara

    • hebamitkees says:

      Hi Sara! Thank you so much for your message! I’m sorry it took me a while to reply.
      Nothing you said was patronizing or annoying at all, on the contrary, everything you said makes so much sense. :)
      You seem to have very powerful research skills and I would definitely appreciate your help!
      The reason I made this decision is because chemotherapy long and short term side effects are recognized by doctors and the entire pharma industry, but they claim that it is the only ‘cure’ for cancer. As I’ve mentioned in my latest post, the term ‘cured’ in medicine means that a patient has been cancer-free for 5 years after treatment. Cancer survival statistics are based on this specific period of time. The relapse or death of a patient after this period does would not alter these statistics. Very tricky!
      There are plenty of natural cancer cures in the world that have been suppressed by the Big Pharma. It’s very obvious why they’re doing that. Anything that they can’t patent will not bring them profit and therefore, they declare it as ineffective or harmful. Scientists and doctors who have come up with cancer cures have been either discredited or put in jail. I came across a couple of videos that were truly shocking. One of them is the video I embedded at the end of my latest post. Please take a look at it and let me know what you think.
      I will take a look at the paper definitely!

      Thank you so much again!

      Heba

      • Sara Mitri says:

        Hi Heba,

        Thanks for your reply! I’m really glad you got back to me on this. I’ve just finished reading your two new posts and have watched the videos. I will reply in detail tomorrow. I have a lot to comment on and a lot of information to share. However, for now I just want to tell you – hopefully without scaring, confusing or depressing you – that what you are doing, by stopping chemo is really dangerous. From what I have read, there is no scientific evidence that Reiki, or homeopathy cure disease. I will, however, try to be open-minded and tell you that there is the possibility that it works, even if the evidence is not there yet, and that the evidence will come out one day. The same could be true for the nutritional therapies.

        But regardless of which strategy is the best, let’s focus on the goal here. The goal is to get rid of your tumors, hopefully in the long-term but at the very least in the short-term. There is the possibility that one of the two, alternative or conventional, doesn’t work, but hopefully one of them does, at least to some extent. I honestly think that the best way to tackle your problem is to get as much treatment as you can. Go to both doctors. Get conventional medical therapy (just in case the alternative stuff doesn’t work), and get alternative medical treatment (just in case it does work). The good news is that alternative therapies probably do very little harm. Even if chemotherapy is painful and toxic to your body, cancer is more deadly. I understand that it’s difficult to undergo treatment where you can feel the damage being done to your body, but please, don’t take the huge risk by stopping something that has worked even partially for you already.

        More details tomorrow, I hope.

        Sara

  9. Sherif Seif El Nasr says:

    I was diagnosed with cancer, (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, i think it was stage 2) around April 2008, went to Paris, did chemotherapy for about 5 months, then radiotherapy for one month. Was fine for about 5 months, but then around the same time the following year had a relapse. Had to go to Paris again, where i did a more intensive chemotherapy for about 4 months, followed by two stem cell (bone marrow) transplants, which ended around the end of 2009, since then i’ve been fine. Except for my breathing capacity, which has greatly diminished due to radiotherapy, and my ability to make prolonged efforts. Perhaps also my ability to think or focus, but i don’t know how to measure that (I know that the autonomous nervous system which is supposed to oxygenate the brain has been affected due to radiotherapy).
    I never really believed in chemotherapy, never did like the idea of it. I did it because there was no other choice and because i believed it would cure me. Also because there was no way of talking my parents out of it, since they handled pretty much everything ever since i got sick. I’ve thought about it a lot, and i’ve always considered chemotherapy a poison, a poison they use to kill a disease, a disease that is potentially more dangerous than that poison. I’ve tried some homeopathy, but it didn’t really work out. Was doing it during chemo and was also kind of skeptical, circumstances.
    Chemotherapy is definitely not a cure, it’s at best a temporary remedy, even remedy is not an appropriate term here. But here i am, alive, only i stopped playing football. I wish i could have found a real cure for it.

    This is an interesting blog. Best of luck in everything.

    • hebamitkees says:

      I’m really sorry you had to go through all this and I’m glad that you’re doing fine now. I completely understand how devastating these side effects could be but on the bright side, you’re doing great! :)
      Homeopathy alone cannot cure cancer, but there are plenty of other ways to cure it and prevent it from coming back. I think you should read about apricot seeds and their natural component (Vitamin B17), which is believed to be a natural cure and prevents cancer in the first place. I think my latest post would be helpful. Take a look at it and let me know your thoughts! :)

    • Amr zaki says:

      Shit.. You sound like my twin brother. Never thought 2 egyptians can relapse hodgkins lymphoma ! I play soccer also now but i suck :)) We need to discuss breathing stories my friend. We had a 30% chance of survival :)

  10. iman hosni says:

    I cried halfway thru this! You are a strong woman!! you will get through this inshallah! and you will be stronger than ever :))

  11. Reem Hawwa says:

    I just want to tell you that being strong and laughing in the face of cancer is the cure Ive witnessed almost 2 ppl in my family who got cancer one died because she lost hope and the second women fought and never gave up
    now she is happy, she is a survivor

    Just remember that GOD is stronger than any cancer any disease and any problem…

    Don’t tell God how big ur problem is, tell your problem how big your God is

    Thank you for sharing your stories it will help so many people I know it will.

  12. Nawa says:

    Heba, again i dont know what to say… but for some reason i felt that it was very helpful to read it cause it makes one stronger and wiser and wake up to more important matters in life.. U r truely an inspiration cause someone to talk abt their diagnosis is a very brave matter.. i rly hope one day u wake up and it will be all gone!! God is watching u take life postively therefore u will live for as long as life deserves.. u deserve it.. keep ure posts coming cause i am an interesting reader and a fan! take care and till then be safe.. :) :) xxx

  13. hussein abdallah says:

    Hello hiba,
    You have a very beautiful and strong personality. Thank you for sharing ur story…

  14. Rola Alsayegh says:

    May God be with you through this tough time, you are an awesome person and i’v eelaways known you as a strong woman. Thanks for sharing this with us, i’ve always brushed it off thinking i’ll worry about it when I get older but your story is very inspiring and mind-opening.

    Wish you all the best.

    • hebamitkees says:

      Rola! It’s been so long!!! I really miss you and I hope to see you soon! Are you visiting Egypt any time this year? I remember you used to visit a lot with your family! :)
      Thank you so much and i really hope we could catch up soon! xxx

  15. hassan jaber says:

    god bless u :)

  16. meyasser says:

    heba .. it has been sooo longggg and i miss youuuuu wlahii :)
    God bless you yarab ..
    U r truely an inspiration.
    i know its a battle but you are STRONG and ive always known that !
    i really hope we couyld meet soon ..
    We have to PRAYYY keteeeeerrr and to have faith en insh2allah everything is going to be fineee so soooooon insha2allah walahiiii :)

  17. You are beautiful with or without hair – truly.

    Thank you for sharing what you have experienced.

    People often don’t realize that it can all happen so fast – too fast to even take in until you are already knee deep and wondering how it all happened to you.

    *hugz for you and your Mom*

    M.L.

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