I’m sharing my personal chemo diary in order to help people going through treatments. I talk about Doxil and Avastin side effects, my ileostomy bag, hair loss, and fatigue.
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
“You have cancer.” No one ever wants to hear those words. Especially when you’re 23.
I barely knew anything about chemo when I got my diagnosis.
As I got closer to my first round of chemo — about two weeks after my diagnosis — I started to hear horror stories about people becoming extremely sick from their treatments. It start to set in that chemo can be really tough on your body.
To say I was terrified would be an understatement. I think just about every single emotion hit me the week of my first round of chemo.
I remember walking into the infusion center for my first treatment and feeling overwhelming anxiety take over. I was shocked that I suddenly felt so anxious, because on the entire car ride to chemo, I felt confident and strong. But the minute my feet hit the pavement, that fear and anxiety washed over me.
During my several rounds of chemo, I kept a journal to track how I was feeling and how my body was handling everything.
Even though everyone experiences chemo differently, I hope these entries help you feel supported as you fight cancer.
August 3, 2016
I was just diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. I can’t believe this! How in the world do I have cancer? I’m healthy and only 23!
I’m terrified, but I know I will be OK. I felt this peace wash over me when my OB-GYN told me the news. I’m still scared, but I know I’ll get through this, because it’s the only choice I have.
August 23, 2016
Today was my first round of chemo. It was a very long day, so I’m exhausted. My body is physically tired, but my mind is wide awake. The nurse said it’s because of the steroid they give me before chemo… I guess I could be up for 72 hours. This should be interesting.
I’ll admit that I was a wreck before chemo. I had no idea what to expect. For all I knew, I’d be sitting in a spaceship-looking thing and was going to be knocked out getting chemo. I thought it was going to hurt or burn.
When I sat down in the chemo chair (which wasn’t a spaceship), I instantly started to cry. I was so scared, so nervous, so angry, and I couldn’t stop shaking.
My nurse made sure I was OK and then went out and got Kaleb, my husband, for me. We had no idea that he could be with me during infusion. Once he got back there with me, I was fine.
I believe the treatment lasted about seven hours. They said it’ll only be so long once a month, when I get double chemo doses.
Overall, my first day of chemo was way less scary than I thought it would be. I haven’t had any side effects yet besides being tired, but apparently I’ll start seeing actual side effects from the drugs in about two more weeks.
September 22, 2016
I’m in Seattle now and will be living here ’til this cancer is gone. My family thought it’d be best if I came up here to get a second opinion and to also help me and Kaleb while we go through this.
I met with my new doctor today, and I just love her so much! She doesn’t make me feel like another patient, but like a family member. I’m starting chemo up here, but we were informed that the type of cancer I’m battling is low-grade serous ovarian, which is rare for my age. Unfortunately, it’s also resistant to chemo.
She never said it isn’t curable, but it could be very hard.
I’ve already lost count of the number of chemo treatments I’ve received, but luckily the only side effect I’ve had is hair loss.
I shaved my head a few weeks ago, and it’s actually kind of nice being bald. Now I don’t have to do my hair all the time!
I still feel like myself, even though I’m losing weight from chemo, which sucks. But it could be worse, and I’m thankful that hair and weight loss are the only side effects I’m experiencing so far.
November 5, 2016
It’s about five days after my major cancer debulking surgery that I had on Halloween. I’m so sore.
It hurts to cough, it hurts to move, it even hurts to breathe sometimes.
Surgery was only supposed to last five hours, but I believe it ended up lasting 6 1/2 hours. I had a full hysterectomy and my spleen, appendix, gallbladder, part of my bladder, and five tumors removed. One tumor was the size of a beach ball and weighed 5 pounds.
I also had part of my colon removed, which caused a temporary ileostomy bag to be put in place.
I still have a hard time looking at this thing. The bag hooks up to an opening in my stomach, called a stoma, which is how I’ll poop for a while. This is crazy and cool at the same time. The human body is a wild thing!
I’ll be off chemo for about two months so my body can recover and heal from the surgery.
My doctor did drop some scary news. She was able to get all the cancer out she could see during surgery, but the lymph nodes and my spleen did have cancer in them, and she isn’t sure if they’ll be curable.
I’m considered stage 4 now. That was hard to hear.
But that warm feeling washed over me again, and next thing I knew, I’m smiling at my doctor and told her “I’ll be fine, just watch.”
Of course I’m scared, but I won’t let that negativity fill my mind. This cancer can be beat and WILL BE BEAT!
January 12, 2017
This Doxil is no joke! I can’t work out for five days, I have to take lukewarm showers, use lukewarm water for everything, wear loose-fitting clothes, and can’t get too hot, otherwise I could get hand and foot syndrome, where your hands and feet start to blister and peel. That’s definitely something I’ll be trying to avoid!
Update: It’s about 1 a.m. the next morning. I’m wide awake because of the steroid, but so far nothing feels different from the last rounds of chemo.
I’ve noticed that drinking some hot green tea before bed helps me get to sleep… for a few hours. I can get maybe four hours of sleep before I’m wide awake again, which is better than no sleep, like before. Hot green tea for the win!
March 22, 2017
I just had my ileostomy bag removed! I can’t believe it’s finally gone. It’s been nice being off chemo again.
Before each surgery, my doctor takes me off chemo about a month before and then keeps me off chemo for about two months after.
Doxil is the only form of chemo that I had a side effect from besides the usual hair loss, weight loss, and being tired. I wouldn’t get blisters on my hands or feet, but I would get blisters on my tongue! Especially if I ate foods that had a lot of acidity to them, like fruits. The blisters were so bad the first time that I couldn’t eat or talk for five days.
My teeth would burn the blisters if they touched them. It was horrible. My doctor gave me magic mouthwash that numbed my entire mouth and helped a lot.
My doctor and I got a new game plan together. I’m going to get a scan in a couple months to see if the Doxil-Avastin treatments are working.
November 3, 2017
I just got the call. I had a PET scan the other day, and my doctor just called me with the results. There’s no evidence of disease!
Nothing lit up on the scan, not even my lymph nodes! I’ve been nervous the last couple of days waiting for this call, and the days leading up to my scan, I was just a nervous wreck!
My doctor wants to keep me on Avastin, which is a form of maintenance chemo, and take me off of Doxil, because she doesn’t think Doxil is actually doing anything for me. The best part is that the Avastin treatment only last 30 minutes every three weeks.
I’m also taking letrozole, which is an oral form of chemo, and my doctor wants me on that for the rest of my life.
April 5, 2018
I’ve lost count of how many rounds of chemo I’ve received. It feels like round 500, but that could be an exaggeration.
I got some super exciting news today. I thought I’d be on Avastin for the rest of my life, but it looks like April 27, 2018 will be my last round of chemo!! I never thought this day would come!
I’m so overwhelmed with so many amazing emotions. I can’t stop crying — happy tears, of course. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. April 27 can’t come fast enough!
To look back and see myself sitting in that chemo chair for the first time in 2016 and thinking about sitting in that chemo chair for the last time on the 27th brings back so many emotions and so many tears.
I never knew how strong I was until my body was pushed to its limits. I never knew how strong I was mentally, until my mind was pushed further than I thought it could be pushed to.
I’ve learned that each day isn’t always going to be your best day, but you can always turn your worst day into a good day by simply turning around your attitude.
I believe that my positive attitude, not only during cancer, but during my chemo treatments, helped me handle everyday life, no matter how tough things were.
Based in Seattle, Washington, Cheyann is a social media influencer and the creator behind the popular Instagram account @cheymarie_fit and YouTube channel Cheyann Shaw. At the age of 23, she was diagnosed with stage 4 low-grade serous ovarian cancer, and turned her social media outlets into channels of strength, empowerment, and self-love. Cheyann is now 25, and there’s no evidence of disease. Cheyann has shown the world that no matter what storm you’re facing, you can and you will get through it.