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Cancer Q & A

with Kathy Kanavos

Ask Me Anything!

Kathy O'Keefe Kanavos addresses your
concerns about Cancer

Dear Kathy,

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and am taking chemotherapy. I just had my first frightening post chemo reaction after chemo infusion number four. I had been feeling great for days after my chemotherapy 5FU was finished so I resumed my physical activities. I'm wondering if perhaps I overdid it and became dehydrated.

I am also on Lisinopril (for long standing hypertension). I woke up feeling a little tired on this particular day but wanted to stay on my routine of doing one mile on my treadmill - then suddenly I crashed and burned with dizziness and terrible nausea. This lasted overnight despite taking Compazine and then switching to Zofran for the nausea.

I almost called 911 because I was so dizzy that I couldn't make it to the bathroom without help from my husband. I called the nursing care line for my oncologist. They said chemo effects are cumulative and that I have to be careful even when I'm feeling good. So frustrating!

My chemo is ten treatments long so I will I have 10 "ten-days" between treatments. What is really confusing is that my oncologist told me to "do what you really want to do in those 10 days"- REALLY? If I feel good and do what I want to do then will I always have extreme-dizzy-days, too?

I'm confused and scared.


Dear Bonnie,

It sounds like you experienced a really bad "Crash Day" which unfortunately is part of all chemotherapy treatments. I had a similar reaction while in a supermarket, so I know how scary that weak and dizzy feeling can be.

It is important to figure out your "Crash Day" which is that day in the ten day period after chemo when your system is at its lowest level. Crash Days are as individual as the patients who have them. Rather than being on the tenth day, it may be on the fourteenth day, like mine. Symptoms may vary as well.

Your chemotherapy treatments are cumulative so each crash day may get slightly worse until the treatment is complete. Keep that in mind after your last treatment because it may take you even longer to recover.

I applaud your diligence in keeping up your physical exercises. However, it may be better to skip them on your Crash Day. I spent the two days before and after my Crash Day in bed, really taking it easy. This is the time you want to spoil, baby and love yourself. Your system is highly compromised so stay away from crowded places and don't over exert yourself. Do things that will make your heart sing and raise your emotional vibration. Your body will follow.

Your "Crash Day" may be a real kick-in-the-pants but the good news is that all these negative side effects from treatment will soon pass, along with this illness. And what will be left behind is a level of empathy and knowledge that you could never have reached any other way. That is one of the many silver linings to this storm cloud called cancer treatment.


Dear Kathy,

Did you find that your biopsy results just kept getting worse and worse as they kept coming in? And did you ever have anyone tell you that you're lucky to have cancer?

My first biopsy result was "3cm dcis (Ductal Carcinoma Insitu) with a 2mm area suspicious for invasion." I was still frightened and went online for comfort and to look for other breast cancer survivors. Some nice lady on a website I visited told me I "should consider myself lucky" that it was "only dcis".

After my lumpectomy the diagnosis changed and it was discovered that I had axillary node clearance but needed a mastectomy. Now my final pathology report diagnosis is triple negative breast cancer that is grade 3, stage 3a that is at least 8cm" diameter, with lympovascular invasion and another .25 cm metastic area in one lymph node.

I have lymphedema now, and yesterday had a CT to examine an "indeterminate" lung nodule. I feel like seeking out this lady on the internet to ask her if I have grounds to feel fear now, and should I still consider myself "lucky." How can people tell people who have cancer that they are "lucky!"

Unlucky in Nebraska

Dear Nebraska,

Big Hug to you for being strong enough to even write all that frightening information down and then send it to me. I'm so glad you did. You have just finished experiencing what I call the "Mad-Tea-Party" of Cancerland.

Just when you thought you got your last "Final Pathology Report" you were moved down to the next examining room for your next "Final Report." I understand your concern because I experienced it too. Each report was worse than the first until I also ended up with a double mastectomy.

The good news it there is life after cancer diagnosis and treatment. The Mad Tea Party will end. Often, when people hear that someone has cancer they don't know what to say to comfort them, so they try to look for the silver lining in the storm clouds. They focus on the obvious - that it could have been worse.

I choose to believe in the good within people and don't believe that the woman on the website meant in any way to hurt of belittle your predicament. May I suggest that in the future please be careful about what online sites you share your story on until you have completed treatment?

Surviving Cancerland on Facebook is one that is monitored closely and embraces stories from survivors. And, only listen to stories with happy endings. You are very strong because a person who lacked your emotional strength could never have written me this emotionally packed email.

Yes, you do have reason to be frightened, now. What can you do with that fear to make it work for you? Embrace your fears, they are a normal part of Cancerland, but don't let them rule you.

Ask me anything,


Dear Kathy,

My husband will start a Phase I clinical trial for cancer in January. I'm wondering if you know anything about clinical trials. Calcitriol is the drug they are adding to the two drugs that have been successful so far. So, we are hopeful!

Annie in Atlanta

Dear Annie,

Yes, I know of a number of people who have been in successful clinical trials, not only for cancer but other illnesses as well. When the drugs they were on in conventional treatment no longer worked, clinical trials were life-savers for them.

To a degree, I was also in a clinical trial for my second cancer's "radiation boost" (targeted radiation to the scar line) on my implanted breast after my mastectomy. Only five other women had had this done.

Doctors involved with brain cancer radiation treatments joined my doctor working with treating breast cancer to develop and use an apparatus on my breast that looked like a little cap for the treatment. It worked. Clinical trials are doing some amazing things to help patients beat their illness.

It sounds as if your husband's doctors are being very thorough concerning his treatment and it is good to know that they can adapt treatment specifically to his type of cancer. Do keep us informed because we care.


Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos, Intuitive Life Coach, has survived three breast cancers. She penned SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Intuitive Aspects of Healing (Cypress House, Jan 2014) and is represented by Steve Allen Media.

She is a regular Cancer Q&A columnist for this magazine and writes for Wellness Woman 40 & Beyond, Dream Queen, and is a blogger for BreastCancerYoga.com, YourDreamIntrepretation.com and PATHEOS.

Kathleen is part of www.wakeupwomen.com, is an R.A. BLOCH Cancer Foundation Hotline Counselor and hosts Living Well Talk Radio.

For more information visit: Access Your Inner Guide and http://www.survivingcancerland.com

If you are struggling with your own diagnosis, or know someone who is, please email Kathy with your questions and concerns at: