Introduce yourself (Name, where you’re from) - What was your life like before undergoing chemotherapy?
My name is Yvonne Delacruz and I am from Visalia, Ca born and raised.
I have two sons, Jacob 19 and Nathaniel 13, and before chemo I had been pregnant with my angel in heaven Matteo. My life was much different before chemo as you can assume. Before April of 2021 I had a completely different life planned out for myself and my children.
Bring us along your journey – when were you diagnosed with cancer? What was your initial reaction?
I became pregnant with Matteo in November of 2020. Right away there were complications. Spotting, pain, severe bloating, urination problems. I was very open and honest about everything with my OB GYN and they seemed to be keeping an eye on what they thought was an ovarian cyst and fibroids. After numerous trips to the ER and urgent care, my doctor decided to remove the cyst in an easy, in and out procedure and Matteo would be fine since I would be over 18 weeks pregnant and into my 2nd trimester. After the first laparoscopic surgery, I was woken up to be taken into an emergency exploratory surgery to fix a problem with my intestines. At that time the cancer was found and removed. Within a day or two I lost Matteo. The exact timeline is still a very blurry and a traumatic experience for me to talk about. Matteo was taken to heaven on April 14, 2021. I was told about the cancer at that time while I was recovering in the hospital. I don't remember my initial reaction but I do know that I thought it was a death sentence. I remember writing on the white board (since I was intubated and couldn't talk) “I am dying”. It took some time to process what was actually happening. To be honest, it still takes time for me to process it all.
What was your first chemotherapy treatment like? What treatment/treatments did you or are currently undergoing?
My first chemotherapy treatment was on July 21st 2021. When they called from the hospital to schedule my first chemo, I cried and cried. I was terrified. I was expecting the worst. Expecting all the symptoms. Dreading it all. I cried on the way there that morning. I felt like it was the beginning of feeling and looking very sick. I was nervous about having my port accessed and wondering if it was going to be painful. I was worried about being sick during the actual infusion. That wasn't the case at all though, from the minute of walking in and getting access to my port, the lab RNs were so gentle and kind, educated me on how to use the topical lidocaine prior to my appointment to help with pain. My chemo RN was awesome and gave me a tour of the infusion floor and showed me where all the snacks were, and boy do I love the snacks there. He made sure to explain all of the medications that were being administered & answered all my questions thoroughly. I have completed 4 of 6 treatments and the medications I am being administered are Paclitaxol and Carboplatin. I have handled these medications very well. I do not have any nausea/vomiting or allergic reactions while being infused. I sleep most of the time that I am there & before I know it, it's time to go.
Who did you turn to as your support system?
My support squad consists of my mom, my two sons, my cousin, my sister, and my best friends. They have been the best for me during this time and I am not sure if they completely understand how much it means to me and how much I don't know if i could have made it without them. I will be forever grateful. This has been the scariest experience of my life along with the most devastating and if it wasn't for these beautiful souls in my life, I am not sure I could have made it through this.
What is something you wished you knew before starting your chemo treatment?
That the actual chemotherapy itself isn't as scary as it seems and is not the end of feeling normal. There are so many medications that help with all the side effects and to be honest, I feel stronger after every infusion, like I conquered another one. Your doctors should be right there to help the whole way and do not want you feeling ill during this time either, just be honest with them. If you stick with the medication regimen that is prescribed, you will be ok.
Have there been certain side effects that have been worse than others?
The side effects that have been the worst on me is the drowsiness/exhaustion and joint pain. The first 4 days I feel these side effects the most. Hair loss is hard as well. It is an emotional thing to go through for anyone, especially women.
What are tips/tricks you have learned along the way to help with chemo side effects?
Listening to your body is the most important, if you are tired, rest. That drowsy feeling will subside and you can go back to your normal routine soon enough. Don't over do it and stress your body out because you can make the side effects worse. Claritin works wonders for joint pain, so I take one of those daily. I started losing hair every day and would cry and get depressed until one of my mentors told me to shave it and take control back from the hair loss and it was the smartest advice I could have followed.
Do you recommend any chemo friendly products?
CamWell Botanical products are great for the skin. I also keep an Aquaphor lip balm with me at all times. There is also ginger gum, throat lozenges, or drinks that help with nausea.
Any advice for other chemo patients?
Be strong and hang in there. This too shall pass. Be honest with what you are feeling and going through. Cry, vent, scream, yell… get it out and then pick up the pieces and keep pushing. It has helped me tremendously to reach out to other women on social media that share their journey & it gave me a sense of what to expect. I also speak and text with these women often which helps because they truly know what you are going through. I have found a lot of peace in prayer and meditation. I also became interested in crystal healing and using a cleansing sage throughout my house, which I feel brings good and positive vibes and mindset. I began going to therapy which I encourage anyone to do if they have been diagnosed with cancer, or have had a miscarriage, or are on chemo, along with other life situations we all face. It feels really good to get it out and have someone help you learn to cope with these feelings. I also have managed to stay active and walk about 3 miles every morning and I let the sun hit my (sunscreen protected) skin. It feels amazing to feel your heart pump and to take in the fresh air, it feels amazing to be alive. You will gain some weight believe it or not, but don't worry about that and make sure you are getting proper nutrition and protein in your diet to continue to be strong enough to fight this. Drink tons of water, it will do your kidneys wonders. And if it helps follow my journey on instagram @life_of_vonn so you can see what my story completely entails.