Chemo Style! Part 2

Photo: ME! Colorist: Adam Deen


Treatment #3 You can do it! (Sorry, I had to!)

When chemo forced itself into my cancer journey, I was not a happy camper. I didn’t want to be vain. I didn’t want the hair loss to be something I worried about. Who cares? It’s a little hair that will grow back in no time. This was a much bigger fight I had gotten myself into and I wasn’t going to have time to worry about the trivial things. In my quest for positivity I tried to take a proactive route. Before I lost my hair, I stood in front of the mirror, armed with every kind of scarf you can imagine. I tried the pirate, I tried the headband, I tried anything to make me feel like I wouldn’t hate looking at myself in the mirror. Everything looked really adorable actually! That is, until I tucked my remaining bangs under the scarf. That’s when the inner monologue started it’s chant: SICK! YOU LOOK SICK! It’s all I could think of. Sick, ugly, cancer. No one walks around without hair unless they have no choice! I flung off the prospective covering and figured I would just deal with it when the day came.

The day came pretty quickly. I was going out and needed to wear a scarf, not for vanity purposes but because I can’t let the sunny Southern California sun scorch my dome. In a moment of desperation, my mom pulled out a red bandana she had in her closet. I looked up a quick online tutorial on how to wrap it and all of a sudden I felt strength jump through my veins. How could I feel anything but powerful wearing my bright red Rosie the Riveter bandana? She is the epitome of ass kicking. She didn’t care what was on her head, she had to roll up her sleeves and do a dirty job that only she could do. It may be cliche but it got me through my bald slump and my next round of chemo. There is nothing more feminine to me than a woman who can get shit done!

get shit

Side Effects

All hail Taxol! My new drug, which is the cousin to Taxotere, solved all my allergy problems! I had no issues with rashes or walking, although I took EXTRA care and stayed off my feet for a full five days just in case. I also tried a new cocktail of pre meds. Though it had been lovely for me to sleep the whole time, it turns out I’m a bit of a sleeptalker and a nasty one at that! Poor mom was dealing with the loopy things that were coming out of my mouth so in order to spare her some stress, we backed off on the Ativan. I was a much more pleasant patient and was aware of the whole thing. Better for everyone for sure.

Now the new thing I’m dealing with is Chemo Brain. THIS IS FOR REAL FOLKS! I have lost my damn mind! Full portions of my brain feel like they are missing. Words disappear from memory and if my train of thought gets interrupted it’s a painful experience trying to get back on. I had heard of this before but I didn’t really think it would affect me. I have always had a steel trap brain. I started my Broadway career being a swing which means you have to learn every part in the show and go on without any rehearsal. I knew my lines and everyone else’s immediately and I got paid the bucks to do it. I really thought this part of my brain would hold up but it went out as quickly as you could say “what?!” I’ve had to have a very particular amount of grace with myself during this time. It’s very disconcerting to lose something you rely on so heavily, but it’s temporary. The people around me love me anyway and will be there waiting for me to finally supply the word I’m looking for. Wait for it… It’s coming, I swear.



32 thoughts on “Chemo Style! Part 2

  1. I am leaving you a comment because you probably don’t know how far your blog goes in the world! My son Nathan Madden (now in An American in Paris) sent me your blog. He follows your journey as well as I do. I went through breast cancer 9 years 11 months ago! I had the surgery, chemo, and radiation. It was tough. I did not do too well. BUT I AM HERE! grateful for the 10 years I have had cancer free. God has been so good to me. When I started my journey my son was in his first year at Juilliard and I have lived to see his success! I just wanted you to know that you are such a blessing and I pray for you. I love your blog and although you put the most positive things on it I know there are only things a fellow “chemosabie” knows what it is REALLY like. YOU GO GURL…so proud of you! love the pictures or you …you make chemo look way more beautiful than I thought it could be.

  2. I really hope someone helps read all your comments. I was diagnosed Feb 2015 with stage 2 DCIS that’s broken out of the duct. Like you, I started chemo first, prior to surgery. I’ve had two rounds of AC so far and will have two more followed by weekly doses of Taxol and Herceptin with some Perjeta thrown in through the Spring. Prognosis is all excellent. I love reading your blog, you started it very soon after I was diagnosed.

    In addition to a marketing day job, I’m a figure skating coach. I have a daughter who also figure skates. (Bear with me, there is relevance here). Every year we have an annual year end skating revue with group numbers and solos. As you can imagine, Broadway transitions to figure skating really well. This year, weeks before my diagnosis and before I found your blog, my daughter was given a solo, skating as Wednesday Addams to One Normal Night for our revue. She’ll skate it this weekend and does an amazing job. I wish I could share the video with you. I’ll be thinking of your battle while I watch her skate. Keep blogging and sharing.

  3. I totally concur. Hair is just a thing on your head to keep you warm in the winter months and shaded in the summer. I’m proud of you for the scarf idea and it looks great on you. I wasn’t so lucky they all looked awful so I went bald. I was very self conscious at first but then people came up to me and told me their cancer story. One lady cried telling it to me bc she had never told anyone about it in her life! I guess it allowed people an outlet and I was happy to listen. Chemo brain that was crazy ….but I felt like I wasn’t talking with people or part of a conversation instead like a piece of plastic ,immobile non emotional. I finished chem in july14 and moved on to radiation. That was much easier. I had very little hair in Oct and today it’s about 2.5 inches long and all curls. Keep positive. And keep writing.

  4. Thank you for sharing your breast cancer journey with us. My sister-in-law sent me the link to your blog after I was diagnosed on February 12th of this year. I had a double mastectomy with beginning reconstruction on March 9th. Still recovering and in pain. I will most likely need chemotherapy, possibly radiation, and hormone therapy (Tamoxifen) for 5-10 years. It helps me to read your experiences and thoughts so that I have an idea of what to expect going forward with my treatment. Like you, I am determined to maintain a positive attitude and to kick cancer’s butt! Most of all, my faith assures me that “this too shall pass” one day and that all will be well. My faith has brought me through some other major traumatic experiences in my life prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, and I am relying on that faith – as well as the prayers of many family members and friends throughout the world – to carry me through this journey as well. God bless and heal you and me both! We are SURVIVORS!!!

  5. Krysta. With each blog post and article I read, I am more in awe of you than the one before. Your humor, wit, strength and wisdom… I have no words. Thank you for helping me to better know how to respond to my friends and colleagues also in this fight. God bless you and your family. I remember how wonderful your parents are from OCCT days. My best to you all

  6. Chemo brain is absolutely real and sadly after you are done it takes awhile for it to come back. My friends use to call me Dori from Finding Nemo. I’d start a conversation and then completely go dear in head lights blank and so my mantra began…”just keep swimming…swimming…swimmin.” I love reading your blog and although we’ve never met…I root for you big time!

  7. Krysta,
    YOU LOOK ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS AND AMAZING IN EVERY PHOTO YOU POST!!! What a beautiful writer you are, you have a wonderful “voice”…keep knocking it out of the park. YOU ROCK XO

  8. Darling Krysta, I don’t use my Grandson’s blanking language, but I agree that I blanking love you. More & more with every post you make. Keep that fighting spirit. Much love & support, Susan (JJ’s nana ) btw you can call me Nana too

  9. You slay me!! And you are gonna slay this cancer! Brava to you and you grace and your GRIT! And your sense of humor is beyond incredible!! Like I said before, the book you are writing is fabulous!

  10. Chemo Brain? Sounds like the premise of a horror picture tent pole.

    In a world where a lovely young actress thinks she is being medicated, it’s actually a cover for evil aliens to come in and steal parts of her brain for the purpose of better understanding the human race they want to subjugate…

    Brilliant! You can write the screen play (or theatre book, if you prefer) and, naturally, star as the lovely young actress who despite being victimized, foils the plot and saves humanity… You’ll make millions!!

  11. You look fantastic, what an inspiration! I was diagnosed with Stage II IDC February 11th, had surgery March 11th, getting ready for my first chemo treatment on April 11th. I saw your first post while all this has been happening to me and now I can’t wait to see you pop in my inbox. I feel like you are giving me a peek of what to expect. This is my year with cancer as well and I am grateful I can come to this sight to laugh or nod in agreement. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  12. I’m glad to hear that Taxol works better for you. I was on Taxol, too. My biggest problem was tingling fingers and toes. That was really the worst side effect I had to deal with. I was lucky enough to avoid chemo brain. I’m not sure how I managed to pull that one off. I finished chemo in February and am now 3 weeks post-op. You’ll get there too. It’s a nice feeling knowing that the cancer isn’t in your body anymore.

  13. Dear Krista, I am way behind in discovering your journey with cancer and I just wanted to say, after reading through all your posts, that you are pressed into our hearts and prayers. Everyday. Our youngest son went to OCSA and he was beyond busy in Jr. year when you came in for “Performing With The Pros,” but did work with Jason Robert Brown, in Senior year. One of the highlights of his 4 years there, for us, as parents, was “watching you” perform with the kids and tell your story. We will never forget it. Then, afterward, to see you so graceful, in the lobby, greeting everyone that came up to you. We moved Ian to Columbia University, in the city, in the fall of 2013 and took our older son, to help. It was there that we made our oldest go to a Broadway show (sports guy), and the only one perfect for him was “First Date.” He was 26, and in “that place” again, and we laughed out loud the entire show, bragging about how we “adored you from OCSA.” He loved it. We also couldn’t wait for Smash every week. You are an incredible young woman, and the way you pour your soul out here, with so much grace and humor is beyond generous. I’m sure cathartic as well. But you don’t have to. I can’t imagine the energy it takes. It’s the same energy and spirit you had for your career. You are an inspiration and just know how much we are loving you from afar. We watched our young niece fight cancer from 13 to 14 years old, and then some, and now, after a long road, she’s in love and doing so well. While at City of Hope, she said to me, “there aren’t many people out there for us… the younger teens with cancer.” “There are a lot of people for the little kids, but they ask us to go and play with them.” My heart felt so heavy. Thank God, for the access to people like you that are now more willing to share their story and inspire even the teenager going through this. You truly are amazing and Rosie never looked as good. much love, deb oxox

  14. Hi. You can’t imagine how far yor blog goes. I’m from Argentina. Crazy right!! I Iost my best friend when she was 5 years. She had pancreas cancer. Anf now 22 years after there no single day that i don’t think about her. She fought so hard but in the end she couldn’t make it. All i can said is please all of you keep fighting!! And keep writting. I ‘ ll pray for all of you to get well soon. Love Yami

  15. Your beautiful and you give us all hope. Please know you are not alone. There is power in prayer, in good wishes and thoughts from all kinds of Gods from different parts of the country and the world. Gods bless you!

  16. Amazing writing, full of hope and humor!! Prayer works when YOU work, and you are definitely doing your part for God to bless and heal YOU!! As I read each fan blog, I pray for each one of you toooooo!!

  17. You look like Rosy the Riveter in that top Pic……A very tough lady…….just like you! ……God Bless you!

  18. These are the best pics of you dp far! You look so fresh and pretty. I love the head scarf look for any woman, puts the focus on the best if a woman’s facial features. You gave a great face do it works. One question, your eyebrows look awesome, did you experience hair falling out of eye brow and eye lashes also? You look great event though you are sick, that’s the positve energy, it’s written on your face. Thanks for a great blog.

  19. I was diagnosed with BC 5 years ago within those 5 years it has now metastasize to my bone, and now the liver.
    I have been treated with several different forms of oral Chemo which cost mucho $$$ a month and now am on my 2nd round of Chemo . The 2nd time was not any easies however I did feel like I could kick cancers ass.

    This time around I don’t , I feel more alone then ever I can’t stand to look at that person in the mirror. My recent. My oncologist and radiologist disagree on what the see on Pet Scan regarding liver . My doctor see healing of the bone no new cancer and believes the liver is much better. The radiologist say other wise today I have and MRI scheduled I am like the walking dead, and yes we are all living in our version of ground hog day movie. I have always said that to my husband, he knows how much I disliked that movie LOL

    I never felt so alone, I don’t know who I am anymore and don’t know how much I can do or take.

    thank for listening

    1. Hi Linda I just had a breast MRI and am now being referred for an ultrasound, I am getting baseline checks and have breast implants so they needed to see underneath them with MRI and also check integrity of implants. I always thought MRI was the ultimate in scans but now I’m being referred to ultrasound so they can try and identify this thing they found that looks like maybe a lymph node. I find it horrid waiting for scan results, I can only imagine how you feel, it must be hell. Hang in there, I would tell the MRI tech how upset you are and stressed, to ensure it is read quickly on the same day of scan. I had to wait 2 hours after my MRI for it to be read and I was first patient to be scanned that day. Remember the tech can’t tell us anything. Have you ever read the essay by Doctor Stephen Jay Gould, he was a cancer survivor of about twenty years before he died, the type of cancer he had an eight month survival rate upon first glance of statistics, but as a scientist he disected these statistics, determining them to be useful abstractions that do not encompass the full range of variation. The median is the half way point, remember that. I will pray for you. Anybody would *feel* like the walking dead the amount of stress and illness you’ve already been through but that doesn’t mean your body is giving up on you. You need to rest your mind too, impossible when waiting for scan results I’m sure but try to. I like to watch trash TV shows, maybe that will help you zone out while waiting for results.

  20. Love the Rosie the Riveter look! (Fun fact: my grandmother worked as a “Rosie” during WWII. That’s how she met my grandfather, who was an engineer designing airplanes. So every time I see this look, it makes me smile and think of my beautiful, strong grandmother.)

    And I can totally relate to the losing words and thoughts issues too. My family likes to tease me about the odd things that come out of my mouth sometimes. Like the time my husband said “I love you,” and I replied with “I love you too.” He kind of shook his head a bit and repeated, “I love you.” I replied again “I love you too.” He frowned and said “I LOVE you.” I was completely frustrated by this time, but once again I smiled and said “I love you too.” And then he finally said, “I’m telling you that I love you and all you say is ‘hi?’ What’s up with that?” Yeah, apparently the words I thought I was saying weren’t translating into the right sounds coming out of my mouth. So now we’ve all decided that “hi” is the best way to secretly tell someone “I love you.” 😉

  21. First of all, I love your blog. Second, Taxol is much better as far as side effects go. I wasn’t on Taxotere but Adriamycan (spelled wrong, I’m sure but it’s the “red devil”) and Cytoxan. That was really tough. I never got nauseous but extremely fatigued. But the chemo brain did persist. It totally for real! I lose my train of thought easily, forget small tasks like returning emails or can’t find my words. And as a theatre teacher where I have to be on point all the time, this has been tough. But I keep on keepin’ on. You know how it is.

  22. Love your posts! I just had my second round of chemo! I did the same thing trying on scarves , I told my husband “I look like a cancer patient” ! But , I’ve decided to put a little lipstick on an go with the flow!

  23. Krystaaa! Love love reading this blog! Been following your blog since my voice teacher Susan Eichhorn Young posted about it on facebook. Have watched you perform a million times. Saw you tonight at UCB Gravid Water! When I spotted your name in the program, I screamed so hard. You and Mike O’Brien were great. Keep shining! I think you’re phenom <3 <3 <3

  24. Dear Krysta,
    I know it’s a hard journey but it will all be worth it in the end. Cancer is probably one of the worst things in the world and I know how it feels trust me. I’m 13 with literally old lady lung cancer. You have always been an inspiration to me even before all of this you have encouraged me to do so much more than my doctors say I’m suppose to do. I’m glad you are not letting it rake control of you. I was also wondering what hospital you were getting treatment from, not trying to be nosey but I wrote a letter (or 4) and don’t really know where to send it. Opps, well thank you for being you and remeber to live life to the fullest.

  25. Hi Krysta – You are looking good!! Keep up the fight – I fought mine over 20 years ago and I’m still kicking. I met you in New York – stage door – First Date. You were just wonderful and you posed for a photo with me. I knew then that you were an exceptional talent and would go far. Looking forward to following your career – all the best to you and your family.

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