November 15 - Today it begins. Again……………..
9 a.m. At the moment I am calm, I really just feel resigned and ready to get on with all of it so it can be over. Jen will meet us at the doctor’s office and we will all go in for the appointment together. I made up my list of questions and each of us has a copy plus one for the doctor. Jen will take notes, I will ask questions and Harold will monitor all of it to be sure we all understand what is being said. Then I will go off for treatment and they will go to Starbucks.
While I am thinking of these things; I really try to have all tests done at the same place if at all possible so that it is easier on me and on them when tests have to be compared. It wasn’t possible yesterday but they did try. Also, when you have to consume large amounts of liquid use a straw, you drink more through a straw then you do by just drinking it out of a glass.
Okay, first chemo treatment is over, it is about 10:30 p.m. and I feel fine. Very tired but I know that is the mental overload of the last month and finally getting everything started. I was stressed during the doctor visit but calmed down when I went to the room for the treatment. I am sure it was because I know what to expect his time and that I knew it wouldn’t hurt.
I did end up Her2/neu positive this time, not sure why this time was positive and last time was negative – I will ask that when I see him next. Anyway…..I about croaked when he said that but then he saw my face and said, “No that is a good thing. Before when you had your treatments it was considered bad because we couldn’t do anything about it. Now that they have Herceptin to battle it, they are getting much better results. PET scan was negative (thank you, thank you!) so Harold asked him if that meant that with the last negative tissue pathology report and the negative PET scan, clinically speaking, was I cancer free and he said “clinically”, yes, because all the best tests they can give me came back negative. He went on to say that the treatment was going after micro organisms that may still be there and are too small to be picked up on the tests. He said no one wants a recurrence but if you have to have one that I have the best results to work with. He said had it been on an inner organ it might not have been found until it was the size of a grapefruit but since I could feel it and acted upon it right away we got it when it was only 1.3 cm. The treatment regimen is this – a treatment of Carboplatin, Taxol, Herceptin, Decadron, a steroid and Benedryl, an anti-histamine (those last two help my body tolerate and reduce the side effects of the other drugs) once a week for three weeks then a week off for the chemo but still have the Herceptin once a week, then start back up again with three on and one off for SIX MONTHS! Another croaking moment! Croaking Chris was very much in attendance at this meeting I can tell you! I asked if teaching in Vegas was out of the question and to my surprise he said by that time we could work around my schedule!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even with me being gone for a week! So that is sounding better. After the chemo is done the radiation oncologist will determine the length and strength of those treatments. So my diagnosis is “Local recurrence.” Technically the cancer was stage IV but now it is gone and he said the same thing as the surgeon, that it is hard to give a stage to a recurrence. That was good news because everything I read about a recurrence stated Advanced Metastic Breast Cancer and that scared the you know what right out of me!
The first to go in the port is a shot of Lidocaine to numb the area before inserting the needle for the connector, then the connector is inserted, then the Benedryl and Decadron drip starts and when that is finished, then the Taxol, then the Carboplatin. After tomorrow I will have the Herceptin as the last drip, too. No freezer pops needed this time around to protect my mouth but I am still doing my Biotene regimen every morning and night. I do not want mouth sores!
I actually fell asleep during the treatment from the Benedryl. She said they may be able to cut back on it a bit. He had asked it f I wanted a mild sedative today before treatment because I was wired but I said not that really I was fine. Good thing, between the two of them, sedative and Benedryl, I would have been out like a light! We got there at 1 p.m. and left at 4:40 p.m. Actual treatment was from 2:15 to 4:30. Not even a hint of nausea! Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Busy day tomorrow. I see Therapist Debbie at 10:00 a.m. (I am REALLY looking forward to seeing her! Whoo-wee!) then grab some lunch, then have the Herceptin treatment at Noon. Am going by myself as my family saw how well I did today and the nurse said they rarely have anyone have a reaction to the Herceptin. Must go to the post office and grocery store, too! Nice to be thinking about what I have to do tomorrow instead of preparing to be sick around 1 p.m.!
I have to start seeing an endriconologist for my diabetes because the Decadron is a steroid and is going to play havoc with my blood sugar and he said he can use all the help he can get with controlling the diabetes throughout treatment. He is right. Tonight my blood sugar reading was 212, never, ever been that high before since I have been monitoring and I only had chicken soup for dinner which should have had me around 115. Also have to have a MUGA scan on December 6 – no idea what that stands for – to get a baseline on how my heart is operating because Herceptin can cause heart damage in some people and if that happens he can stop the drug and they can usually reverse the damage. He said the benefits of Herceptin far outweigh the risks. I will get a MUGA scan every 5-6 months for comparison. I get the Herceptin along with chemo for the six months and then once a week for awhile and then maybe I can go to every couple of weeks for total of a year. So by next Thanksgiving I should be done with everything. Lordy, that sounds a long way off ……………….
Some good news – I don’t have to be so particular about my food this time, do not even have to eat sick people food for the first few days and unless I have a problem with my blood counts I won’t have to stay away from people like I did last time. Nor do I have to drink lots of water to flush out my system. I am now in the 3 – 10% category for another recurrence so those are good odds. Also nothing I did or didn’t do caused the recurrence. I guess that was reassuring?
Many kind friends have sent along homeopathic treatments and I asked Dr. M about them and he asked me not to do any of them at this time. He said he is not discounting any of them or being patronizing but that he KNOWS this is the best way to treat me and he feels some of the others show promise but need more research.
I am inserting a photo here, it is graphic but isn’t that what the journals are all about? The actual reality of what is happening? They left the connector in the port for tonight because I have to go back tomorrow to get my first dose of Herceptin and they always do the first one by itself because it takes longer, 1 ½ hours compared to ½ hour after the first time, to drip into my system. The photo is the connector/IV actually in the port. It is covered by a clear bandage so all the wrinkled skin is not really me it is the bandage! The nurse signed her name, too, so the bandage is autographed! They take blood through those things and inject the medications through them so no sticking me in the arm for any of that! A very good thing. The actual needle is under those black wing looking things. You are looking at my right shoulder. The dark area to the left is right under my neck (my redneck tan!) so you have a visual of where this is located.
By the way – Kerrie Kickass was very visible today – I spiked my red hair and dressed all in black, but very dressy black, so I looked sophisticated with an ATTITUDE! Brenda Braveheart was also in residence helping me to get through it all.
I know this update is a bit disjointed but I am disjointed at the moment! My poor brain is in definite overload! Harold, Jen and Jaime all feel much better with all the good news and my good reaction to the first treatment. I am just glad it has started.
November 16 – Well, I have survived the first round of treatments! I had a really good talk with Therapist Debbie, so glad I did not stop going to her when I really started to feel good. We actually ended up laughing a lot and that felt good, too. It really helps that she is a survivor herself because she truly understands the things I am feeling. I highly recommend anyone going through something like this to seek counseling. That includes family members, too. They need it as much as does the patient.
They actually had to take out the connectors they left in before they gave me the Herceptin and put a new one in as the one they had left in was leaking! It did fine until I had a shower and was doing my hair and I noticed it leaking then. I put a big bandage over the area and went on to my appointment with Debbie. Not too keen on the leaking part! The nurse ran a flush through the tubing and she said it looked fine but I could see liquid welling up where the needle was in the port and showed her and she agreed it was better just to put in a new one. Fell asleep again with the Herceptin treatment from the Benedryl. Actually makes the time go faster! Got there at noon and left at 3:30. This Herceptin treatment is the longest, the rest will only be an extra half an hour added on to all the other drugs and they told me to count on at least three hours per treatment. Sort of takes up the whole day by the time you get ready to go, get yourself there, have the treatment and get back home. I think on those days we will be eating sandwiches or something fast and easy for dinner! The nurse gave me dome samples of Zofran and told me to take one if I even got a hint of nausea as the Taxol usually causes its side effects on the third day. Will carry it in my purse tomorrow as insurance! Feel pretty decent, considering. I feel a bit “fuzzy or blurry.” Did my grocery shopping finally, still haven’t made it to the Post Office though! Just seemed too much trouble to try and do both today. I have to go out tomorrow so I WILL do it then. Very tired but I think it is from all the stress – Stress? What stress? Me stressed?- of the past month, not the drugs. Off to bed now. Even Kerrie’s you know what is dragging!
November 17 – Dreadful night last night. Woke up at 12:45 freezing! I had plenty of covers and it was a cold from the inside not outside. The paper they gave me on possible side effects of Herceptin was fever and chills and looks like I got the chills part. Huddled under the covers for two hours breathing into my little cave I made with the covers to increase the temperature! Of course I was all scrunched up and my neck and shoulder were hurting and I was not a happy camper! Sooooooooooooo glad to day was massage day! The chills finally subsided and I got back to sleep. Whew! Hope that is only for one night! Only other side effect I am having is waiting for the “inner plumbing” to start working again. I was really hoping that with the lower doses that constipation would not be a problem. Sigh………………………
Did I tell you that I have begun my walking regimen again? Am a bit concerned about the possible damage to my heart and want to be sure it is a strong as it can be for the battle. Then Greta Gardener came along and I did some yard work. Feel okay, still that fuzzy feeling, sort of like when you are getting a cold. Felt better being out in the fresh air. There is just something about being around growing things and fresh air and birds and squirrels’ playing that is very calming. Just tidying up in a garden is relaxing. I am still working on clearing out old stuff so I can begin my new landscaping plan. I do like being out there instead of laying in the recliner like I did during the last chemo. I mean I REALLY like that!
Went for my massage and it was wonderful. There was just something on TV about women going through breast cancer having regular massage sessions and it being beneficial. It felt so nice to have her work out all the knots in my neck and shoulder and then just work all my muscles until I felt like jelly. I have only been going once a month for maintenance but I think I may up it to twice a month to give me something to really look forward to for sheer indulgence. She told me to take a warm bubble bath a couple of times a week and to use my nice Jacuzzi bath! Goes along with taking good care of myself. I did run a bath tonight, used rose scented bath salts, lit all the candles and figured I would settle in and have myself a good cry. Well, much to my surprise, I was so relaxed I never shed a tear! I just let the water drift over me and think about only the good things in my life right now and there really are a lot! I didn’t set out to do that but the atmosphere created by the indulgence just did not lend it self to crying so I will keep all that in mind for the future. Indulgent Inez can visit me anytime!
Getting ready for bed now and am feeling quite normal. Thankful Thelma is here at last!
November 18 – Feeling pretty chipper today except for the plumbing problem. Had to resort to taking a couple of Dulcolax (strong laxative, the kind they make you take for a colonoscopy!) as I do not want that complication! Now we wait. Hopefully I can get this figured out quicker this time around. Last time I had “the plan” worked out by the time I had the last chemo!
Wore a shirt to bed last night in case of the chills but I was okay. Also waited until 2 a.m. to go to bed in case I could just “wait them out!” Something worked!
No major news today. What a relief! Going to work out in my garden tomorrow, some friends coming over on Sunday (I get got show off my new building!), Monday I see my primary care doctor to set up an endriconologist and to see what I do for now to help with the blood sugar spikes, get some blood work done to check cholesterol and then after that appointment – I am going to the Mall! I need perfume and face powder but you never know what else you NEED at the Mall until you actually see it with your own eyes!
Until next week,
Margot, a.k.a. Kerrie Kickass, Thankful Thelma, Brenda Braveheart, Great Gardener, Indulgent Inez – signing off!
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