What Tumor?

Thursday marked my second round of weekly chemo treatments – two down and ten to go! And, lots of good things came from Thursday!

For starters, my labs looked great compared to what they were expecting, so I did get my treatment. I was fully prepared not to get it. The blood transfusion did its job, which is good to know because I never did get that rockstar feeling I was told to expect. At least it did its job on the inside though. I’ll take it!

In my appointment with my doctors before chemo starts, I sometimes see my oncologist and sometimes see the PA. Both are very familiar with my case, and I’m comfortable with either one of them seeing me. Thursday, I saw the PA and she did a thorough exam. She confirmed that she felt absolutely nothing! Not even dense tissue. Needless to say that is great news! As I was getting dressed, my oncologist literally busted into the room and cheerfully exclaimed, “She said it’s gone??!! Already!?” I was taken back because my oncologist is ALWAYS notably calm, steady and not overly expressive in any way. I think this is necessary for her profession and the emotions she has to deal with on a daily basis. I will say that seeing her that excited gave me another boost of excitement. So I asked her if she wanted to check too and she said “Of course I do!” So I laid back down and she came to the exact same conclusion. It’s gone!

The fact that she said “already?”, I’ve drawn my own conclusion that I’m ahead of schedule in that department. She didn’t say that, but I like to think that’s what she is thinking.

Obviously, this is the best possible outcome for where I am in the process. It does not change any of my future treatment plans. We will finish out the next 10 chemo treatments and then I will still have surgery. I meet with my surgeon this Thursday prior to chemo to learn more about the plan, timing and details of my surgery. So
I’ll have more information on that soon.

The last good thing to come from Thursday is that I have felt really good. Taxol is definitely easier on me so far. I even went to work on Friday for a full day. That’s never happened in my previous five chemo treatments, and I was fine all day. My appetite is back and I’ve felt almost normal. Today was the first day I’ve not felt well, but I’m counting it as a fluke. Hopefully I can go to work tomorrow.

The only new side effects are really sore fingernail beds, which is very typical of Taxol. My neuropathy is back too and my hands are very sore and dry. But the medication helps all of that, so it should stay at bay.

All in all, I’m really happy with my current state. I like to think as the next 10 treatments as bonus for killing any rogue cancer cells that might even be thinking of lurking somewhere else in my body. Surely 10 treatments will kill everything for good!


New Territory

Thursday was my first round of weekly Taxol and one of three doses of Carboplatin. When they ran my labs prior to treatment, my red blood cells and hemoglobin were dangerously low. She told me I needed a blood transfusion. Say what? That sounded serious to me and definitely caught me off guard. Fortunately they were still able to do my treatment so I didn’t have to miss that. But a blood transfusion? That seems like it’s for really sick people and I don’t feel that sick. I’ve gone to work, walked my dogs, etc. How could I need that? Doesn’t matter though, they know best and she said with the chemo added on top of low counts, I’d be in big trouble.

So Thursday I thankfully did get my scheduled dose of chemo. The pre-meds on taxol involve a giant bag of benedryl due to common allergic reactions. I fortunately had no reaction to the taxol but the benedryl knocked me out on the spot. I slept the full 4-5 hours or however long I was there. I can’t even remember Thursday night.

Friday morning we headed to the hospital for my transfusion. This was the kind where I simply receive blood but no blood leaves my body. I was confused at first because I thought transfusion was two-way and didn’t want to lose any of the chemo in my system. But they cleared that up for me.

The very first thing they injected into my port (after the dreaded flush) was….you guessed it…benedryl. I was out immediately. It took about 6 hours and I was given two units of blood. I slept through the entire thing.

Everyone kept saying how good you will feel after a transfusion. I kept waiting to feel like a rockstar. But I guess between the benedryl and chemo, i never got that boost. All I’ve done is sleep. I do feel a little more energetic today but still not ready for a marathon.

As a result of having the blood transfusion, I learned that the Red Cross has a shortage on blood. If you are able, allowed and willing, consider giving blood. I know not everyone is able for various reasons, but encourage your friends who can. Several of my friends already did in my honor and I thank them so much! I am so grateful to the donors whose blood I received and replenished my counts Friday. I’m fortunate enough to be O+ so I can take anyone’s blood.

All in all, despite the benedryl comas, this chemo has been much easier than AC. I don’t have as much of that chemical yuck feeling I had with AC. And no Neulasta…ahhh.

The thing I have to look forward to on taxol is darkened and possibly damaged nail beds. They are already sore – amazing how fast it happens. Not everyone loses nails but some do, so I’ll just have to work through it. I’m doing all I can to prevent it based on what I’ve read.

So if I can peel myself out of bed, I think I actually feel ok. Eating is still a challenge but I’m doing ok.

Hopefully the worst of this week’s treatment is behind me and I’ll be able to be productive the rest of the week.

My doctor warned me that this coming Thursday could very well be one of the days I cannot get my treatment due to my counts. So I’m prepared for it and am not going to fret over it. Going weekly will be harder on the weeks following Carboplatin.

Thanks again for all your love and support!

Twelve to Go

It’s been a challenging but not horrible week since my final treatment of AC. I can’t express how glad I am to be done with the red devil! It really helps with the dread factor of going to my next treatment. Oh and did I mention no Neulasta shots? Ahhhh 🙂

The plan is I have 12 treatments left, beginning next Thursday, Jan. 16. I’ll go every week until April 3. Mentally, I feel more like I felt before my first treatment. Ignorance is bliss. I don’t know what to expect so I’m not expecting anything.

Taxol is the drug I will receive each week. It’s notably milder than AC, which is great. On my first, fifth and ninth treatment, I will receive my bonus drug of Carboplatin. According to my doctor, that will add some kick to how I feel after treatment, but I don’t mind because I feel so fortunate that the timing of this new research lined up exactly with my treatment plan. And I survived AC. I can handle this.

My doctor did warn me that with weekly treatments and the addition of the Carbo, I will likely have to miss a couple of my Taxol doses. My white blood cell count must be 1000 and my platelets must be 100 in order to receive a dose. If it’s not, I can’t get my treatment that week. She said I do not need to worry if that happens. The addition of Carbo trumps Taxol and is worth me missing a couple, if it happens. She told me if I do miss one, I don’t have to make it up. That made me happy. This way I truly know where the light is at the end of the tunnel. It’s sitting at April 3!

Speaking of low blood counts, I’m back to being neutropenic. This means my white blood cell count is below 1000. They want you to be between 4,500-10,000…mine is 400. Yikes. So, I’m back on antibiotics, crazy hand washing, no fresh fruit or veggies, avoiding crowds and running from anyone with as much as a sniffle. They said it won’t stay this low for long thanks to my Neulasta shot. Guess I need to be thankful for that painful drug instead of being glad I’m done with it. But I can be both, right?

In other side effect news, I have this weird issue with my hands and feet. Mostly my feet. They feel like they have blisters all over the bottom (but they don’t), and it’s very painful to walk. My hands sting and are ultra sensitive. This may or may not be neuropathy. They are baffled because neuropathy is one of the few side effects they don’t see with AC (regrettably it’s a very common side effect of Taxol, so that will be fun considering I’m already having issues on drugs that typically don’t cause it). On Thursday, they gave me the lowest dose of the drug used to treat neuropathy, Neurotin. They wanted me to try it for a week to see if it helps. I take it 3 times per day and I do think it’s already working. Such a weird and random side effect.

Other than that, I’m feeling good right now. I don’t have any appetite at all, and they basically told me I have to force myself to eat. So I am trying. Definitely not the healthy diet I need, but food is food right now.

I want to thank everyone again for all the gifts, cards, well wishes and prayers. I am VERY blessed but also VERY behind on my thank you correspondence, so please forgive me for my etiquette faux pas, but I will get to it, I promise! 🙂

I want to leave you with this article I found on triple negative breast cancer and the sensationalizing of the disease. Having a journalism degree myself, I really appreciate this writer’s approach to how reporters and researchers need to choose their sources and words very carefully. When you are faced with the reality of having an aggressive cancer, you cling to every bit of research you can find. When it’s bad, it’s really tough to read and accept. Googling triple negative makes it easy to believe the diagnosis is a death sentence. But it’s not. This article helps explain that and made me feel better! Enjoy 🙂


Mind Over Matter on Milestone (Monday)

Ok so technically, it’s Thursday. Monday worked better with my alliteration, besides for those who had to go back to work today, it feels like Monday. Happy New Year by the way!

Today was a big day for me. For starters, it was the worst I’ve dreaded going to a treatment so far. Why? Besides the obvious, some of the reasons may sound relatively benign to you (pardon the pun), but here’s what I hate about the chemo room:

1) The sterile smell, especially when they wipe down the recliners when someone leaves. It’s a very strong alcohol smell, and it leaves my bile churning and puts my nose hairs and mental strength to test. I literally dread it. I even brought a small travel candle today (just to smell, not to light) to hold over my nose to try combat it. Yes, I’ve let this odor get into my head. I think about it too much. It’s a problem for me. Hence my title today…mind over matter. I had to do a lot of positive self talk today about the smells. I got really lucky though. I found a recliner in the corner near only one other chair. The sweet lady occupying it was there almost as long as me (so no cleaning). The nurses were so busy and I was almost the last person to leave, so they never came to wipe any chairs in my area. I lucked out today and didn’t even need my candle. Then again, I also now don’t know if the candle would have worked. That’s ok, I’ll have at least 12 more opportunities to test my strategy.

2) The heparin flush. For those of you who don’t know, I have a port. Each time they access the port, they have to do a flush of heparin. It sterilizes the line and, when they do this injection, you get a brief but strong (yuck) taste and smell that comes from the inside (by that, I mean plugging your nose does zero good). It’s again a very alcohol/sterile odor/taste. It makes me gag. Unfortunately, every appointment involving chemo or labs begins and ends with it. At first, I just tolerated it. It’s commonplace, part of the process. But like the sterile recliner wipes, it got in my head. I now have anxiety about it. They’ve been giving me jolly ranchers to combat the taste. Guess what that did? I now gag at the thought of a jolly rancher. Sterile green apple. Alcohol blue raspberry. Heparin grape. Ugh! My cousin Charles who has undergone chemo in the past recommended I try red hots. That worked for him. So my purse was filled with a giant box of red hots today. I put about 10 in my mouth and waited with sweaty hands and a fast beating heart. But alas, I think it was my saving grace. I tasted it a little when they accessed my port but not as bad. So my plan for when my port had to be cleaned again at the end was that I will eat more red hots sooner. Mouth on fire trumps mouth of heparin. Also, the nurse told me if she pushes the heparin in slowly, I won’t taste it much. Fantastic! I now have a plea with every nurse to take their time.

Much to my dismay, mid-infusion today, my IV pump kept beeping meaning something was blocking the line. After several attempts, what do they have to do? Flush my line! Double ugh! Mind over matter, mind over matter. I crammed the red hots in my mouth and begged for a slow push. Again this time only a minor taste/smell. I’m sure these nurses think I’m a lunatic. When I was finally done with my treatment today, another heparin blast. Success this time though. I didn’t taste it over the burning fire of red hots. Thanks Charles!

Tomorrow I get fluids after my neulasta shot. That means two more heparin flushes and half a box of red hots (with a dose of mild anxiety).

3) Adriamycin. This is one of my chemo meds, aka the red devil. It’s the color of cherry Kool Aid (anyone who knows me well knows that’s a problem immediately). The worst part of this is that it comes over in two giant syringes and you have to sit there and watch the nurse push it in your line. It’s not an IV bag. I don’t know why it haunts me so bad but it does. More so the last two times than the first two times. But I survived! Which brings me to the milestone part of my title today. I am DONE with the AC part of my treatment! This is the worst part and I can now say it’s behind me! I still have to make it through the impending weekend yuck, but knowing the red devil has been laid to rest is a huge relief. Don’t get me wrong. Very thankful for this drug. I can’t even find or feel my tumor anymore, and I attribute that to my red frenemy. But so glad it’s behind me now!

At least one of the three things I dread most about chemo is checked off my list. Well, insert a fourth because the neulasta shot is another thing I dread, but it’s the after effects not the actual shot. It too goes away after tomorrow.

So it’s a banner week. Major milestone. Done with AC and now moving on to taxol weekly (starting the 16th) with a boost of Carboplatin on the 1st, 5th and 9th taxol weeks.
Hopefully my mind over matter strategy will continue to work, and my mouth and mental-ness won’t reject the red hots.

Four down, 12 to go. Here’s to a 2014 with less dread, better masked sterile smells/tastes and no more cancer!

Thanks for the unwavering support, well wishes and prayers. Xoxo