Category Archives: Chemotherapy

T-231 days. March 1, 2013– Last chemo treatment!!

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The day had finally arrived!! My very last chemo treatment. My sister Alethea flew in for the occasion. My friends Kevin and nurse angel Karen stopped by. My parents and my Aunt Celeste and Dave. It was definitely a party. Definitely a reason to celebrate!!

I had so many people that everyone had to take turns to sit with me and visit. Later we went to eat at my favorite restaraunt Pacific Rim.

What a relief to know I was done!! That said, the after effects of the chemo were the worst with this treatment then any other. The accumulative affect often causes this and makes the last treatment the toughest. I am so blessed to have so many people in my who are my angels and have carried me through this journey of chemo. Most importantly my Travis who took three days off of work for every one of my infusions. He sat by my side, held my hand and wiped my tears every time we had to walk into the cancer center on my Friday infusions. He then cared for me on Mondays and Tuesdays when I was knocked out, felt sick and weak and was in pain. I don’t know how I would have made it without him and his love.

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T-231-March 1st, 2013-Awesome Stuff about Chemo!!!

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Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks–chemo is instant nair!!
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts–money you will use on falsies!!
4. Have to get manicures and pedicures to cover your black nails-What color you like?
5. Everyday is Halloween when you wear your wigs
6. No bikini waxing, eyebrow waxing, or upper lip,,,,,keep that hot wax Away, I’ve got TCH!!

T-294 days-December 28, 2012-Chemo Infusion #3, Half way marker!!

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The holidays have always been a joyful time of year filled with cookie baking, presents and Christmas tree chopping. This holiday I found myself experiencing everything on another sensory level. Cancer has backed me into a corner where I am constantly thinking of the fragility of life and has made me take in every little smell, touch and feel. Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts

3 days after Christmas I had to get my 3rd chemo treatment. My kids were with me but fortunately my parents are local and they were able to stay with them. They visited me for the first time which was an amazing gift. Nurses continued to monitor me closely because of the recent reaction to carboplatin. Cytoxin seemed to give me no issues and thankfully the infusion went smoothly.

New Year’s Eve was when everything hit me. The effect of chemo is beginning to become more and more difficult. The inside of my mouth is raw, I am physically exhausted, my bones feel like someone is hitting them with a hammer. My scalp hurts to even touch a pillow. Travis and I have been watching the entire trilogy of Lord of the Rings. I have never laid around and watched so much tv in my entire life.

Sometimes I think the good lord knew my life was too fast paced, too stressful, too toxic and that this was the only way
he could force me to stop, sit back and take time to reassess.

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T-315 days-December 7, 2012–Chemo sends me to ER

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I was less nervous this time. I have done this once and knew what to expect now. Travis was by my side as always. This time I didn’t get the fully private room like the first time but did get a partially private room. When I walk in I’m AGAIN the youngest of anyone at the cancer center. My anger begins to bubble up again.
I sit back getting ready to be poked and prodded. Things are going normal until they connected the carboplatin. Soon after that I began to have a sharp pain in my chest. The nurses were concerned and decreased the drip rate. The pain subsided. They then returned the drip rate to Normal and the pain returned. It was decided to admit me to the ER. I was terrified. Was the chemo now causing me heart issues? I had read that Herceptin can cause issues for the heart and now here I was. At the ER they did an EKG and decided to keep me overnight. Then a cat scan with a strain. The nurse couldn’t put the needle in and poked me 10 times trying to get the needle in. I laid there with tears streaming down my face with the ridiculous amount of pain she was inflicting upon me. I barely slept.

The next morning I had a stress test. The doctors decided that my heart looked fine. At my follow up appt with Beekman she decided to switch me from carboplatin to cytoxin. She said that if the heart pain continued she may decide to stop the chemo. Not have chemo? That was music to my ears.

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T-300 days December 5, 2012 My hair is falling out.

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Even though I knew it was going to happen, I shaved my head in preparation for it…I was still an emotional ball when my hair started to fall out. There is something about losing a part of your body with no prediction of when it will happen that is very unnerving. I knew it when I woke up and I had hair on my pillow. Just sitting there in a pile like a birds nest. Then I took a shower and it started falling out even more. I cried and cried and again was angry at how terrible cancer is. With my hair already being so short it wasn’t dramatic clumps of hair falling out. Regardless, going from a little buzz cut to no hair at all is a psychological mind f$&! I quickly became tired of little hairs all over my clothes, my towels etc. so my husband Travis buzzed it down to my scalp. Bald beauty has arrived!

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T-363 days. What does chemotherapy feel like?-November 19, 2012

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After sitting for hours with my body hooked up to tubes and poison going through my body, hours and days had passed as I waited to FEEL something. The anticipation was odd. So much of the anxiety with cancer is the not knowing. The not knowing when I was going to feel terrible. Saturday and Sunday passed with nothing eventful. I actually felt the same. Monday I went to get my Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a shot I get every Monday after my infusion. Neulasta is used to help make white cells so that your body fights infections during cancer treatment. The shot itself didn’t hurt. They didn’t access my port, just a simple jab in the arm.

Chemodrugz.

Chemodrugz. (Photo credit: Drew Olanoff)

By Monday evening it hit me. My bones ached as if someone was hitting them with a hammer. When Tuesday morning came I didn’t want to get out of my cozy soft bed…..and I didn’t. There I lay sleeping for hours until it was time for Travis to drive me to acupuncture. I told Jingfei of my immense pain in my bones; she expertly placed her needles all over my body. Magically those needles sucked some pain away from my bones and I walked out of her office feeling much better then I had.
The next chemo side effect was my mouth. My teeth felt as if I had braces on them that were tightened with a vice grip. The inside of my mouth felt like raw meat. I couldn’t eat. I could barely move. I felt nausea. I felt like shit. Plain and simple, it was awful. My sleep was fitful at best; the worst pain was in my feet and shins. The pain drove me to tears and loud exclamations of profanity. The chemo was working its black magic on me. How would I endure 5 more times of this?

T-365 days-Head Shaving Party-November 17, 2012

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A quick aside before I begin writing my blog.  I am quite behind in real time and intend on catching up.  Regardless, my goal is to capture the moment in time whether past or present with the raw emotions and details of those events.

I woke up after my first chemo infusion expecting to feel different, look different…..but nothing; it was oddly disappointing.  I jumped into the shower to wash my hair for the last time.  I am not one to feel an unhealthy attachment to my hair but as my fingers were going through my locks tears began to drip down my face.  How many months or years would it be till my hair would be this long again?  I reveled in the sensation of the water dripping through my hair strands, my hair getting stuck to my face….all of these minute seemingly irrelevant motions that I would otherwise rush through in my daily life.  I lifted my head high and reminded myself yet once again that I was making the right decision.  will decide when my hair is going to fall out NOT my cancer.  That sense of control during a time when everything else in my life was toppling over out of control was what I needed.

Many friends and family were attending my head shaving party.  Holly was hosting at her house, Michelle had sent out the invites and made other arrangements.  Everything was set.

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There was champagne and wine flowing, snacks to munch on, many hugs and kisses.  I counted my blessings many times to have such support from so many.  Rather then this being a somber and sad moment it was a time to celebrate!

Me and my boys.

Me and my boys.

So there we all were, with the buzz of conversation flowing through the rooms, laughter ebbing in the hallways.. I knew the time was drawing near, where the buzz would be of clippers against my head.  With my friends and family standing and sitting around me I took the honorary place at the clipping throne.  I did not have a mirror but only the reactions and sounds of everyone to guide me into my transformation.

the head is being shaved

the head is being shaved

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buzz time

buzz time

As I sat there I heard comments of how great I looked and how the “buzzed cut becomes me”.  All around I had smiling faces looking back at me with tears in their eyes.

all done

all done

In solidarity my dear loved ones also shaved their heads; Travis, my dad, Michael and Spencer.  Every one of them sat down and shaved the hair off their head in love for me.

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travis

michael

michael

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My Mr. Handsome getting his head shaved for his mama with breast cancer.

I am not certain if I was more emotional getting my head shaved or watching

Michael shave for me.

me and my girls

me and my girls

With my new Pat Benatar look I was ready for a night out on the town.  With my first chemo under my belt, my hair shaved away we headed out to eat, open presents and celebrate a momentous weekend!

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Our new shaven heads

Our new shaven heads

T-366 days-1st Chemotherapy Infusion–November 16, 2012

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I tossed and turned in my sleep.  I cried….dreading what was going to happen to me.  I took the prescribed steroids and I felt like I was on speed, everything was racing.  Feeling like a baby who wet the bed,  I sweated through my pajamas and the sheets.  Is this what steroids are supposed to do?….no one talks about this when they talk about cancer treatment.  I change out of my wet pj’s and try to sleep thinking of the imminent poison that is about to be put into my veins.   Laying there in the dead of night I start praying to God and ask him to calm me, soothe me, comfort me….and finally my eyes shut.  It seems as if an hour had passed and the alarms begin ringing,  the house is bustling with everyone getting ready to go to school.  I say goodbye to my babies and reassure them that I am going to be ok and will see them very soon.  Once everyone leaves, I embark on the task of getting dressed for my infusion. What does one wear to a chemotherapy?  I grapple with my wardrobe for a moment and turn on fun party music.  As I am singing along to Lady Gaga I decide to go with the fashionable yet practical ” loose and comfortable look  with a splash of pink”. On my wrists hung my breast cancer bracelet and my bracelet with my kids names on them, from my ears my 80’s pink earrings.   I was determined to walk in to the hospital with my head held high and a fearless attitude.  When Travis came home I told him “Let’s get this party started”.  Thus, the party began, we left the house armed with our bags filled with endless hours of entertainment; computers, cards, magazines, books, snacks, beverages.  We were prepared for anything and everything.

I am not certain if I was more anxious about how the chemotherapy was going to feel when it flowed into me OR what everyone else in the infusion clinic would look like.  I continued to want to live in my fantasy world of cancer.  I didn’t want to face the reality of seeing cancer patients who looked as if they were knocking on death’s door.  My anxieties were lessened when I was greeted by my chemotherapy nurse Char.   She shared with us that we would have a private room since it was my first infusion.  Yes!  I could continue to live in my fantasy world of cancer a little longer!  What is even better is I know Char, I have known her for years.  My fears diminished tremendously.  Char begins to tell us how the day is going to run and what we should expect.  She explains that she does not want us to be alarmed when she is wearing a plastic mask and gloves when handling the chemotherapy bags.  She says that she must do this to protect her from the drugs toxicity, since she is exposed to them everyday.  Ok, wait a second!?!  My nurse is going to wear a Hazmat suit to touch the BAG my chemotherapy drugs are in…..the same drugs they are going to intravenously pour into my body……..should this comfort me or make me think that I have lost my mind agreeing to this?  Thanks to the steroids and the tazmanian devil levels of energy it gives me, my mind quickly shifts to another thought……Squirrel!

 

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

As you can see in the above picture we had a pretty cozy set up.  My own bed, complete privacy, a nice little lamp….it was like the Taj Mahal of chemo infusions.  It was time to begin.  They needed to put the needle (which looked more like a fishing 

hook) into my port.  My port is on the inside of my right arm.  Char asked if I had put the numbing cream on my skin, I bravely told her that I didn’t think I would need it.  Shots, and pricks in the arm are not a big deal to me….well let me tell you when Char drove the “fish hook” into my port I thought I was going to scream….no wait I did scream.  It was the most torturous part of the entire day.  For some reason I had this illusion that the port was supposed to me my safety tunnel into my veins, the safe passage way, like the gumdrop pass in Candy Land.  NO!  It was like the Go To Jail card.  After the initial shock and pain of the insertion, they began a saline drip on me, followed by a anti-nausea drug, followed by another anti-nausea drug (I think they don’t want me to have nausea).  Then the party was truly about to start.  They first began with the chemotherapy drug Taxol.  With her hazmat suit on Char hung the Taxol bag on the hook.  I waited to feel something, anything..but I didn’t.

As the Taxol was coursing through my body along with the other drugs that were put in me I had many visitors in my room; my mom, my dear friend Kevin, my nurse angel Karen, the hospital deacon, my dad.  I may have picked up a tinge of annoyance from Char of the constant party like atmosphere in my room.  All we needed was a strobe light and some bass.

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

The next drug invited to the party was Carboplatin.  Char hung the bag of Carboplatin up on the hook.  Drip, drip went the drug and again I waited to feel something…..nothing yet.  Continuous monitoring took place.  Everything was on course.  The party was really going to start with the liquid benadryl they were going to give me.  The purpose of that was to combat any potential allergic reaction that I could have to Herceptin which would be the final drug of the TCH cocktail.   As I was biting into my salad lunch I was hit with a tsunami wave of exhaustion.  I couldn’t end the party by sleeping so I continued to attempt conversation while sounding like a sloppy drunk.  Travis and my mom broke out in laughter as they tried to piece together the garbly gook that was dripping out of my mouth.  Char entered the room with the final cocktail mix; Herceptin.  She reminded me that they would keep a close eye on me to ensure that I didn’t have an allergic reaction and if I were to have one it would be immediate.  She hung the bag and I waited in breathless anticipation to breakout in a rash of purple dots but alas I sailed smoothly through the choppy waters of the Herceptin test.  As the time continued to tick away I realized we had spent over 6 hours in the infusion lab and not once dove into our bag of party goods.  We had been kept so busy with teachings, monitoring and visitors that the party bag collected dust.  My first chemotherapy infusion was drawing to a close.  Other then being drunk on benadryl, I felt no different. As we walked to the car I felt the wind rustle through my hair and I became melancholy knowing that in hours it would be gone.  One major step today and another big one tomorrow.  One step at a time…

T-370 days-Chemotherapy 101 day-November 12, 2012

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Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer (Photo credit: bloomingdalelibrary)

I am sitting in a tiny room surrounded by books, pamphlets and magazines about Cancer.  A Cancer Library.  Since my surgery, I have often almost forgotten that I have cancer.  I look the same, feel the same…..but now it’s time to buckle up and get ready for the Chemotherapy ride.  The nurse sits with me and goes over every chemotherapy drug they are going to give me.  My chemotheraphy cocktail is TCH.  Taxol, Carboplatin and Herceptin.  She gives me thick paper copies of each drug and goes over the side effects of each one.  Exhaustion, nausea, hair-loss, neurapathy, mouth-sores, cardio-toxicity,  menopause…..the list was endless.  With a smile she asks me if I have any questions.  Do I have any questions?  In my mind, I wanted to ask her am I nuts? I feel great and I am going to sign a paper to make me feel like that?  But we weren’t done.  She then tells me about Neulasta.  Neulasta is a shot that is given a couple days after the chemotherapy infusion to increase white blood cell production.  This ALSO has some side effects; bone pain, joint pain, mouth sores, GI sensitivities etc…   I signed my signature on papers to agree to all of these fabulous ways I was going to feel.   Now it was time to get my blood drawn.  There is a special lab devoted just to cancer patients.  I received a special stamp card that basically signified I would be a frequent visitor.  Like, a frequent flyer card but not nearly as fun.  I took my place in the chair.  The techs knew I was a new girl.  I still had my hair……, my skin wasn’t yellow…..  They asked me questions, took my blood and told me how much they looked forward to seeing me again.  Again?  Right, again.  With my green stamp card I would be visiting my new friends in the lab quite often.

Chemo 101 day was not yet over.  Now it was time to get an ECHO.  The echo cardiogram was necessary so that they could have a baseline for my heart function.  Since there are so many cardiac side effects with the chemotherapy it is required.  There again I sat in another waiting room, 30 years younger then the average age of my fellow patient.  It was a painless procedure really.  A little gel, ultrasound and pictures,  done.  If there was a competition for who had the healthiest heart out of all of the people in the waiting room I am certain I would have won.

 

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The day would not be complete until I went and had lunch with my dear friend Michelle followed by some more wig shopping. This time we went to Fantasy Attic, a treasured Halloween store.  These wigs were not nearly as nice as “la fancy” wig but they were also only $30.  After trying on many I decided to splurge on another wig.  A long, red haired wig, otherwise known as “Ginger”.  Now Ginger wasn’t nearly as well made as la fancy wig but I still thought it would be fun to wear.  My wig buying addiction was just beginning.  I decided then, while I have no hair I am going to make the best of it.  It will be Halloween until my hair grows back.

T-380 days-November 2, 2012–Chemotherapy….please no!!

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Travis and I entered the oncology office armed with my big blue bag filled with files spewing with papers of chemotherapy information, alternative medicine, and innumerable amounts of breast cancer articles.  Affectionately known as my “cancer chica bag”.  I pulled out my purple binder filled with numerous questions.  My oncologist walked in to the room unaware of the onslaught of inquiries that would soon fall upon her.

I filled with pride as I asked many questions about statistics, current studies, new types of treatment.  I had convinced myself that there was no reason for me to have chemotherapy.  Why?  Well, the cancer is out–all of it.  My lymph nodes are clear thus it should not have metastasized into any other portions of my body.  Why would I fill my body with toxic poison when I may not even have any cancer in any part??

So there I sat asking question after question after question.  I could tell my oncologist was becoming a bit frustrated.  What were her answers you ask?  The standard ones.  “Yes, that is a great drug but it so for advanced cancer you would not qualify for it.”  “Yes your cancer has not metastasized based on your lymph nodes BUT you are young and Her2 positive thus we need to do Herceptin and chemotherapy and be aggressive”

Now to backup a bit on my cancer:  I am Her2 positive.  The drug Herceptin (Traztumab) is a targeted therapy drug that directly targets the protein that is surrounding my cancer cells. This drug has no side effects to minimal side effects. Statistically speaking:

  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 negative have a 12% chance of recurrence
  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 positive (ME)  have a 35-40% chance of recurrence–with chemo and herceptin the risk is 20% chance of recurrence, with tamoxifen it is 12%

Armed with all of this information I tried to convince my oncologist that I should just do Herceptin the targeted therapy without the chemo.  She said that wasn’t possible. I told her how I read in other places that it was.  I could sense her blood pressure rising at ridiculous rate although she was tandemly patient at the same time.   She took a deep breath and told me that beginning chemotherapy was not like signing into a 30 year mortage and that if at any time the risks outweighed the benefits that we would then quit.  She then went onto say how difficult she knew his was and that I’m desperately trying to gain control in a situation that I’m wasn’t happy about.  The questions continued on for some time.  She never waivered.  Her recommendation remained the same. Chemotheraphy, TCH, every 3 weeks for 6 treatments.

She left the room, closed the door and I slumped into my seat, defeated.  I couldn’t argue the statistics….what if I did turned down chemotherapy and my cancer came back?!?  I would always wonder.  Wonder if I had done the prescribed regimen that things would be different.  I have 2 little kids, I HAVE to do everything to ensure that this cancer or any cancer won’t ever come back. Or do I?  How do I know she is right?  What if do more harm then good with the chemo?

P Volcano

P Volcano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we were driving home I replayed the words from my oncologist over and over again in my head like a cd with a scratch that just skips over the same words.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I wanted to hold onto my hope that I could somehow fight this cancer without chemotherapy, without losing my hair, without toxins infiltrating my body, without carditoxicity side effects….without any of the evil things that comes with chemo.  A fiery rage was bubbling at the core of my being.  An anger, like one I had never experienced.  An anger so prevalent and fierce that I didn’t know what to do with it.  I ran into the house, into our room and I collapsed into my bed and sobbed.  I pounded the pillows with my fists, threw them on the ground, threw the sheets on the ground…..but it wasn’t enough.  I was a volcano that needed to explode.  I ran into Michael’s room and grabbed his group of small soft balls and I began throwing them against my bedroom walls.  Over and over again I threw those balls with all of my bubbling rage, tears streaming down my face, my chest convulsing in out of sync breaths until I finally collapsed on the floor and sobbed.  My entire body shaking, my breath hyper ventilating, my face covered in tears I lay there on my carpet utterly defeated, angry and exhausted.  Luckily I am a terrible thrower, so my walls don’t even have a mark.