Friday, June 28, 2013

Taxol/Herceptin #1 down!

I'm sitting in Infusion Bed 20, which has a nice view of the gardens and we got to watch the rain. Today is really dragging though. Blood draw was at 11 am-that was delayed, oncologist appointment at 12 noon-that was delayed. Everything looked good to the doc, white count was an astonishing 25! We can definitely say that the Neulasta shot works! It better had for $5000. $5000 for a shot that i had 4 times...$20,000 in shots! I hear it costs more than the chemo drugs. Anyway, I asked the doc if I could eat sushi light of my high count and she said yes. After that appointment Eric and I went to The Hershey Grill over at the Hershey Lodge and I had an awesome coconut chicken salad! I have been shying away from salads because they say to if you are immune compromised. But now that I know that the Neulasta is working overtime, I think it's safe and it was worth it! How can I go a summer without salads, that's insane!

Weekly Taxol doesn't require the Neulasta shot afterwards so I will have to be more careful with my germ exposure now that I won't have anything helping me along. Taxol is supposed to be easier than AC, according to everyone. The things to look for are numbness and pain in fingers and toes. People can have trouble doing buttons, counting change, etc. I need to let them know if I experience any of those things. I may also have bone pain and muscle aches. And don't forget the risk of heart failure! I am praying that these next 12 weeks are uneventful!

There's a woman across the hall who is having a LAST DAY OF CHEMO PARTY!! I'm so excited for her. Everyone is wearing shirts with lime green ribbons so I looked online to see what cancer that was and it says Non-hodgkins lymphoma. I hope she is cancer free now and stays that way! I can't wait to hear the bell ring. Update: totally cried when she rang it.

Nothing new is going on with me.  I'm doing chemo, resting, playing with Harper, and gaining a stupid amount of weight. This is seriously like pregnancy, I'm literally gaining a pound each week. This whole chemo regime is 20 weeks so that could mean 20 pounds. I know that's a trivial complaint but I was really happy with myself after losing the baby weight and its just another reason why cancer is a dumb bitch who had to come here and *temporarily* mess up my life. I say temporarily because I've already let a bitch know that she's only allowed to screw with me in 2013 and after that I've got better things to do. Like growing my hair, living my life, kissing my baby, and doing anything I damn well please and everything I thought I could never do :-)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Cancer Cut

I just realized I never blogged about my big head shave! When you think chemotherapy, you think bald heads so no doubt, being without hair was one of the first thoughts I had when I heard the words "it came back positive for cancer." And I miss my hair, do I ever miss my hair. It took so long to get it so long, and I always begged Morgan to only trim those split ends, don't take any length. Then I find myself asking her to chop it mid neck before surgery and then comes the day where I invite her over...with her razor. So yes, if I find a long blonde hair in my car, I've been known to cry. If I stumble across (or go looking for) old pictures of myself, the tears form. But living with a hairless head hasn't been as traumatic as expected, shaving if off wasn't the cryfest I thought it would be.

It was May 17th, that we did it. I just had my second chemo and the hair was falling fast. Morgan came over after treatment, we sat on the deck, and the shaving began. Harper cried at first. I think she thought Morgan was hurting me with the razor. I got to experience some short cuts on the way to buzzed, my favorite being a Mohawk. How many women get to have a Mohawk in their lives? Cross that off the bucket list! I have to admit, I was pumped full of chemo drugs and had a nice big Ativan so that probably helped to make the situation less stressful. But like most big things that have happened since recieving my cancer diagnosis, I somehow view this event in a detached out-of-body-experience sort of way. I have to remove myself a bit from things, in order to not fully understand the magnitude of what's happening.

But here it is! The evolution of my hair! A month in, and bald is getting boring but its nice to whip off a wig, hat, or scarf when it's hot and feel the breeze! Thank you Morgan for doing what was probably one of the most emotionally uncomfortable appointments of your career, but I think we made it a fun, not sad, time!

The evolution of my hair.

How it always has been. I loved having long hair and I was happier as a blonde. This is right before I got it cut short, prior to my mastectomy:

 My new short hair cut! Very easy to handle after surgery. If you are having a bilateral mastectomy and have long hair, I really recommend an easy cut prior to surgery.
Then I decided to switch it up and go dark in the weeks before it fell out:

Then came the big shave...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adios Red Devil!

On Friday June 14th I completed my final round of Adriamycin and Cytoxan! Round 4 was uneventful like I had hoped it would be. My oncologist and clinical study nurse marveled at how normal my blood work was, like a person who isn't even going through chemo. My oncologist told me that she feels like she isn't doing anything with me because the process has been so easy on me (except for all of my superficial complaints of weight gain, acne, and hair loss which when you're dealing with cancer, don't get much sympathy). After saying this, she shrugged her shoulders and turned to leave and I told her I hope I always make her want to shrug and leave because as a patient I'm a non event. Even though things have been "easy" for me so far,  what really matters is that all of our appointments post treatment for the next 30 years are the easy ones. I'd put up with any hardship right now to sail through the rest of these oncology appointments for the rest of my life.

So I get pats on the back and escorted over to the infusion room by my proud clinical study nurse. I'm settled into my chair and my chemo nurse comes over to review my stats and comments on how high my white blood counts are. About to pat myself on the back again, she said "I never see them this high". So I sneak a peak and turn to Dr. google and yep, they are high, like infection high. But I feel fine! I spend a good amount of time stressing about this when luckily my clinical study nurse returns. I ask her about it and she says "oh yeah, it's high" and I'm all like "what's wrong with me, am I dying???"  And she says "no, it just means that your Neulasta shot is working really well for you." Phew!!! Sometime during the day I sign up for the patient portal where I can view all my blood work results. Super bad idea for a hypochondriac, as now I have some other concerns that I need to bring up next treatment. When will I learn that ignorance is bliss?

The rest of the treatment went smooth and I felt ready to ring that bell to check off such a huge part of my chemo regimen. But alas, you can't ring until you're really done and I have 12 weekly Taxol/Herceptin combos in my future. I did witness a big chemo party across the hall as the lady finished her final infusion. Friends, flowers, happy nurses, bell ringing...will you come to my final chemo party??

Monday, June 3, 2013

75% of the way done with A/C!

Today is three days post my third Adriamycin/Cytoxan chemo! This one seems to be hitting me harder than the first two, but I have still been lucky enough to have no nausea. It really just makes me extremely exhausted and achy, which I think is from the Neulasta shot. 

I've had some rough days lately where I've let the dark thoughts creep in. I think due to the aches and pains that chemo brings, I've started to freak out that I have cancer in my bones and I have stage IV cancer. I never had any scans at my initial diagnosis except for a breast MRI and a chest x-ray and blood work prior to surgery. I never had a bone scan or PET scan to rule out distant metastases. Based on my stage of cancer and the limited lymph node involvement, it isn't common practice to scan unless there are symptoms that warrant them. And I don't want to ask for scans because they subject the body to unnecessary radiation and I don't think I could handle the "scanxiety" of waiting for the results. I just keep telling myself that feeling shitty is from my cancer treatment. It's hard to go from feeling normal while the cancer was in my body, to feeling so ill now that it's out. It's something I can't wrap my mind around yet. I need to keep reminding myself that the medicines are doing what they were created to do, get rid of every last cancer cell, and rejoice in the fact that my blood counts have been good and I have been able to get all of my treatments so far. The Neulasta shot that I get the day after every chemo treatment may cause a lot of bone pain, but it certainly does it's job. I caught a cold from Harper, my little petri dish, during round 2 and it was luckily just a regular cold. If you get a fever of 100.4 or above during chemotherapy it is considered a medical emergency and needs attention right away. I monitored myself through the whole illness and never got a fever, praise God.

So while I've been laying low and not doing anything too exciting, I do have something fun to report! On Memorial Day weekend, my in-laws hosted the 1st Annual River Games for the American Cancer Society. Cancer has touched our family in many ways, and luckily most of the people who have been touched are now survivors! I can't wait to celebrate my survivorship every year for the next 40 years of river games! There was a huge turn out of people and everyone had to pay $10 to play a day of backyard games: ladder golf, bocce ball, bean bags, and washer boards. There was plenty of delicious food and the weather was perfect.

Leading up to the games, I was hesitant to participate. I was so tired and beat down from chemo, being out in the sun didn't appeal to me, and after being laid up so much lately, I didn't know how I could muster up the energy to play a bunch of games I haven't been all that good at in the past. I asked Eric what team I was going to be on and he said I could be on his, but I sensed that he was hoping for a team of backyard game experts who were going to win. Our final team ended up being Eric, Ryan, Deb, and myself. And to my huge surprise, we won the tournament! We were up against so many people who regularly played these games, atheletic, college aged guys, etc. But our little team, the one with the cancer patient on it, won!! And I don't believe anyone was holding back just because I had a scarf on my head. This is something I am so proud of. Like I said, I wasn't even sure I was going to participate. I was going to sit inside, out of the sun, and rest my body. But I got out there and played all day and had a blast. Boy, was I sore for days afterwards but so was Eric so I think it had to do with being old, and not my cancer treatment.

I also just had a very successful Pampered Chef party in my neighborhood to raise money for my friend Nichole's Komen 3 Day Walk that she is doing this October. We raised $220 to go to her cause! My friend Katie is a Stella & Dot stylist and she did an online jewelry party for me, and the response has just blown my mind! The show did over $2200 in sales and raised over $340 towards my Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraising! I am SO THANKFUL to everyone who bought great cookware and jewelry in the name of a good cause! I hope you all love your things. This was SO FUN to be a part of and it took my mind off of obsessing about my cancer for a while and put my energy into thinking about fundraising will lead to research which will lead to better treatments and a cure so our kid's don't have to waste their time obsessing about their cancers. 

So while things have been pretty low key here, involving lots of laying around and feeling blah, some really fun things have happened in the last few weeks. I'm looking forward to banging out round 4 of A/C on June 14th! That will be the last time Adriamycin ever cruises through my veins, as there is a lifetime limit to the amount you can have in your system, but more so due to the fact that this cancer won't be back to visit. Next stop is weekly Taxol and Herceptin treatments which is a bit more of a time commitment but is hopefully easier on the side effect front.

 As always, THANK YOU so much for your prayers. We are doing really well, managing life through this bump in the road, and the only thing I ask is for prayers. They make more of a difference than any chemotherapy ever could.