As I was driving home last night from work, it hit me that we are now in the second season (Fall) for this cancer. And I will go through a third season for the treatment. I might have at least an inch of hair by the 6th season. Just some musings . . . .
It is final and true. The city has approved me for shared leave! Many of my co-workers and other's in City Hall have already donated. I know God had his hand in my position being eliminated from the bank and the door opening at the City of Auburn. I had applied 2 other times and never got an interview. The timing wasn't right, no matter how much I prayed. Sometimes we wonder why it seems God hasn't answered prayers or isn't listening to us, but it's His timing, not ours.
I have decided to go ahead with chemo. From what I've read and heard from other breast cancer (BC) survivors, digging in the heels and not wanting to do chemo is normal. I can finally say I'm normal. Don't snort when you laugh at that, please.
I met with the oncology (onc) nurse Thursday to review the side effects, what the chemo does to each healthy part of my body and what to expect during chemo. Our body cells replicate every 21 days, thus the every 3-week regime. Onc nurse said that as the cancer cells start to grow, the chemo is injected and jumps on them. Isn't that a nice picture? Kind of like the first Super Mario Bros.
Yippeee!! It just came to me . . . a visual. Isn't blogging great? Damn!
So here it is . . . Instead of thinking that the chemo as poison (which it is, but work with me here), I will think of it as the Super Mario Brothers. They are jumping on the Goombas (cancer cells) killing them. Mario and Luigi just have to do it again 3 weeks later, but eventually, they will have saved Princess Peach (which is me).
I am a little confused as Dr. P said it would be a 6-8 hour day the first time. However, the onc nurse scheduled me for 1:20 pm on October 2nd. I asked her about it and she said one drug would take 30 minutes to flow into my system. The other would be about 3 hours as it will be dripped very, very, very slowly. She was going to check with Dr. P to find out why she said 6-8 hours.
While I think these onc nurses are going to be a butt-load of fun, I do have my concern that the nurse I'm working with isn't "up" on the drugs I'm taking. In fact, she said that I was her 2nd Triple Negative Breast Cancer patient. Hmmmm, it's a reputable hospital and the oncologist knew all about TNBC. Onc nurse said I may thin on the hair, but not lose it. This totally goes against what the literature shows and what Dr. P said. There were some other things said that contradicted literature and Dr. P.
I have been researching the Internet to find some natural ways to help with the side effects, as well as nutritional foods that I can eat despite the chemo nausea, possible mouth sores and gastrointestinal tract issues. The research data was too much overload; I went to a naturopath yesterday and I'm very glad I did. Some of the things the Naturopath doc told me I already knew, but I did gain a wealth of information. I met with her colleague, an acupuncturist, to see what she could do for nausea and fatigue, etc. Acupuncturists can do a lot! Isn't it weird to hear me talk about acupuncture? Ummm, needles. Yeah, that's it. Needles.
If anyone goes through breast cancer, and I pray you don't, get to a naturopath and acupuncturist early in the diagnosis. There is much they can do.
Work has been a good thing. It's an escape from Cancerville. As much as I dreaded surgery and was freaking myself out with it (I hate surgery and needles, did you figure that one out already from the blog?), I am very, very nervous about the chemo. The idea of a needle being punctured into my chest just makes me so nauseous. I can puke just thinking about it. But the other alternative, having multiple sticks of an IV to find a vein each time, plus the cancer cell attacking drugs ruining the arm veins isn't great. Having the port catheter right into the subclavian vein is much easier. So, I will stop complaining about the port. Amended: I will stop complaining about the port today. Yep, that's better. One day at a time.
The port doesn't hurt as much anymore, but it does feel weird when I raise my arm above my head . . .sort of like when the arm goes down, the port doesn't.
I had to have lab work on Thursday and the onc nurse said she could do the blood draw from the port. No siree! I had to go to work and I think I need to be pretty well medicated for the first time that needle goes in.
In fact, the nurse agreed to order some pharmaceutical assistance to just get me in the door of the oncology department next Thursday. Remember, I'm going to win the "BS award for the most excuses for not starting chemo."
They will give some lorizapam/xanax to relax my stomach during chemo. She said that a tight stomach and body makes the nausea worse. I find this stuff amazing.
They also prescribe a numbing creme that I rub onto the port area on my chest an hour chemo starts. Onc nurse said she could also do a lidocaine shot and her dentist showed her the best way to give lidocaine. lol
Part of the pre and post chemo regime is prednisone (cortisone) and benadryl to reduce, or is it eliminate, any allergic reaction. One of the chemo drugs, Taxotere or Cytoxan, can cause severe allergic reaction that can cause breathing problems. I like to breathe. They have found if the cortisone and benadryl is given and if the chemo drug is given extremely slowly, it reduces the chance of reactions. I like to breathe. I need to remind them of that fact.
But good news on the stress/tension/anxiety front. I found a couple of great imagery recordings on iTunes. Imagine that! I downloaded them to my iPod and used one last Monday while at the dentist. It helped tremendously!
One of the anti-nausea meds causes constipation and one causes diarrhea. Do you think they'll cancel each other out? Okay, is that TMI (too much information)? Either way, I'll have Imodium and laxatives here in the house in case it swings one way more than the other.
I can't remember everything else the onc nurse said. But I'm sure as those side effects and effective treatments I use to combat them come up, I'll be sharing with you. It would be nice to help other chemo patients with developing their own self-care treatment for BC.
Vic is doing well. He says he doesn't feel that he has 100% of his energy back from his surgery. I think he is as tired of cancer as I am. I've noticed in the past week or so that it seems he doesn't want to hear about it . . . so I've been keeping some of the "constant talk to make it not so scary" talk to a minimum. You can hear a pin drop in our house, it's so quiet. :-)
Vic needs to read up on the home care for chemo. Such as drinking buckets of water so I pee every couple of hours for the first 72 hours. The goal is that I drink so much water that I have to get up several times during the night. Doesn't that sound lovely?
The suggestions from the onc nurse and other cancer survivors is to eliminate cooking odors. I guess he'll have to warm up dinners in the microwave or cook out on the BBQ. Sometimes the nausea is caused by smell, or seeing food or thinking of food. By the way, once I know what triggers the nausea, the naturopath has some things I can use. I don't want to be asleep the entire week after chemo, gorked out on anti-nausea meds.
I've laid paperwork out about the home care for chemo . . . and hopefully he will read it. Otherwise, I'm calling on those people who offered to help to, well, help!
We anticipate the chemo cycles will be:
First week - feeling crappy.
Second week, not so crappy but fatigue is still around and I should be at work. This is also the nadir time (see below).
Third week, feeling zippity-do-dah. We will need to plan for some fun things during this week just to have something to look forward.
The biggest concern of the oncology world is low blood counts - which is what the chemo drugs cause. The nadir is between Day 10 and Day14 after treatmnet which is when I will have low blood counts. It's the time that will put me at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding. I asked the onc nurse about the surgical masks if I wanted to go out or if someone was sick around me. She said no - the masks are a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you thought I was a germophob before, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Vic will need to have some breaks from care. So if you like to golf, attend rock concerts or see scary/gory/sci-fi movies (Harry Potter, Slash, Indiana Jones type), please invite him out for a few hours. He needs as much support as I am getting . . .and probably more. It's tiring being the caregiver.
Love to you all!