HER 2? Avoid Avoid

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I have something to post as a warning/suggestion for anyone who has been diagnosed with HER 2.

The medical oncologist told me to avoid:

  • soy
  • flax
  • alcohol
  • any plant based estrogen such as Promensil, which I took for a year or so to try to relieve hot flashes – it was a clover based over the counter pill. She specifically mentioned black cohosh as well.

So ladies, please ask your doctor about the safety of any of these things for you personally, and be safe!

 

 

 

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Subcutaneous Port

On Wednesday, May 15, I had a port placed in my chest. This was recommended by my medical oncologist, as I will have 18 IVs over the next year.

I was told to not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to the surgery. I found this odd, since it was going to be a local anesthetic, but followed instructions.

There is a good explanation of  the subcutaneous port at http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/tests-and-procedures/subcutaneous-port/

I arrived at the hospital, where a volunteer took me to the department where the surgery would be done. There was only a few minutes’ wait, until I was led to a room to change into a gown and shown to a bed. The nurse inserted an IV into my arm and my husband was called in to wait with me, until the surgery.

I was wheeled into the operating room, and covered up with a warm blanket while the nurses made preparations. I was asked if I wanted some sedation – I said, “No, I think I am alright”.

When I was told I would have my head covered while the procedure was being done, I changed my mind! I began to feel nervous, and I asked if it was possible to have the sedation after all. I was told, “Yes,” and it helped, so I’d recommend it, if you are offered sedation. Since the procedure was under local anesthetic, one is awake.

The local anesthetic was given, tiny pin pricks that did not hurt. The doctor put in the port. It took about an hour, although I did not notice that long a passage of time, likely due to the sedation.

After, I was wheeled out and brought to the Recovery floor. The room was cozy, and there was a television, so I was able to watch “The Young and the Restless”, my favorite soap. My blood pressure and temperature was checked every 15 minutes or so, and after 2 hours I was able to dress and come home.
Regarding the incisions, I was told to only have sponge baths for 5 days. Then to remove the tape, leaving the gauze in place. It will fall off in about 10 days they said.

The pain has not been bad, especially compared to the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy incisions.

Last Wednesday, the 22nd, we attended a free Chemotherapy information class at the Cancer Center and were shown to one of the treatment rooms.

Today I have an appointment with the medical oncologist, in preparation for the first chemotherapy treatment on Monday.

I will post again after that.

Does this information help you? Please leave a comment if you have any questions and I will try to answer if I can.

 

MUGA Scan

I am going to describe what I experienced last Monday, when I had the MUGA scan done.

I was taken to a small room, where the technician explained the test. Blood would be removed, a tracer added, and the blood would be re-injected. A camera would take photos of my left ventricle, to find out how well the heart works.

He slowly drew 5 cc of blood from my arm. This took  25 to 30 minutes. During that time, I had to keep my arm extended. This was somewhat uncomfortable, but at 5 minute intervals the technician returned, to check on things, and I was able to move my arm to a slightly different position which helped somewhat. I had been given a warmed flannelette blanket, wrapped around my shoulders to keep me warm while this was all being done. A nice touch and one that was quite comforting, too.

At the end of this part of the procedure, the other technician (the first person went for his lunch) arrived and she put the blood back – with a tracer added.  This was very quick.

Next, I was taken to the scan room, and told to lie down, on my back, on the narrow cot. The technician placed three electrodes on my sides and chest. These control the camera, so that it takes pictures at the right time.  The equipment would be close to my face, so I kept my eyes shut during this part. It took about 25 minutes, with only a bit of noise, not bad at all. My left arm was up over my head, resting on the pillow, while the right was at my side. The left arm did feel quite uncomfortable toward the end of the test.

Then it was over.

I did not have to undress for the test. I hope that my heart is working okay, as this test is for a baseline, for the Herceptin treatment I am to have shortly.

Next time, I will describe the port placement, which was done this past Wednesday.

 

The Next Two Weeks Are Booked….

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Now things begin to get hectic for a bit.

On Monday, I am booked for a MUGA scan (heart scan).  I’ve been told it will take about two hours. It will be repeated every 3 months, since Herceptin may cause heart problems.

On Wednesday they will be inserting the port. It will take 60 minutes, followed by 2 hours in Recovery.

On Friday, I need to have everyday prescriptions renewed so that means a visit to the family doctor. In the afternoon, I have an appointment at a shop and spa which specializes in cancer patients. I will be fitted for, and purchase a wig. Our health care plan covers part of the cost. The salon also sells eyebrow kits, which I think is a great idea. If I am going to lose my eyebrows, may as well have a solution to that too.

The following week is a chemotherapy information class, and another appointment with the medical oncologist. She told me, at the first appointment, that I will get medications prescribed for nausea (and pain as well, I think).

Then – May 27th is the “Big Day”. The first of the 4 chemotherapy treatments.

And guess what? In the past few days, I’ve been working on getting a desktop computer ready to take to my retired mother-in-law. She’s been using a laptop which is too old to run her favorite email software, so I refurbished my old, old desktop computer for her. So this means an hour long drive one way, to deliver it to her. It will be good, though, to get away, and just visit for a while, before ‘it’ all starts.

 

 

Treatment Plan

Met with the medical oncologist on Monday morning. She has outlined the treatment plan as follows:

4 doses of two chemotherapy drugs, Docataxel and Cyclophosphamide.  They will be given every 3 weeks. At the second dose, Herceptin will be added.  I will continue with Herceptin for a total of 17 treatments, every 3 weeks.After that, pills, for a few years.

The risk of recurrence is 10% after 10 years with the treatment.

There are many appointments and procedures to go through now, prior to beginning the chemotherapy on May 27th. There will be a heart test, which will be done every 3 months, lab work and placement of a port. There is a free chemotherapy information class to attend as well.

Day of Surgery

From midnight on, the night before the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy,  I was told to not eat or drink anything.

At 8:30 am I arrived at the Women’s Center, where the needle localization would be done. This is a wire placed, with the help of ultrasound, at the tumor area, so the surgeon has a guide on where to begin. Compared to the previous day, the procedure went well. The technician used a local anesthetic, so that, while I was able to identify the object “That feels like it’s been inserted” there was no pain at all. I was warned to not raise my arm above my head, “as the wire inserted has an end a lot like a fish hook, so you don’t want to disturb it.” I was then brought over to the mammogram room. I waited for the developed pictures, so that I could bring them with me to the hospital.
The drive over to the hospital was uneventful. We arrived in good time, and once I was checked in, we were brought by a volunteer up to the second floor Day Surgery area. I was sent to a bed, given a nightie, and my height and weight was taken. An IV was started. I half dozed until the orderly arrived to take me into a room where I met the surgeon again, as well as the anesthesiologist. Soon, a nurse arrived, and I was wheeled to just outside the operating room. I was handed two warmed blankets, and led into the room on foot. I climbed onto the narrow table/bed and another staff inserted something into the IV.

I woke in Recovery, feeling good. A short while after, I was wheeled back to Day Surgery, and soon given water and juice to drink. The IV was removed, blood pressure checked a few times, and late in the afternoon sent home.
I remembered that the nurse navigator and the surgeon’s nurse had both told me to “be sure and ‘take your medication, even if you are not feeling any pain. Don’t let the painkillers wear off.” I took the Percocet I’d been given at the hospital, for three days, then switched to my Tylenol 3 which had been prescribed by my family doctor much earlier for something else. That worked well, although I was not able to sleep on my right side – even today, May 3, I cannot rest completely comfortably yet on that side, but it is getting better. I did move on to 500 mg Tylenol for a few days, after the pain lessened, then to no meds.

The tapes covering the three inch wide incision on the side of my right breast, and the one inch incision under my arm, where the two lymph nodes were removed, were soaked and taken off in 10 days.

At 14 days, I had an appointment with the surgeon. He said the incisions looked good. He told me that the tumor had not spread, that the edges looked good. The lymph nodes were also negative for cancer.

That afternoon, my nurse navigator called, to say that I would soon hear from the oncologist’s office for my next appointment, this one for treatment plans. She told me that because I have HER2 I will probably have to have chemotherapy, radiation and Tamoxifen. Since I’d originally been told  ‘surgery and radiation’ I was devastated by this news. I have done some reading on HER2 and it is described as very aggressive.

The next day, the oncologist’s office receptionist called to say my appointment is for May 6 at 8:45 am. Hopefully, I will learn a lot on that day, about treatment and prognosis.

In the meantime, I have attended a (free) class on post-surgery, and learned that I must massage the incision 2 or 3 times per day, for the next six months, to prevent adhesions. That means, to avoid having the scar tissue adhere through the fat, to the muscle, the skin must be lightly and gently moved towards the scar, on both sides, for about 5 minutes each session. So far, I have been able to avoid looking at the scars, as my  husband has been caregiver and helper through all of this. I know that soon I will have to steel myself to have a look.

I am learning far more than I ever cared to about having surgery and about having cancer.

If you are facing surgery etc I hope that what I am writing will help you as you move forward on your journey.

More soon!

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