Another Mammogram

And here I thought I would have to get a mammogram in a year. Instead, I received a letter from the imaging center reminding me to book one. Soon.

So…this Wednesday I go in for both a mammogram and ultrasound. I told the staff that the family doctor had marked “mammogram” and not ultrasound, but she said the clinic automatically does an ultrasound as well. Ordered by doctor or not.

I have my prescription for Tylenol 4 so will take one prior to the visit. Those ultrasounds hurt so much! They are far worse than the mammogram. Tylenol 4 works to lessen all the pain, and I am grateful that my family doctor prescribed it.

Still losing hair from the Armidex, but I still have lots, so by no means am I balding, at least not yet.

I have had no issues with the Fosamax so far. I found out that the body can only absorb up to 500 mg of calcium at a time, so I take one calcium pill along with vitamin D at lunch, then the other calcium pill about two hours later, midafternoon.

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Good bye Port

I finished the Herceptin infusions at the end of May, had a mammogram in May, plus an ultrasound. The staff said the mammogram looked good, as did the radiology center’s doctor.
Then I had an ultrasound a couple of weeks later. I was told the results would be sent to the oncology doctor within a week. Well, she phoned me just the other day to ask about the ultrasound that I was supposed to have! She had not received the results!

I haven’t heard back from Dr. S. so I hope that the results are indeed alright.

Also in May was one last MUGAscan as well as the port removal. I had no IV, and it was removed under local anesthetic. It took only about 15 minutes to remove and then I was sent to recovery for just over an hour, then came home. The stitches are dissolving, so no need to return to the doctor for that.

Here are photos of the port in place. I actually thought to take these photos so maybe my ‘chemo brain’ memory is getting better.

 

Port shown under skin.

Port shown under skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am pleased that it served its purpose and is now out.

You can read more about ports at the Bard site (they made the port I had)

http://bardaccess.com/products.php

and at the Canadian Cancer Society’s site on this page

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/tests-and-procedures/subcutaneous-port/?region=ab

I continue on the Tamoxifen with some night sweats and hot flashes, occasionally. The doctor said good, that shows the pills are working! She says the symptoms may lessen over time. She doesn’t want to prescribe anything to control it at this time. Some women apparently have 5 night sweats a night, so I am not doing that at least.

 

 

I Needed a Rest

I am back, after completing the fourth and final chemotherapy treatment and then the 16 doses of radiation.

Now it’s Herceptin infusions continuing, every three weeks, through May 2014. And a MUGAscan every three months, (the next in February 2014) followed by a check with the oncologist.

I could have posted here sooner. While the fourth dose of chemotherapy made me feel terrible, the radiation was simple, and I felt okay. I was just tired of the subject. You know, every time I turned around there was  someone talking about cancer. I got sick of it.

After the chemo was done,  my hair started to grow back and I was no longer bald after about 5 weeks. I can now go without a wig or hat and not feel too self-conscious. The hair is the same color it was before the chemotherapy, but it is wavier that before – I had some natural wave prior.

My worst symptom after chemo is this – breaking and soft fingernails. I could see the white lines on the nails, caused by each of the four chemos. Finally, after five months, my nails are nearly grown out and no longer show any white. I hope from here on they will grow and not break. I bought some nail strengthener and have used that with some success. And non-acetone nail enamel remover.

The radiation was okay. Here is how each day was:

I arrived at the cancer center and took the elevator to the radiation floor. I put my appointment sheet in the holder on the wall, effectively “checking in”. Then I went to the change room, put my clothes in the bag I brought in each day, and put on a nightgown and robe. Then I went to to the waiting area. I rarely had to wait more than a very few minutes before I would be called in. This made the whole experience must less stressful, since it was daily, Monday through Friday. I was taken to the room where a narrow cot was placed just under a large machine. The staff brought a warm blanket. I removed my robe, and lay down, removing the nightgown so the breast was exposed. The staff put the warmed blanket around my arms, which I had now put up above my head, grasping at two handles to stay steady on the little table/bed.

Then the staff left the room. The machine swung up and over and then emitted a little sound. After a moment, it moved up and around to the other side, and again made a sound. Then it resumed it’s normal position above my head, and the staff returned. I was all done!

Once every seven days, the staff had to take some readings, and this took a couple of minutes extra.

I had to lay down every day, for a total of one hour, with the breast exposed to air. And I had to use Glaxal Base often. The staff said 5 or 6 times per day. I slathered it on, and had only a tiny bit of redness on the skin.

It was not too bad at all. The staff helped a lot with their kindness. I was never self-conscious with any of them, either male or female, during the procedures.

Third Chemotherapy

Well, the third treatment was a lot worse than the first two.  I was ill – a general feeling of illness, as though I had the flu – for about 10 days. I now feel better, just in time for this Friday’s bloodwork and appointment with the oncologist. The fourth and last chemotherapy is set for July 29th, so as long as the blood work is good that will go ahead.

I have had an appointment with the radiation oncologist, and on August 7th will have a CT scan and the marking will be done for the radiation treatments. I will see this doctor every Wednesday morning during the course of the 16 radiation treatments. They begin August 26th.

The doctor told me to use Glaxal Base cream on the breast, as the radiation can cause skin irritation, even like a sunburn. He says to leave the area exposed for an hour per day during the treatment. Also, he says the skin may darken. There may be damage to a small part of my right lung – there may be scarring there. There’s a tiny risk of developing cancer!

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

Progress

I woke again through the night – I wonder, is this a frequent occurrence in cancer patients? I am going to talk about this problem at the appointment on Tuesday. I’ve had this insomnia for several months now.

Woke very early this morning. The cat was meowing. He’s started to do this often lately, when my husband gets up to get ready for work. Cat is nearly 18 years old, so I suppose he’s entitled to be a bit quirky. He seems healthy enough, and will be due for his annual shots and checkup soon.

Mid-morning, I finally cried for a couple of minutes. It is a normal progression, I think, since the ‘shock’ of diagnosis on Monday.

I had a nap, a comforting hot chocolate afterward, and now feel ready to face the rest of the day.

Small steps!