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.

Chemo Week 5

I have had little in the way of side effects so far with this second session of chemotherapy. A bit of nausea, which the pills help to control.I did lose a lot more hair from my scalp when shampooing this past week. My head is cold! I am thankful for the wig and for warm hats.

On Friday I have an appointment to find out about radiation. I should then learn how long the treatment will last and when it will start.

The medical oncologist told me some time ago, that while on the chemotherapy, “no green tea” because it interferes with the treatment. If you are going to have chemo, do speak to your doctors about this.

Until Friday!

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Head Shave! and Chemo Cycle 2

So last Wednesday, Day 16 since the first chemotherapy treatment I went to the salon that specializes in products and services for cancer patients.

I had a free head shave, which was a real relief for the scalp. The day before, when I shampooed my hair, it hurt down at the roots, so I am truly glad to have it gone right now.

The stylist then trimmed my new blond wig, and showed me how to put it on, as well as giving instructions on the care of the wig. I chose a synthetic wig and find it is just a real looking as a real hair wig. It was rather expensive, yes, but our health plan will cover some of the costs. And I can wear it when my own hair grows back.

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On Friday I had a blood test so that the doctor would know if my platelets were back up, so I could have chemotherapy again on Monday. They were. She gave me a new prescription for the numbness I had felt in both arms right after the first treatment, and said it should also help with the back pain. These are unusual symptoms, she said, but they can occur.

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This Monday, June 17th I had the second  chemotherapy IV, this time with Herceptin added. It took 5 hours total. The Herceptin was injected slowly, over 90 minutes, since it was the first time, and then there was a hour wait for any side effects or complications to occur. That was followed by the other two drugs, Docataxel and Cyclophosphamide.

I feel fine today. Must drink 3 liters of water per day, to help flush out the drugs. And of course, I am again taking the Decadron (dexamethasone), Zofran (mylan ondansetron) and Metoclopramide.

I am ready for days 3 to 5 when symptoms are the worst. I have learned that days 10 to 14 are when the platelets are lowest and that is when one must be careful of developing a fever (an emergency) and of exposure to germs etc.

That’s it for this time! Thanks for reading and thank you for the kind wishes from so many of you.

4

Chemo – The Effects

It is now day 13 since the first chemotherapy treatment. I was nauseous and also had a general feeling of  illness for several days.  Days 10 to 14 are when my blood cell counts are lowest, I learned from the chemotherapy nurse.  I feel quite well today. It has not been a bad two weeks, but there are 10 weeks more to go, along with 3 more treatments.

I have an appointment Wednesday to have my head shaved, to learn how to put on the wig, and also to buy supplies for wig care, a turban and a sleep cap. The shop does all this, and sent me a free 12 oz. mug the other day – what  nice surprise.

On Friday, the 14th, I have a blood test, and also an appointment with the medical oncologist. She will likely let me know whether my counts are high enough for the scheduled Chemo 2 on Monday the 17th.

I have not started to lose any hair – yet – but tomorrow is day 14 and I’ve been told that is when it will start.

I dread the side effects to come, but there isn’t any way to avoid them. Maybe I will be lucky and not have too many!

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Chemotherapy

So….the appointment on Friday the 24th turned out to be with the doctor’s nurse only. I was given prescriptions for Decadron (dexamethasone), Zofran (mylan ondansetron) and Metoclopramide.

Some of the pills have to be taken beginning on the day prior to the chemotherapy.

On Monday, I was awake early, and at the cancer centre in plenty of time. All of the people in the waiting room seemed so OLD.

A nurse escorted me and my husband to one of the large rooms, where beds are available. Since I was going to be there for 2 and a half hours, and it was the first time, I had to be in a bed. Not undressed, though, and the port was easily available and it did not hurt at all when she inserted the needle!

The nurse went very carefully over all the possible side effects and what to watch out for. Then the first chemo drug was started by IV. After an hour and a half, it was done. The port was flushed, and the second chemo drug was started. There are volunteers who come around every so often, with coffee, juice, cookies and crackers. It is possible to get up to use the bathroom as the IV is portable.

I was very glad to have this first session over with,and no ill effects – no allergic reactions.

I have been very tired yesterday and today (day 3 and 4 since the chemo on Monday). The worst effects are days 3, 4 and 5 according to the doctor.

I next have to go for blood work on June 14, and see the doctor again. Then June 17th is Chemotherapy 2 of four.

The anti-nausea pills are working well. I’ve only needed them once or twice the last two days. Of course, I expect to be much more ill but here is how I look at it – If I am sick it means the drugs are working. To me, I think of chemotherapy as a ‘reboot’ of my body., much like when you ‘reboot’ a computer. All the cells are going to be killed off and restart. That may not be very accurate!  But it helps me to face what is coming.

Until next time.

 

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.