Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chemo Treatment #12

Happy Saturday!
Thursday was my 12th chemo treatment.  It also means that I have just one more to go!  I really can't believe how quickly this time has gone by.  Sure, it's hardly been a picnic, but wow...  It's almost done!

I'm happy to report that I got a dosage of Ativan again plus a new anti-nausea medication called Aloxi. Between the two, I felt much better Thursday night than I did the prior treatment.  I was tired and starting to feel a little blah - but the nausea was at bay.  I also took a Zofran as soon as I got home, which helped me snooze for a bit, too.  I got a headache again, but just one extra strength Tylenol was all that it took to get rid of it.  I didn't feel great on Friday.  I was okay when I woke up but started to get increasingly nauseated as the day passed.  I was good about taking Zofran, which helped, but it does make me tired.  Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep, though.  Big surprise there.

I feel okay today, but I'm just really tired. I didn't get out of bed until well after 1pm.  I slept on and off all morning.  It's now 4:41pm and I'm thinking that a nap sounds wonderful.  I'm also thirsty as hell.  Nothing - and I mean NOTHING - sounds even remotely appealing.  Water grosses me clean out.  I have no idea why.  I have to force myself to drink it.  Flavored water isn't any better.  Oddly enough, milk and caffeine-free Diet Coke seem to hit the spot periodically.  Yeah, the thought of milk on a semi-queasy stomach is nasty to me, too.  I can't think too much about it.  My appetite is waning - which is the way the last few treatments went, too.  Of course, I say this after I polished off several pieces of pizza last night.  Surprisingly, it didn't upset my stomach at all.  Woo hoo!  (Hey, it's the simple things.)

I'm now down to 5 eyebrow hairs on my right side and 11 on the left.  I only have a handful of eyelashes, too.  It's not cute.  Not at all.  It kinda weirds me out and I look, well, creepy.  I know it'll all grow back but still.  It's really just comical.

Sorry that I'm rather boring.  I really don't have too much to report this time, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing.  I'm thrilled that I'm wrapping up chemo and definitely look forward to ringing the bell on August 16th.  I have an appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Gordley, on August 1st and I'll provide an update then.

Thanks for your continued support.  I can't say it enough - it means the world to me!

Adios for now...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just a quick hello...

My hair is actually growing back!  It's mostly white still (gasp) but there are now real, live brown hairs growing in, too!  Woo hoo!  I genuinely haven't minded being bald, but having some fur on the noggin is pretty great stuff.  Sadly, the same can't be said for my eyebrows and eyelashes.  They're continuing to fall out - to the point that I've succumbed to drawing on my eyebrows.  If I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job.  It's too bad that Sharpie is so hard to remove, though.  I kid, I kid!  I bought some false eyelashes, but I'm waiting until the last possible moment for those.  The fact that they could fall off and land in my food or something is kinda gross...

I hoped that my nails would recover, but it looks like my left thumbnail isn't going to make it.  It looks like an old man's horned toenail.  Really gross.  It's lifted up a little bit, too.  Fortunately, there is good, healthy growth on all of my nails, but the nasty orange/brownish parts could still result in Frankenfingers.  Of all the things I could freak over, I guess this is pretty low on the list.  Still...  Just one more thing to add to the uglification of Nancy.

Overall, I've felt better this round than I did the last round.  Sure the nausea was pretty rough at first, but it's really the only significant side effect that I've had.  The fatigue really hasn't been as pronounced this time, either.  I would go so far as to say that at this point, the effects of Taxol were much harder on my body than FAC has been.  It's very unexpected, but hey, I'm not complaining!

This is a short little post, but I just wanted to check in and give a quick update.  I suppose no news is good news, right?

Thanks again for all of your support.  It's good shit.


Enjoy this lovely picture of my thumb.  Kinda looks like a turtle now that I think about it.  Ew.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Next Stop - Mastectomy

Happy Monday!
Not too much has happened since my last post.  I continued to stay pretty queasy and refluxy through last Thursday, which was a full week after chemo.  I felt pretty normal on Friday and the funkiness had largely subsided.  I had lost about 5 lbs between throwing up and having really no appetite.  (I've since gained back a few, but who's counting?)  Interestingly, the fatigue hasn't been nearly as pronounced on FAC as it was on Taxol.  I'm tired, but in a normal way - not in an I-just-slammed-into-the-wall kind of way.  I really believe that overall, Taxol was much harder on me than FAC has been.  Sure, it packs quite a powerful punch, but I have less side effects as a whole.  Weird...

My head is now sporting very fine, very soft, white peach fuzz.  At this point, I don't care if it's purple.  I'd just like a little ground cover so I don't have to worry about hats, bandanas and wigs to avoid burning my noggin (And getting the "poor you" looks. Puke).  I'm down to about 10 hairs on each eyebrow and not much more than that on my eyelashes.  I don't want to lose them, but eh... At this point, it's just one more thing to add to the list.  No biggie.  I know it's temporary and I know it's crazy, but I just don't really care that much.  I pissed my vanity out the window months ago.

I saw my surgeon, Dr. Rourke, today.  She's great.  No nonsense, to the point, funny and kind.  Barring any delays with chemo, I'll have a month-long break for my body to recover and then I'll have my mastectomy surgery.  Right now, it's looking like that magic date is September 17th.  It should take about 3 weeks or so for me to recover and then I'll start radiation after that.  I won't have my reconstruction surgery for at least 6 months after the mastectomy.  This puts me into the early part of next year.

She did tell me that I do have another option; that I may not necessarily have to have my "good" breast removed at the same time.  I could have it removed during the reconstruction surgery and skip the expander portion altogether.  She said that's when they have seen funky infections on the good side crop up and throw the whole schedule out of whack. She said it's a bit like Murphy's Law.  Mess with something that doesn't need to be messed with and inevitably, something will go wrong.  She told me that Mr. Gordley (the plastic surgeon) doesn't always agree with that approach, so we'll have to see what he says.  I meet him on August 1st to go over the nitty gritty and then I'll meet with Dr. Rourke again to finalize the surgery.

She asked me what size I wanted to be afterwards.  Quite honestly, I'm fine with the size that I am now.  I definitely don't want to be any bigger, but I really don't want to be any smaller, either.  I'm currently a D/DD.  She laughed and said, "You do realize that with normal breasts, they tend to sag and hang over time and that implants are firm and tend to sit up where they belong, so if you went with a D/DD, it would be a force to reckon with!"  I laughed.  No way do I want cleavage up to my chin.  Not cute.  Ever.  Her recommendation was to consider a full C so that I could stay where I am now - at least visually.   Seems strange to go smaller to appear to be the same size but I do get it.  Pam Anderson, I am not.  Ew.  Since I could be going to a smaller size, the "wait until reconstruction for the good side" approach may not work, but again, we'll see what Dr.  Gordley says.

For the last 4 months, I've resigned myself to the fact that I didn't feel sick but that chemo was making me feel shitty so that it could kill the cancer.  It's a hard concept to wrap my head around.  Once chemo is done, though, I'm in full recovery mode.  I like that.  By all accounts, chemo is the hardest part and I'm almost done.  Sure, it will suck to have body parts cut off, but let's face it... Boobs are just the Christmas ornaments on this tree.  They're baubles that are pretty to look at but really useless otherwise.   I don't have to relearn how to function with fake ones.  I don't have to be on a transplant list.  Most importantly, I don't have to die.  Easy breezy to me.  Take 'em.

I've realized that my last several posts have been pretty bland.  I haven't had much color commentary.  Perhaps chemo is making me boring? Oy.  Bear with me.  I'll be funny again one day.  I promise.

Thanks for checking in on me and being so supportive.  It really does keep me strong and helps me fight that much harder.  Germ-free hugs all around!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Chemo Treatment #11

Today is Day 4 after my last FAC chemo treatment.  Chemo itself went well and was largely uneventful.  Oddly, I didn't get the IV of Ativan, which is both an anti-anxiety and an anti-nausea med. When I asked my nurse, Amber, about it, she said that my file indicated that it was to be omitted.  Given the fact that it was my new substitute for Uncle Benny, I was pretty bummed out that I wasn't going to get a pleasant buzz, but didn't make an issue out of it.  I figured that I would ask Dr. Nelson about it the next time I saw him.

By the time I got home, I was tired but felt okay.  I snoozed for a bit and had some mac & cheese for lunch. Totally normal. Totally boring.  As the afternoon progressed, I had a mild headache and started to feel a bit more queasy.  At around 4:30, I took a Compazine - knowing that it may give me dancy legs, but I sucked it up.  For the next two hours, I tossed and turned and couldn't get comfortable.  My stomach was definitely pissed off at the poison in my system.  At around 6:30, I made my first run to the bathroom and projectile vomited.  I was talented enough to shoot myself in the eye, too.  So gross.  For the next few hours, I continued to throw up.  I couldn't keep anything down.  I asked Matt to look in my MD Anderson-issued pink binder for the "when to call the doctor" list and yep, throwing up was one of those times.  He talked to the doctor, explained what was going on and was told that she was calling in a prescription for Zofran, which was another type of anti-nausea medicine.  By the time that he got home and I was able to take a pill, it was about 10pm.  Fortunately, it started to work very quickly and also made me a little drowsy, so I fell asleep quickly as well.  I normally have a pretty iron-clad stomach and outside of morning sickness or really over-indulging with the adult bevvies, I really don't throw up.  Even then - it's never in multiples.  I can't recall the last time I threw up like that.  The crazy thing was that I didn't have any aches or pains or a raging hangover headache.  My head hurt but given my history with migraines, it was nothing. Throughout the whole ordeal, I kept asking myself, "Is this worse than the restless legs?"  Each time, I'd mentally answer, "NO!"

I slept pretty well that night and woke up feeling fine on Friday morning.  Given the previous night's events, I was pretty damn shocked.  I felt a little dicey in the afternoon and snoozed for a bit, but all things considered, it wasn't bad.  Since then, I've been pretty queasy each day.  I've taken my Zofran as needed, but to be honest, I've probably toughed it out more than I really should.  I have so much poison and medicine in me that I don't want any more than I absolutely have to.  The Zofran wipes me out a little, too, so I don't really want to take it during the day if I'm trying to work. I'm convinced that the reason that I've been so nauseated this time is because I didn't have the Ativan.  That's the only thing that had changed.

I have to say - I'm pretty disappointed that after 11 treatments, chemo made me physically sick.  As always, I feel like I should have been tougher for some reason.  Yes, I've done much better than I expected but still...  I'm so thankful that this part of my suck-ass journey is almost over, though.  I've made it this far and I can knock out these last two!  Barring any complications, my last chemo session should be on August 16th.  That's only about six weeks from now.  Woo hoo!

I'm also happy to report that my neuropathy has continued to improve. My fingernails are really ugly but they're clearly growing out, which is great.  My hands only tingle sometimes but are still a bit sensitive to heat.  They aren't sore and my fingertips really don't hurt at all.  So glad Dr. Nelson opted to stop the Taxol early!

Thank you again for all of your kind words and love and support!  They really help keep me sane (well, mostly) and strong.

Peace out, my friends.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Tuesday to me!

It's been quite a week...  The last time I wrote, I was feeling great.  That greatness lasted for about a week.  I was in a terrific mood, had energy and didn't feel like a cancer victim.  Unfortunately, that euphoria was short lived, and the fatigue reared it's ugly head again.  I haven't been as tired as I was on Taxol, but it's still just an overall tiredness.  I still don't sleep well at night - but mostly because of awful night sweats.  I sweat out of places that I didn't realize I could. Ew.

My hands have definitely improved, but they still get tired and I still drop things all the time.  They're not sore like they were, which is wonderful.  My fingernails are now a lovely orangish shade.  I look like I've smoked 6 packs a day for the last 20 years.  I can deal with ugly fingernails, though - especially since they don't hurt like they did.  Woo hoo!

A few days ago, Matt and I had gone to the mall.  We made our purchase and left the counter.  As we walked away, someone yelled after me.  I assumed it was the saleswoman that waited on us, but it was another saleswoman.  She asked me if she could offer me some encouragement.  I really thought she was going to show me a breast cancer/pink piece of jewelry or something, but she stopped and told me that she was a 27-year cancer survivor.  She asked if I was currently going through chemo and wished me well.  She asked me my name and told me that she and her husband were praying people and that they'd pray for me.  She said that she wouldn't forget my face.  It took all I had not to cry.  I hugged her a couple of times, too. I was very humbled and pretty touched that a virtual stranger came up to me out of the blue like that.  I had on a pink bandana that day.  Clearly, I don't have hair, but she sure had one lucky guess.  She did joke a bit about gaining weight on chemo.  I told her that steroids were kicking my butt.  She laughed and said, "I'm fat, but I'm healthy.  I'm a healthy fat."  Ha... She was a sweet woman and she totally made my day.

I had my visit with Dr. Nelson today.  I don't have chemo until Thursday, but because of the holiday tomorrow, my schedule had to be juggled a bit.  I've been gaining weight slowly and steadily but today broke my heart.  I officially weigh as much as I did when I was 9 months pregnant with Maddie.  I gained 45 lbs with her, too.  (I'm SURE I've mentioned this before...) Ugh. This is the biggest I've ever been.  Yes, I know it will eventually come off, but it's not fun now.  Matt and I went to a movie the other day and for the first time (not pregnant), I couldn't fit my purse in the seat with me - as much as I tried!  Those damn seats must have shrunk.  Anyway - I digress...

Dr. Nelson and I discussed how I did the past few weeks.  I told him that I really do feel better than I expected to.  We talked about my crazy restless legs and he suggested that I only take the Compazine when needed rather than every 6 hours for 3 days straight.  I'm going to give it a whirl and see how it goes.  My nausea was pretty mild but nothing compared to my dance fever legs.  Oy.

We moved onto the physical exam part of the appointment.  He felt around and actually looked a bit frustrated.  He said, "I can't actually find the tumor..."  He continued to feel around and had me sit up so that he could try at a different angle.  He said that he didn't know if it was really the tumor or only a gland, but it felt to him as though the tumor had shrunk down to about 1 cm.  I've gone from 6 cm (the main tumor) down to 3 cm and now just 1 cm.  Matt and I both teared up.  This was GREAT news.  Clearly, the chemo is working.  As much as I hate that bastard, it's doing it's job.  He said that sometimes patients will go in for surgery and they'll be told that there is no sign of the tumor; that the cancer is gone.  I hope that's my experience, too!  Overall, he was pleased with my progress.  All of my little ailments pale in comparison to this cancer douchebag going away!

I'll have chemo this Thursday at 7am.  The time is rather early, but I can get it out of the way and over with.  He told me that FAC really isn't accumulative, so what I experienced initially is what I can expect for the next 3 as well.  Woo hoo!  Also great news!  Sure, I felt blah, but not NEARLY as badly as I feared!

When we leave, we always take the stairs down.  As usual, I smelled Half & Half tobacco - which is the kind that my grandfather always smoked in his pipe.  This is also the grandfather that was a surgeon and worked at St. Luke's in Cleveland, Ohio for 40 years.  I feel like he watches over me there.  I couldn't help but grin through teary eyes when we left today.  It was a good visit, indeed.