Duh… (& hot flashes)

I spent a few minutes today looking for my phone that was in my hand. I was at chemo, and wanted to post something snarky, but by the time I found my phone (smh), I forgot what I wanted to say. So I figured I’d just say: “Hey! Today is my second to last chemo treatment! Woohoo!” Then I forgot to post it…

The chemo brain is strong with this one!

Aside from that, I’m doing well but super tired!

I may have mentioned that my liver numbers were a little high at my last chemo appointment. Well, they’re still a little high. So Dr YB reduced my taxotere dosage, as that can sometimes be a side effect. So we’ll see if that changes how I feel this cycle since taxotere is the nasty one. It would be nice since Christmas falls right smack in my bad week, so it would be cool to feel not as bad.

It was a long day, but I chatted with my recliner neighbor and listened to a book on tape, then did some word games and puzzle books. Tomorrow I’ll go for my Neulasta shot, and I don’t have to go for one week labs next week since my white and red cell counts have remained well throughout treatment. Score! One less thing to do the week of Christmas!!

After the Neulasta shot, the next thing I have to do is chemo on January 8th!

Oh! And I did talk to them about the evil hot flashes. Since my liver numbers are rising, the doc didn’t want to add any news meds to the ever growing cocktail I already have, as that can make those numbers worse. As it is, post-chemo I’m taking meds for: heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea, plus a steroid and Claritin for the Neulasta bone pain. And then I have other meds to take for more random symptoms that may pop up. It’s bananas, but I get it. So I’ll deal with the hot flashes. They’re a result of the hormones, since I’m basically in an induced menopause. Once I come off the chemo on January 8th, I’ll be continuing some hormone maintenance stuff until September. So once the chemo stops and the side effects slow down and those liver numbers go back up, we can look at treating the hot flashes.

I can’t really complain, I mean I’ve finally found fixes for most of what I’m experiencing, except the fatigue, lightheadedness, and hot flashes. It could be worse!

Ok, I’m going to crash! Have a great evening!!

Cycle Two Update 

I can’t remember if I mentioned that when I met with Dr YB before my chemo, we talked about my symptoms and side effects, and he recommended only taking half the prescription steroid I take the three days following chemo. The reason for this was because a) it seemed like several of my symptoms could be a direct result of the steroid, and b) not all people need the steroid.

So the question is, have I noticed much of a difference with that change? I’m less foggy, lightheaded, and fatigued. That’s been wonderful, because it has allowed me to be more active. I made dinner twice this week! Last cycle, I was horizontal.

As far as my digestive tract, it’s nearly identical to last cycle. I warded off potential nausea the night of/morning after chemo with the Zofran. I had one BM Tuesday night after chemo, nothing since. I have Mirolax to take tomorrow if things don’t happen in that department. We all know how I appreciate regularity in my life. Ha! I also have a lot of heartburn, Thursday in particular. I took some pepto, and later an over-the-counter heartburn medicine, with some relief, but not a lot. Tried to sleep in a reclined position to ward off discomfort. Worked a little, not a ton, especially when I was woken up by some jackass in a pickup truck with no muffler, messing around on the road behind my house. Thanks, dude. Appreciate it at midnight.

What else? Ah! After chemo on Tuesday, I napped for about two hours. After the first cycle, when I woke up every couple hours throughout the night, I decided I would allow myself a nap, damn Benadryl, but wouldn’t go to bed for the night until later, like 11:00pm. So that’s what I did. Or tried to do. But I never slept!!! I was up ALL. Night. Long. And Wednesday, I was functional on no sleep. I worked two sessions. Then I went for the Neulasta shot and the MA (same sweet gal I had last cycle for labs who got me fluids!!) told me it was the steroid drip I had the day before. That can disrupt your sleep. Yay…not. If there’s anything I like more than food, it’s sleep.

I slept fine Wednesday night. Woohoo!

Appetite has been fine, and I’ve been able to continue to drink water. By the end of the first week of my first chemo cycle, I was already having trouble drinking water because the taste was salty. I loaded up on juices and stuff this time around because I wanted to have an alternative to water in case that aversion comes back, and so far I prefer the water, which is great! I hope it lasts.

Dry skin on my hands. Annoying. The top layer of skin is cracking a little bit on the sides and knuckles and it just peels and peels and peels. I’m using lotion, but it doesn’t really seem preventable at this point since it’s already peeling. It’s annoying, but not causing discomfort or pain.

Less tingling this time around. I think the tingling was the hair follicles dying everywhere, so I’m guessing since they’re already dead, that’s not going to happen in the same way. Taxotere is no joke! That’s the chemo drug that generates all the excitement. It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s killing my cancer, so it’s a small price to pay!

So that pretty much sums it up so far. I feel like it’s been less eventful, but I haven’t hit that 7-10 day mark yet, and that will be the true test. That’s when the appetite left the building last cycle and I was probably less than pleasant to live with. Here’s hoping that water and me continue to get along, at the very least, and that some of the easy foods I purchased in anticipation of that part of the cycle work out!

Blood Counts Are In…

…and they’re good!

The Neulasta did (or is still doing) its job and my blood cell counts are high. Good news!

I went in today for that, and ended up staying for some IV fluids. I wasn’t fully dehydrated, just mildly so, and the fluids would make me feel better, so I signed myself up. 

I was able to eat a little more after that, then had a protein shake (brilliant suggestion by Nurse R at the oncologist), took a nap, and then had enough energy to go to class. Of course, I was exhausted by that point, but I feel like I finally had a productive day. 

Of course, I wasn’t able to work yesterday or today, and that sucks. I’m hoping I’ll wake up in the morning feeling rejuvenated enough to make my sessions. I hate not having the energy or stamina to do the things I used to do, and I hope this will pass with this part of the cycle. I think (hope!!!) today’s improvements were a step in the right direction. 

So next up, aside from my usual random ramblings, is the port placement on October 3rd. I’ll be so glad once that’s done! (Never thought I’d say those words, ha, but I’m over being poked and prodded.)

Chemo Cycle Day Two: Neulasta Injection

First, an update on how I’m feeling after the first day of chemo. I feel good. I’m tired, but I haven’t yet experienced any of the side effects. I know some of that is still to come (possibly) in 7-10 days, but for now I feel good. 

And a shout-out to Nurse L, who did my IV and ran my chemo for me yesterday. After 8 hours being juiced up, I expected at least a little bruising, but nada! Can you spot the entry point for the IV?

Check it out!

Pretty awesome! Next time, I’ll have the port and it’ll all go through there. 

I could have fallen asleep last night at 8:00pm, but decided to stay up so I wouldn’t wake up throughout the night. So I went to bed at 10, and still woke up at midnight, 3:00, 5:00, etc. But I felt good this morning anyway. I had some stomach cramping, felt sort of like gas pains, and took Pepto to ward that off. Success! Took some more after lunch just to be safe. I have Imodium as well, but I don’t take those until things get, ahem, loose, so I will do my best to avoid getting to that point. Plus, I swear by Pepto. The cherry chewables, even store brand, ah-mazing. Appetite is fine, stayed crazy hydrated all day, good to go!

So the Neulasta shot is what is supposed to work my immune system, lifting the white cell count, which will be measured next Tuesday morning. Hopefully the Neulasta will do its thing. 

This was a quick shot. I was at the office for about 30 minutes total, and the shot (into the fatty part of my arm) took less than 5 minutes. It was a shame I had to miss class for that, but it had to be done 24 hours after completion of the chemo and that was smack in the middle of Objective Assessment. But I did have a friend drop by to say hi while I was there, so all was not lost! Thanks, Andi!

Side effects to expect is soreness in my long bones, like upper arms and upper legs, and back…where the bone marrow is at. This is the reason I’m taking the Claritin, apparently it provides some relief to this symptom! Who knew?

And a little crappy humor for you…courtesy of my sister generating a meme from something I said via text after a compelling conversation about my bowels. 

Full Day 1 Chemo Update

What a long day!! Eight hours, ugh. The recliner was comfy, the company amusing, and the view pretty. The West Ashley location is very nice, but I’ll probably be switching to the Trident place since it’s closer to home.

No, didn’t see an alligator, but may have seen a snake.

Moving on.

After the stuff I posted previously, I had more stuff! Lots more stuff. The first was dripped for 90 minutes, then a break for 30 minutes. Next was about 45 minutes of premeds (steroid, Benadryl, anti-nausea, etc.), then finally the actual chemo drugs (the morning stuff were hormones). 

The IV in the arm was weird and uncomfortable at times, but mostly because I have a hard time sitting still so I keep bumping it. I didn’t really feel anything when the meds went in. I did feel a coolness when they did the saline flush between drugs. I was free to use the restroom, eat, walk around. I did a little bit of everything, particularly eat. 

We also played a game of Phase 10, which I won! 

Brad picked up lunch for us from DD Peckers at noon, it was good. I had some kind of Cajun chicken sandwich, he had a cheesesteak. 

I did get exhausted, too exhausted to read at some points, due to the Benadryl. I was able to nap for a few minutes here and there, but it’s hard for me to sleep with the noises (machines beep when bags need changing, or errors), and in the position I was in. My back and neck are going to hate me tomorrow. HATE. 

The temperature of the room was pretty nice. I did pull out my watermelon socks (which got a lot of compliments) and blanket at one point, but by the afternoon I was warmer. 

So the side effects are pretty overwhelming! Just imagine those commercials you see for cold medicine or something, then you know how at the end they add all those things that the drug can cause? Jeez. I’m glad I have it all on a sheet because I would not remember all that. 

I have to stay hydrated. It’s likely I’ll have diarrhea (sorry, but sh*t happens), and nausea. I have anti-nausea meds, and the nurse recommended Imodium for the upset tum. The rest of the potential side effects are ridonkulous, so I won’t list them all here, but in a previous post I linked the drugs I’m getting with some kind of drug fact info sheet. The “bad days” are usually the 7th to 10th days after chemo, so early next week we’ll see how I feel. Right now I feel slightly bloated and exhausted. 

My hair is probably going to be making a departure in about 3 weeks. I’ll save that for another post (The Pros of Losing My Hair, because silver lining, people!).

Chemo Day 1 is in the books!

Coming at you LIVE from Chemo Day 1

Kidding, I’m not live live. I’m just sitting in my comfy recliner, hooked up to the drugs, and hanging out with hubs.

So the first thing will drip in over 60 minutes, then I’ll get a 60 minute break. Then the next, and the next, and so on. I’ll be here about 8 hours today. 

My chemo bag is packed! It’s really cute, too. Kindle, paperbacks, computer, iPad, games, blanket, etc. Plus, we’ve got a cooler with snacks. Yay. 

Brad’s been a real trooper…getting me this and that, and sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair for the entire day. 

Since I don’t have a port yet, I’m getting the chemo through a vein in my arm. The port placement is scheduled for October 3rd, which will be before my next chemo treatment.

So I’m going to start reading my book, now, Ghosted by JM Darhower. I’ll post a full day recap later tonight or tomorrow!

The Oncologist and Treatment Plan

I met the oncologist yesterday; Dr. YB. He is wonderful. When he went over everything, he drew pictures and diagrams and dumbed everything down so I could understand the whats, hows, and whys of everything, which was refreshing because, while I know my diagnosis, I don’t really know what any of that means. So it was cool to get a visual on that.

Here’s the nitty gritty details:

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Estrogen positive (99%)
Progesterone positive (5%)
HER2/NEU positive (3+)

Don’t ask me to reiterate what all the doctor said…I have the visual in my head and can see and understand it, but I can’t translate it as well as he did. Haha. That information up there is how they determine the treatment, which is chemo and hormone therapy.

So scan and lab results…JP is measuring at 2.8 x 2.2 x 2.2 centimeters, which puts me at Stage IIA. There is also a suspicious node in my underarm on the right side, measuring approximately 1.1 x 0.9 x 0.8. When I have my port placed, they’re going to check that out, but it’s not going to change much in terms of the treatment if it ends up being concerning. The CT scan and the bone scan both came back clean – so hooray for that. Actually, they say “unremarkable,” which is kind of insulting, but whatever. According to my mom that’s what you want to hear…I still think of myself as pretty remarkable, though.

Now for the treatment. Chemo, obviously. And hormone blockers. And immune boosters. Quite the cocktail I’ll be receiving.

So I’m getting a port, that’ll happy on September 18th. It would probably be happening sooner, but because of Hurricane Irma shutting everything down, scheduling is all out of whack as procedures scheduled on the days offices have decided to close will need to be rescheduled and all that fun stuff. I’ll be under general anesthesia for the placement, it’ll take about an hour. It’s ultrasound guided, and this will be done by Dr. JB. While she’s in there, she’s going to ultrasound the node, and biopsy it if necessary. Again, it won’t change much in terms of the treatment plan as we’re already pretty much going balls to the wall.

I also have to have an echo cardiogram prior to starting chemo so they can get a baseline reading of my heart. Then I’ll have to go every so often to get other readings since some of the chemo drugs can cause interference with the pumping action of the heart, so they’ll monitor that closely. Also, I’ll be having ultrasounds with Dr. JB every 6-7 weeks so we can watch JP shrink!

I’ll be on 3 week cycles for chemo, a total of 6 cycles. So that’s 18 weeks total. All-in-all, the chemo/hormone stuff will last a year, but it’s chemo for the first 18 weeks, then they’ll do surgery to remove whatever is left (which may be nothing), then about 34 weeks of hormones to finish off the year. After all that is finished, I’ll still be looking at about 5 more years of some kind of preventative/maintenance therapy, but it won’t be as frequent. I’ll deal with that in a year.

So there’s herceptin, taxotere, carboplatin, and pertuzumab. I’ve linked to info pages on those drugs because, yeah…I’m not a pharmacist. That’s all administered the first day of the cycle. The very first day I get a “loading dose,” so it’s a little bit more, a little bit longer, but after that my first day of each cycle will be about 6 hours total. Lots of time for me to read, write, nap, or take up knitting. I go back the second day for pegfilgrastim, which will boost my immune system, since the first four drugs will weaken good cells, as well as the bad.

I also have a wad of prescriptions to fill. Pills for nausea (one I must take the tree days after chemo and one I take as needed), an antibiotic (to have on hand in case I have a fever and it’s the middle of the night – I won’t have to wait for it to get called in or the pharmacy to fill it), and a cream that contains lidocaine (which I’ll put over the area of the port to numb the skin about 30 minutes before I go in for chemo so the needle going in won’t hurt.

So as far as physical limitations, eating, working, etc…

I made a big deal of the potential nausea. Dr. YB was like, seriously, that’ll be the least of my worries because of all the anti-nausea meds I’ll have. He said he’d be concerned about the weakened immune system and heart stuff, and I was like…dude, I like to eat. My mom, the doctor, and the medical assistant laughed, but I was totally serious. I like to eat, I don’t want to be nauseated and not able to eat. He said I should be fine. He also said he has chemo patients who do the bridge run (which, if you’re not from the Charleston area, is a very popular 10k race). So physical activity shouldn’t be a problem, though I will have some days where I may feel like dirt and not want to do anything, and that will likely remain pretty routine with my chemo cycles. So that’s good, I like for things to be routine, even if they’re a crappy routine.

So the first day I go in for chemo will be a longer day due to the loading dose, but in general when I have day 1 of each cycle, we’re looking at about 6 hours. So where does my mind go? Yeah…I asked K, the medical assistant, a little bit about that day and she told me I could bring whatever I wanted with me (blanket, tablet, books, but not my dog – I asked). I asked how long I’d be there, she said about 6 hours. I asked if I could eat. Her and my mom laughed. Again, I was totally serious. She said I could bring food and drinks with me, run out and get something, send someone to get something, etc. So I’m all set, as long as I have access to food.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my love for food may dissipate as the treatment goes on, and I will have good days and bad days. I won’t always be Suzy Sunshine, but I’m going to embrace all the good feelings when I can. And when those good feelings include an appetite, I’m going to be ALL OVER IT.

So don’t rain on my parade, or piss in my Cheerios.