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Showing posts from 2013

Radiation prep & planning

Episode LVI: the smell of hospitals in winter Enough time (2 weeks) had passed since my surgery, so last week I visited the Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist to talk about my next treatment. As expected it was radiation. I would be going for 7 weeks (35 treatments) and they planned to radiate my breast, some of my lungs, and expand the field to really get those lymph nodes too. But before I could begin I had to come back to get some preparation images so they could pinpoint the radiation. Radiation Time

Ready, Set, Results

Episode LV: how am I going to be an optimist about this... It has been a little over a week and I got to meet with the Breast Surgeon to discuss my results. During the lumpectomy they removed over a 8.5 cm mass out of my right breast. That was between 3-4 inches... a lot of boob! Within that, the cancer mass had shrunk from over 3.6 cm to around 1.5 cm from chemo - which was good. My margins around the mass were clear of cancer. That was good. No more breast tissue needing to be removed. That was even better!!!

Surgery Day

Episode LIV - There she goes again... (Be warned - Some images of my surgery & healing shown... ) I woke up bright an early (4:50 am) so that I could shower with my "special" soap (which I also used the night before) to help disinfect my body and prevent post-surgical infections. Then I got to put on a tube (yes, a tube) of lidocaine cream over my nipple. I started in the center and slowly and circularly worked my way outside of the nipple. And since I have had negative results with my port - I covered it up good. Then I put a large piece of Press n' Seal Saran Wrap over my nipple and breast. Finally, putting my bra directly on so that I would make sure it stayed in place for then next few hours. Of course the day before surgery I was sitting in the doctor's office with my daughter who had a serious asthma attack and would require care the next day. My mom who was going to go with me had to remain home with her, so thank goodness my friend was still p

Week 25 Update - First Stage Complete

LIII - my life is changing every day... First – Chemo’s Over! I am finished, yes finished, with chemotherapy. My almost 7 month torture session ended the last week in October. I should not call it torture, because I really had a lot of fun during treatments with my friend, but the after affects were definitely torturing. I wish I could say that since it was over so were those side effects. Unfortunately, they are plaguing me daily and have really been pretty relentless. I think I got every possible side effect (big and small) from the Taxotere. One of the main reasons I have been behind in my blog (besides fatigue) is that my hands have been challenging. My fingernails look as if I had taken hammers to each and every one of them and they feel that way as well – so all tasks using my fingers are difficult. Hence the later email, typing hurts!

To New Boob or Not to New Boob

LII - She's a beauty... After my earlier visit to the Breast Surgeon that morning, I realized I needed to learn more about the mastectomy process before making my final decision. I was still leaning towards the lumpectomy, but I felt like I needed to understand the full outcomes of a mastectomy and the process of reconstruction. I knew, for me, if I went that route I would want a set of new boobs.

Breast Surgery Discussion - Take 2

LI - where is my mind... (Boob Alert -  Illustrations of Lumpectomy & Mastectomy are included in this blog - you were warned) Neoadjuvant chemotherapy was now complete and it was time to discuss my MRI results and figure out the best course of action... lumpectomy or mastectomy. My original plan was the lumpectomy, but I was not going to rule any particular procedure out. So, I headed in bright and early to talk with the breast surgeon. Time to make up my mind... maybe?!

Post Neoadjuvant Chemo MRI

L - Screaming "let me out"... It was like déjà vu, I was at the Women's & Children's section of the hospital on a Monday night at 6:30 pm. I had been at the exact same place, on the same day, for the same reason in April! And just like then there were benefits to a late appointment, the hospital was basically empty. I was the only person waiting in the waiting room. Waiting at the hospital.

Last of Neulasta!!!

XLIX - it feels like this has gone on forever... Neulasta Shot #8 I had a rough night of side effects. The last chemo did a lasting number on me!! However, there was no time to dwell on the nausea, pain, or discomfort... it was time for the dreaded Neulasta shot. The LAST Neulasta shot... the FINAL shot!!!! I am thrilled that it was the last Neulasta... hopefully ever!!! I took the shot and I took the consequences. I spent the week feeling horrible. I was so miserable that I even opted to sleep in rather than get up to help my mom get the kids ready for school. I continued to be so miserable that I opted to stay in bed rather than get up when they got home to help my mom check on homework. My main goal of the week was to painfully make my way out of bed and attempt to eat dinner with my family, even if it was in the lazy-boy rather than at the dinner table. That tiny goal took many days to accomplish. Mostly I spent the days hurting or sleeping, and using the heating pad al

Final Chemo!!

XLVIII - I will survive! Taxotere #12 I cannot believe it, the final chemo! My last time to get up super early, lidocaine my port area, and cover it in saran wrap in the wee hours of the morning! The last time that I will have to readjust that saran wrap multiple times because it got moved during the morning chaos in my house. The last time to wear one of my designated 3 tank tops for the sole purpose of keeping my IV line from hooking on my shirt! A happy Monday for me!!! About to leave for the final chemo...

Another one bites the dust...

XLVII - I will get by. I will survive. Taxotere #11 So, I am getting down to it... only 2 more treatments to go. As usual I was up early and preparing my port to help make the needle experience slightly less painful. And as most days the two hours I was up early did me no good - I still was running around trying to get kids ready for school and me out the door. The chaos to get my son on the school bus (which comes extremely early) and my daughter to the neighbors for a ride would make any "non-sick" person crazy... much less me!! What? Only 2 more to go!!!

What's up with radiation?

XLVI - I am a weapon of mass destruction... I was scheduled for a short appointment to meet with the Radiation Oncologist so that I could learn more about radiation and what that would mean for my breast cancer. Like all new doctor's I was required to fill out massive paperwork and go over my medical history, as well as my entire family's medical history. I carry a large paperwork binder that carries all of my records for my entire cancer treatment. It has all my many doctors and all of the copies of scans and paperwork organized by each one. It also carries a very important section of information I created, a written copy of my medical history and my family's history. It has all my surgery dates as well as my diagnosis & test dates. I have learned that I have had too much going on to remember it all in my head!

The beginning of the end... of chemo

XLV - It's the final countdown... Taxotere #10 Up and at it again!!! As usual, I did my port preparation and headed out the door for the last of my Taxotere (3 to go) as well as a scheduled doctor's visit. Since I was having a meeting with the Oncologist my husband decided to go along to help remember all the "next steps" we were going to have to do. We have been so wrapped up in chemo treatments that we really have no idea about what is next...

Week 21 Update - Happy Birthday to Me!

XLIV - With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come What a great week to have off! My birthday happened to fall on the week without chemo treatment. Instead I got spoiled with some treats and a visit from some of my family... Birthday surprises... snacks & visitors... In addition to celebrating another year alive (bonus), I had surprise packages sent my way. It was always exciting to have unexpected mail and be showered with warm wishes and occasional gifts. Shoes and hats were given courtesy of my aunt who has throughout my treatment showered me with thoughtful items and loving thoughts.

... their ain't no easy way out

Episode XLIII - I will stand my ground and I won't back down Neulasta Shot #7 The dreaded shot day had arrived! There was only one way to go into the shot to make it better and that was with a lot of love and humor. So, I forced my hubby and kids to take silly, happy pictures with me! Forced might be the most accurate word, as if I would have given the chance to say no. I knew I was going to go down from the shot - I would go down fighting, and get some family love time first!!!  

Scan & chemo combo

Episode XLII - Keep holding on... Taxotere #9 It was just like my normal chemo day, I got up and readied my port for treatment. However, I was taking a quick detour before treatment today to swing by and get a CT scan. The CT scan was minimal and for me the least informative testing I have had yet. Last time the results were hard to read so I was assuming the same type of results would occur again. Going back for my CT scan... On a good note, the scan was performed in my cancer center and they were able to use my port for not only the scan procedures, but to do my blood work and use the line for chemo later. It was a great all-in-one service! After getting a slightly painful jab, I was ready to proceed to the scan.

Appreciate the simple things...

Episodee XLI - Life is, in fact, a battle. Taxotere #8 I woke myself up super early and prepared myself for treatment. I took a quick shower (especially fast considering I still have almost no hair) and put numbing cream all over my port area with tired eyes. Then I ate a small bowl of bland cereal to help prevent major nausea from chemo. Afterwards it was still early enough for me to start my "normal" routine, meaning get the kids up and ready for school. Going into treatment has only gotten more difficult. I am dealing with last week's side effects. I am still dealing with a cold. As each treatment builds, I never seem to fully recovered from chemotherapy, but here I go again.

Here we go again...

Episode XL - I know your a cannonball Taxotere #7 I have officially begun the last part of my chemotherapy treatment!! The early morning requirement to get the port ready for treatment was less daunting because I was glad to be halfway through with Taxotere. Getting ready to leave... I had a scheduled visit with the Oncologist prior to chemotherapy, but still went through my normal round of checking in and blood work procedures. I was thrilled that there were no issues with being poked or prodded. I was even more thrilled to have my chemo-buddy on hand to help pass the time as we waited for the doctor. Any time I have a scheduled visit that requires being seen, I can expect to be much longer than normal. A lot more sitting and waiting!

Week 17 Update... Major Milestones

Episode XXXIX - Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching... Nothing beats looking at the positives... and I have some major milestones that I am looking at right now! 1/2 way finished with Taxotere 3/4 way finished with chemotherapy With everything that has gone on, I am so excited to see those accomplishments. I know I still have a long path ahead, but the past 4 months of treatment have sure been teaching me life lessons. Many centered on strength, endurance, and appreciation. I will continue on the path for the next 2 months of chemotherapy and beyond into my other treatments. I am still a happy cancer patient!!! Of course, it would not be a updating week without some updates. It seems that with the start of school our house became a beacon of illness. With one case of strep behind us, it would only be fitting that we got a second case of strep right after we all completed antibiotics. Yes, I endured my chemo/shot week and I was already down... so I got to add

Shot to the gut...

Episode XXXVIII - Lose Yourself Neulasta Shot #6 I had unfortunately had a pretty rough nauseous night, so going in for the Neulasta shot was less appealing than normal. To try and help put me in a good mood I purposely put on my happy, bright color shirt & cap. I was willing to pretty much do anything to keep my attitude positive and I nothing like bringing a little cheer into the cancer center!

Almost halfway there...

Episode XXXVII - Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you? Taxotere Dose #6 I am halfway through with my Taxotere treatment. High Five! Even though over time I have only increased in chemo side effects, I was now only two Taxotere (6 treatments, 3 Neulasta shots) to go! Time to do a little cheer!!!

Chemo + Strep = Long Week

Episode XXXVI - Well the landslide will bring it down... Taxotere Dose #5 Overall, chemotherapy has become pretty standard. I have gotten used to the routine and am more prepared for what each treatment will be like. Each session builds on the other and each week creates stronger reactions to treatment. I had an off week after my first full Taxotere doses, so that time my reaction would be slightly less intense than the next two treatments. Each treatment would bring new challenges and make old ones more difficult. In the end it really does not matter what treatment brings because I will do whatever comes my way.  Bring it!

Getting chemofide...

Episode XXXV - It's just another manic Monday Taxotere Dose #4 What a great way to start my day, getting the kids ready for their first day back to school. My oldest was off to 8th grade. My youngest was going to 1st grade. There was a lot of excitement and some nervousness in the house. But as you can see... they were mostly happy!   Our family on the first day back to school! As soon as I dropped the kids off at school I headed directly to the cancer center. I was not able to go to all the fun I-am-an-awesome-and-involved-parent coffee and breakfast events. Instead, I was off for a visit with the doctor and a dose of chemo. I usually drive myself to chemo, which seems to surprise people. I guess they expect me to be more in need, but usually I feel relatively normal until a few hours afterwards. I have always been strong willed which can work for me or against me, depending on how I use it!

Week 13 Update... let the Taxotere begin!

Episode XXXIV - ... life is the great teacher Thank goodness for no treatment week! I am now another shot down with only three more to go. I had also completed my first real round (3 doses) of Taxotere. Even though I still had 9 chemo sessions left, I looked at it as if there were only 3 more complete Taxoteres to go. I am over the halfway point of my chemo treatment and grateful to be there. Oh yeah!! What a difference a week makes... Even though I had already finished a tough treatment week, I was still in some pain. Regardless, I had to get back on routine. That meant getting the kids ready to start school again. That meant doing the mundane housework. That meant getting my body back up and moving. That meant trying to live a normal life!

Neulasta... we meet again!

Episode XXXIII - Scar tissue that I wish you saw... Neulasta Shot #5 Here I go again back to the center for the Neulasta shot. Oh, my nemesis! I had made the appointment early so that I could just get it over with and on with the side effects. I have found, for me, that the later I have treatments my nights tend to be worse. Chemotherapy begins with steroids and anti-nausea medicines which tend to keep me awake. Plus, the full on side effects of chemo kick in around 2-5 hours after treatment. I like to medicate myself as I hurt, not be woken up from sleep in pain. As for the Neulasta shot, if I take it early I can actually come home and eat without issue. Especially since I tend to get jaw pain. Usually by dinner it starts to kick in and I know what type of pain I will be dealing with. If I take it later in the afternoon, I just wake up mid-night in utter pain and it can take an hour before any medication kicks in. There was nothing like sitting up in the dark contemplating y

One full dose down... Three to go.

Episode XXXII - Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary Taxotere - 3rd Dose I had some company for treatment. Some awesome company that did have to wake up early, during summer, to hang out with his mom! At least one of us was excited about it. If you have not figured it out already, it was ME! He got up at 6 am to go with me and share the experience. We went through my normal routine of blood work, nurse practitioner visit, and scheduling. He got teased and tortured by all the ladies! And he took it very graciously. We finally made our way back to the chemotherapy treatment area and it was still very early. My wonderful son took great care of me. He got warm blankets, snacks, and water just for me when I needed it. He also had a few pretzel snacks himself! The benefits of providing such great care for his mom!  

Keep on keeping on...

Episode XXXI - And miles to go... Taxotere - 2nd Dose With an early 7 am chemo time, I had to get up before 5:30 am to prep my port. It seemed so early. I obviously did not cover my power port area correctly because holy moly they jabbed that sucker in there. Owww! Ouch... port pain! Waiting for chemo pager to vibrate. It was the first chemotherapy visit I have ever had that I actually did not have to meet with anyone. I only had to wait a few minutes before my buzzer went off and I was back in the chemotherapy room. The only one back in the chemo room. I was first!!! Of course, I thought being first would bring me a quicker out time. I was wrong. I still had to wait for my blood work results. During that time other patients began being tended to as well. I went from first to somewhere in the middle. Eventually, my results were good and I was cleared for chemo...

Oh no... off to the Gyno

Episode XXX - Menopausal Woman I went Monday to the Gynecologist and they wanted me to come back to have an ultrasound to get an idea how my uterus and ovaries were doing. Seems cancer was going to get me poked, prodded, and scanned in all places! So, back for another appointment and an ultrasound to check out my lady parts. I'm back! Time for another ultrasound... The first abdominal exam required a full bladder, so I had been downing more water than normal. However, all that water required more pee urges. And the exam required a full bladder without urinating first. I was basically walking into the office with my legs crossed! After downing water and having 2 kids, I just hoped that I refrained from peeing myself!

New Day, New Chemo!

Episode XXIX - I'm going the distance... Taxotere - 1st Dose A day of appointments. A day of waiting. No really... lots of waiting! Before I even got to my Oncology appointment, I had a morning Gynecology appointment. Since I have only seen my family doctor about my lady parts, I needed to establish myself with a more specialized Gyn doctor. I spent over an hour in the waiting room before hearing my name. By the time I got to the patient room there was only 1.5 hours until my chemotherapy appointment. So as the nurse was getting all of my personal information, I was literally opening my shirt and applying Lidocaine/saran wrap to my port. She was a bit freaked out, but there was no way I was going to risk having port pain. At least I was prepared and brought my stuff with me. Always be prepared!

Beach bound

Episode XXVIII - Vacation, had to get away... It was nice to get away, even if I was the only bald chick on the beach or at the pool. Where were you other cancer patients?!?! Apparently, not at the beach with me. I did get a few funny looks and possibly a stare or two, but that was not going to stop my vacation.

X-Ray on this...

Episode XXVII - Na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na CT-Scan Time for a check-up scan between chemotherapy treatments. The CT scan was chosen as a way to view the tumor. Now it seems like I am have worked my way around to almost all the scans. The CT scan had some benefits... It was way less time consuming than the PET scan. It was also less in time and noise than the MRI. Less pushy than the Ultrasound. Overall, the CT scan was the less invasive and time taking scan I have had (yet). As with most tests it did require and IV. However, since I have a Power Port it was used instead. I have learned than any time I go to any medical thing to prepare the port, just in case. I was not told that the port could be used, so it was good that I had prepped myself. Plus, if I am going to get jabbed in the chest I would prefer that it was numb.

Week 7 Update... ACs Over!!!

Episode XXVI: I will remember... Gone - AC Chemotherapy I was glad to finally make the first check off of my Cancer To Do List!  I can now say I have completed my first round of AC treatment. Yay!!! What a week or two! The last treatment hit me hard and took me down. The combined AC chemos and Neulasta shots over the past months just dropped on me like a bomb. To be honest, that first week after the treatment was a knock out, stay in bed, and hope that the drugs would do something to ease the side effects. Some drugs worked, some did not. I was popping all pills by my bedside table... officially a "legal druggie".