Monday, December 09, 2013
Well, I honestly don't have much to write about because I've been sleeping at least 18 hours a day for a week now. This new chemo is doing it's number on me. I don't feel sick (at least most of the time), I just feel ready for bed at the drop of a hat.
After sleeping all day Saturday, I did get dressed up and we went to the ball room dance. Both of us seemed to have forgotten how to dance, so we didn't dance much and left about half way through. It was nice to be out, and I don't regret going, but it didn't lift my spirits the way it did last time. At least, I didn't wear myself out. True to form, I went straight to bed as soon as I got home.
The antii-nausea drugs seem to be working. However, I did end up throwing up my dinner last night which sort of surprised me. I had some medication that I could take by just putting it under my tongue and letting it dissolve. After I took it, I was able to go back to sleep. If it happens again, I'll call my doctor, but otherwise I will just let her know about it when I see her next week before my next infusion. From here on out, I'll make sure I have had my antinausea meds at least a half hour before I eat.
I get this new chemo every other week, so I'm hoping to pick up some energy during the second week. Like I say, I don't feel sick, just really, really sleepy. I'm kind of like a hibernating bear right now!
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Well, it's 4am Saturday morning, and it's been about 3.5 days since I had my first AC chemo. For some reason, all I did was sleep the first two days post chemo. It kind of surprised me because usually the pre-chemo steroids make me energetic for about 48 hours and then I usually crash. This time, there was no "up" period after chemo, so I'm wondering if there will be no crash. That would be nice. Thoses weekly crashes were the worst part of my weekly Taxol chemo infusions.
I woke up about 3am this morning with slight bone pain. It's from the shot I had to build up my white blood cells. The pain wasn't bad, just enough to wake me up. Walking around seems to help. I've also taken some other meds that were prescribed for the bone pain that should help. If this is as bad as it gets, I can easily manage it.
Our little town is having their monthly ball room dance tonight. I'd really like to go, but I have no idea how I'll be feeling by this evening. We will go as long as I'm not feeling too terrible. This ball room dancing really lifts my spirits. I have a couple really pretty Christmas dresses I can pick from to wear. They are very old, at least 20 years old, but they fit! The band will be playing a lot of Christmas songs according to the write-up in the paper, so I think it will be fun and festive. If we go, I might even take my camera an see if we can get some pictures made of us dancing.
Yesterday, Jim started pulling out the Christmas decorations from the storage room in the basement. This is the first year we have lived in this house full-time so we have no set place for the decorations. We also have all the Christmas decorations from my mom's house that sold last spring. We have far more decorations than we will ever really want to use in this house, so we are giving about half of them to charity. Right now is the perfect time to do it so that someone else can use them this season. Jim pulled out about a quarter of the decorations yesterday and he has already taken a car load of things to charity. I'm not really big on clutter. So far, everything he has put out in our house looks really tasteful.
We will be having a very low-key Christmas this year since I'll be right in the middle of my AC chemo, but I think it will be nice to have the house decorated. I have a friend that is fabulous at decorating for Christmas. I think I might call her and ask her if she wants to come other and participate in putting up the decorations. She has been wanting to help me out some way, and this would be the perfect way to help. I believe I'll give her a call later on today.
This is a lady that has decorated her house so pretty for Christmas that their home is on the "Christmas Parade of Homes." She really likes to do that sort of thing.
While my Christmas may be pretty low key this year, I'm very aware that there are a lot of people really struggling through great hardships this holiday season. Getting chemo and going bald just in time for Christmas certainly isn't on the top of my hit parade of things to do for Christmas, but overall, I feel very blessed. I'm surrounded by people that love and support me. I have no "crazy makers" in my life that can bring me down. My cancer is confined to my breast and lymph nodes as far as we know, so there is a chance for a cure. We are doing okay finacially (thank goodness we have terrific insurance). Overall, I have a lot to be very grateful for.
Life is good! Now if I can just get to the ball tonight!
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
It's been a busy week in terms of my medical care. On Monday, I went for BRCA mutation testing. BRCA is the genetic mutation that Angelina Jolie has that caused her to decide to have a double mastectomy. My particular type of breast cancer (triple negative) is more likely to be associated with the BRCA mutation. It is recommended that anyone that is 60 or younger when they get triple negative breast cancer get tested to determine if they have that mutation. There is about a 15% chance that I will test positive.
If I test positive, I will have my ovaries removed and have a double mastectomy as well has have the lymph nodes removed on the side my cancer is on. If I test negative, I will most likely have a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removed. A tdouble mastectomy and lymph node discection is major surgery, but that is what i will do if I test positive for the mutation because the risk of me getting a new cancer in the other breast is 25%. I'm kind of thinking I don't have the mutation, but I will know for sure on Dec. 31 when I get the test results back.
We spent the night in Nashville Monday night because I had a long day of medical appointments the next day.
Tuesday was a big day for me because I started a new chemo that day. It's commonly called AC chemo. This combination of drugs tends to have a lot of side effects. It can cause severe nausea and vomiting if not covered with anti-nausea meds. I was very happy to learn that I would be receiving an anti-nausea medication called Emend by IV prior to getting the AC. The Emend is very expensive but it's supposed to work wonders. So far, so good. I'm also taking round the clock anti-nausea meds at home over the next 5 days in particular, so hopefully, things will go well on that front.
One thing about AC is that it really causes the white blood cell counts to drop. There is a medicine called Neulasta (also very expensive $10,000) that is given by injection 24 hours after chemo to help boost white blood cell production. Since I live so far away and have a nursing background, they gave me the syringe to give myself the shot today. My chemo finished at 6pm yesterday, so I gave myself the shot at 6pm tonight. I've given lots of injections to other people, but never one to myself. It was a little nerve racking sticking a needle into myself, but it didn't hurt at all. Good to know, since I will be doing this three more times after each of the other chemo infusions of AC.
The problem with Neulasta is that it can cause severe bone pain (since that is white blood cells get produced), particularly in the hips, thigh bones and breast bone. Oddly, they somehow have figured out that Claritin helps reduce the pain, so I'm taking Claritin twice a day right now and will continue it for the next 5 days. Hopefully, it will work it's magic and I won't have bone pain.
The other side effects of AC that pretty much everyone gets are total hair loss about two weeks after the first infusion and taste bud changes so most foods don't taste good. The other chemo just made most things taste bland and I was able to keep about 20% of my hair though that one, so this one will be harder on both of those areas. I know I'll be able to get through it.
Last, but not least, it's really important that I drink a lot of fluids all the time. The chemo can damage my bladder if it sits in there too long, so I have to keep flushing it out. I keep a water bottle with me and take a sip whenever I think of it. Good thing I'm a good water drinker and our water tastes good where I live!
So now, I just want this AC to zap the living daylights out of what is left of my tumor and any other cancer cells floating around in my body...after all, that is what this is all about!
Let's keep our fingers crossed on that one!
Life is good!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
I was really fortunate that my chemo schedule happened to have a break that coincided with Thanksgiving weekend. My youngest son (35 years old now), came down to visit from Illinois and we hosted our family Thanksgiving get together yesterday. While I still had low energy levels compared to normal, I was able to enjoy the visit and all the company. It was so nice to have so many people around.
My entire family gets along very well with each other with a few small exceptions. There is no family drama that some people experience over the holidays. Just lots of laughter, talking and enjoying each other's company.
My husband did almost all the cooking and cleaning in preparation for the gathering. I found it really hard to sit on the sidelines for all that, but I knew if I spent my energy cooking and cleaning, I wouldn't have anything left for when the family actually came. It was a terrific lesson in patience for me, but Jim did a wonderful job and I stayed out of the kitchen.
I loved having my youngest son here for several days. He's very shy so that if anyone else is around, he tends to blend into the woodwork. By having him here by himself, we got to really enjoy his company. We played cards and had a football watching orgy on Thanksgiving Day. We also went and had Thanksgiving lunch with my mom at her assisted living place. That made her day, and we didn't have to cook on Thanksgiving Day itself, so that really worked out.
Tomorrow morning (Monday), we are off bright and early to Nashville for my BRCA testing. We will spend the night in a hotel there because I have my first chemo infusion of a different kind of chemo (AC) first thing Tuesday morning. I'm getting nervous about that one because the side effects are typically a lot harder than the last one I was on. What's left of my hair will fall out in about 14 days after that. I'm sad about my hair, but I'm much more concerned about some of the other side effects. Everyone is different in how they respond, so I will have to just wait and see.
I get this chemo every other week for two months. Most people seem to be down for the count for about a full week after each infusion. That's what makes me nervous. I figure I can do just about anything for two months, but I'd rather not have to deal with too much! You may be hearing a lot of moaning and groaning from me for a while. We will just have to see.
In the meantime, today is an absolutely beautiful December day here in Tennessee, sunny and relatively warm. I love it! This good weather makes me happy!
I hope you each have a good day today. I plan to!
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Last week, I had the last of my twelve weekly taxol chemo infusions. I was hoping the recovery period from the last infusion would be easier than the others, but it wasn't. I had a lot of fatigue all week and the same steroid "crash" that I went through every other week as the pre-infusion steroids wore off about two days later.
Even though the fatigue was there, it was nice knowing that this coming week should be better. I'm on a two week break before I start a different kind of chemo that will last for two months. So...no chemo this week. I'm really interested to see how much my energy levels pick up over the next seven days.
Thanksgiving will be a nice distraction from my normal "cancer world." My youngest son is driving down today from the Chicago area. On Thursday, we will all eat with my mom at her assisted living place. The good news there for me is "no cooking!".
Saturday, we will be hosting our annual family get together. As it stands right now, there will be fourteen people. Jim has promised to do all the cooking. I'm sure my son will help as well as other family members. I think my job will be to relax and stay out of the way. I usually work non-stop getting ready and want to have things just perfect. This year, I will be learning how to let go and let others take care of things. It should be an interesting exercise for me! I know the more I am able to relax and not fret over stupid details, the more enjoyable it will be, not only for me, but for Jim as well.
This year will be different. I think what I need to focus on is gratitude.
On a different subject, I went to my first breast cancer support group meeting yesterday. It turned out to be their annual holiday luncheon so it's difficult to know what the meetings are really like. It was an older crowd of women which surprised me a bit since so many young women have breast cancer. I think that part of the reason is that the meetings are in the middle of the day so many working women would not be able to attend. I plan on going back. It's a forty-five minute drive to the meeting and it only meets once a month, but I could use the support.
I had a nice chat with a woman that just finished her chemo a couple months ago. Her hair is just starting to grow out. I thought it looked really cute! I'm a big fan of short hair styles so I'm lucky when it comes to that. According to everything i've read, I'll be losing what's left of my hair right around Christmas. The lady told me where the American Cancer Society offices are so I stopped by on the way home and they gave me a wig and some cute caps. I have quite a collection for when the hair goes. I wear a lot of the caps already, even around the house because my head gets cold. I figure I currently have maybe 20% of the hair i normally have. It's very thin and fine, but it's still enough to look semi normal when I go out in public. I had pretty thick hair to start out with.
I want to end this blog by saying "thank you" to you....my wonderful SparkFriends. I really have appreciated your support these last few months. It has meant a lot to me. I hope all my U.S.A. friends have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I plan to!
Life is good.
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