Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The Countdown Begins...
So....the chemo is in my body. The countdown to hair loss begins! No turning back now. I am conflicted on whether I'm going to use my hair dryer and straightener. Everything I read says not to because the heat will make it fall out faster, but I hate my curly/wavy hair. Maybe I'll just do it once a week on Sunday for church. But, if I'm only going to have hair for 14 days...does it really matter if it is only for 7? What do y'all think?
If some of the below is "wordy" it is because I want to remember it for later in case I need to refer back to it.
I arrived at the oncologist at 9:15am yesterday. They took my blood work around 9:30am and she took it out of my left arm even though it ups the risk of lymphedema. My surgeon and oncologist both think that since I only had a sentinel node biopsy and not an excision that it should be okay. I'm praying it will be. We waited about another hour just to see the oncologist. While we were waiting in the patient room Kevan's cousin came by to see us and offer support. It was very sweet. The oncologist finally arrived. We discussed getting a port and he doesn't think it is necessary. He wanted me to try it without a port yesterday to see how bad I thought it was. It wasn't bad at all. I've met 2 people that told me their port was worse than their surgery and it was painful when they used it. So, I'm leaning towards not getting one. Also, the doctor had some good news. He said, for now, I will only do 4 chemo treatments instead of 6! Although, if it is going well with minimal side effects he wants me to continue to 6. If I'm having a hard time then I can stop at 4. Truthfully, I just like the idea of my hair growing back a little faster. :o)
I brought up my oncotype score of 70 and I was so glad I did. The oncologist explained that pre-menopausal women always have a higher score. That is why so many of the numbers I was seeing online were so low because most women that have breast cancer are post-menopausal. He said due to my age, menopause and the aggressiveness of the cancer that is why my score is so high. He said it is actually a good thing because it means the chemo should work and get rid of any other cancer cells lingering in my body. Praise God!
We waited around ANOTHER 30 minutes before a woman arrived to give us a little course in Chemo 101. I was given a big binder to read, additional documentation and she was very helpful in circling the most critical items. She answered any questions we had and was very sweet. She's instructed me to rinse/gargle/spit a salt/baking soda/water mixture 4-5 times a day to prevent mouth sores. Mouth sores is a side effect of one of the chemo drugs. She discussed how I will probably GAIN WEIGHT (UGH!!) because I am pre-menopausal and this will put me into menopause during treatment. So, I guess I will have to go clothes shopping. :o( The doctor and her both mentioned things that can help me from gaining weight. I need to make sure I eat breakfast and exercise in the morning to rev up my metabolism early in the day, eat good throughout the day (whole foods, not sugary/fatty foods) and not eat after 7 or 8 at night. Since we live in Central time, but "live" on Eastern time (for work purposes) I am not sure which time zone to choose. I guess Eastern. She also discussed "chemo brain" with me and how I will start forgetting things and how to prevent it. One of the items was to "work on one thing at a time". That is going to be hard for me. I'll have to take lots of notes. Also, she said I can go to church even though I will be around so many, but I shouldn't hug or be around others that are sick. If I see someone coughing or sick next to me I need to move, I need to use hand sanitizer all day long and I cannot be around kids if they appear sick. Also, if anyone comes to visit me they will need to wash their hands as soon as they enter the house.
I didn't move to the chemo room until about 2pm EST. I started to pray for strength. The Lord was with me. I was flooded with calmness the rest of the time. I know there were many others praying for me too and I am so thankful. I was very nervous in the morning, but throughout the day I was just relying on God and giving him my burden. Here is a picture of me in the chemo room. Kevan snuck and took the picture as it was against the rules. So, shhhhhh! Awful picture...I had just shoved a peanut butter cracker into my mouth. lol! Oh, did I mention free snacks and drinks. :o)
They hooked up my IV into my right arm. [Later my PT said this was a bad idea and that I need to use my left arm from now on since my right arm is my dominate arm. So, if I'm going to develop lymphedema I want it in my left arm, not my right.] First off, she pushed saline through my IV. I'm one of the lucky ones that can taste it. She said that was a good thing because it tells her she has a good vein. Then, they gave me a steroid drug through the IV, followed by 2 anti-nausea drugs. Then, they gave me Taxotere. Some people have allergic reactions to it within the first 5 minutes. I had no reactions (Praise God!). It took about 45 minutes for that one to finish. Then, they added the Cytoxan. Almost toward the end of this one I started to develop a weird sensation in my nose, like I had went swimming and got water up my nose. It was awful. I had to keep laying my head back and holding my nose. It remained the rest of the time. The nurse said I was one of the lucky 1 in 10 to develop this and it will happen each time. They don't know what causes it or why I am so special. Oh yay! Once chemo was done it last about another 20 minutes. It wasn't a pretty bad side effect, just annoying. So, the chemo is in my body, I'm drinking my water and trying to go to the "little girl's room" every 2 hours as directed. Which, I don't have to set an alarm for.....I HAVE to go. lol! They sent me home with 2 anti-nausea drugs and a list of side effects that would be urgent if I experienced them and would need to call their office immediately (even at night or on the weekend). They were like, fever over 100.5 F, vomiting/diarrhea over 24 hours, etc.
After we left I had to stop by to see the Physical Therapist just to show her my scar banding so she could refer me to a PT closer to my house. She found one, but she is on vacation so I won't start PT until 7/9. :o( They are going to do massaging and stretching to relieve the scar bands. I am praying it works because it is pretty painful.
I didn't want yesterday to be a depressing day so we decided to go out to dinner before my nausea kicks in a few days from now and to see a movie if I was up to it. My MIL was with us all day providing support and encouragement (wasting her whole day) so we took her out to PF Changs, one of her favorite places. I didn't eat too much because I was scared to get sick, but it was all really good. Afterwards, my MIL's cousin met us somewhere to take her home and we left to head home. Then, we had to stop at a McDonald's and use their restroom. I decided I wanted to go to the movie so we stopped on the way home to see "Brave". We had 2 free movie tickets (and popcorn) from my oncological surgeon because we had to wait so long that day he wanted to do something nice for us. So, our movie trip was on him. :o) I did eat popcorn and it tasted pretty good! I had to get up to go to the bathroom and as I started down the steps to the bathroom my legs were VERY weak. I had to hold the handle. I wasn't sure if I got up too fast or if things are starting to happen already. I was pretty sad because everyone keeps telling me that the side effects won't appear for a few more days. I need to work this week. So, I'm praying they hold off until Friday night or altogether! I had to use the restroom twice while we were at the theater. lol! I'd say I'm pretty hydrated.
On the way home Kevan stopped to get me my favorite smoothie from Panera (Mango Smoothie). It didn't taste right. Tasted like orange not mango. He tasted it twice and said he tasted mango. Weird! It wasn't as good to me as they normally are, but I drank it all. LOL! We arrived home at 11:30 EST, I fell asleep around 12:30, slept until 2:30 (used the restroom and drank my water), didn't fall back to sleep. Got back up at 4:30 to use the restroom/drink water. Then, fell asleep about 5am and woke back up at 5:45 chilled. When 6am rolled around I just got up. So, I only slept about 3 hours last night. I'm exhausted. I'll have to take a nap today.
One of the best things that happened yesterday was that I made a Chemo Friend!! She is 3 years younger than me, had pretty much the same surgery as me and same chemo regimen. The only sad thing for me is...her last chemo was yesterday...but that is great for her! I'm so happy she made it through. She had a tough time and had to take off work. I loved talking with her. We exchanged information and I really hope we keep in touch. :o)
Also, speaking of great things....I am so blessed to have medical insurance. This is not a burden for us and I know it is for so many going through this. We have had to pay out of pocket (about $4,000) so far, but God has provided what we have needed so far. I am truly blessed to not have to worry about how we will pay for these bills. Thank you Lord. I love you and I know you are blessing me so much throughout this journey.
Other than the not sleeping well (probably from the steroid) I've only felt a little strange (off-balance/clumsy) a little. If I sit up too fast I get very dizzy so I'm trying to train myself to move slower. Also, my arms and legs are a little weak. I think I'm going to visit the bathroom and then try to take a nap now before I start work for the day.
Thank you all for your prayers. I surely felt them yesterday.