Monday, August 30, 2010

Treatment Day One: Better Than I Anticipated

Today was the first day of chemo, and it really wasn't bad at all. Boring - YES! Painful - NO!

Last Monday I had a medical port surgically inserted ( this one ). It is definitely strange seeing it under the skin just below my collar bone, but it means that each time I go in for treatment or fluids they can insert the needle into the port and have direct access to my vena cava, eliminating the need for a new IV each time.

Today I had 7 different medications infused continuously over a span of about 4 hours. One helps the nausea, two of them attack cells currently in mitosis (this is why hair/nails/mouth are also affected), one is a cancer cell fighter, one is a steroid to boost my bone marrow to overproduce white blood cells that are destroyed by the other medicine, one prevents allergic reactions, and one helps calm my stomach so when I get sick the acid won't burn.

I go back in tomorrow for an injection of another steroid, and I will check in with the oncologist every few days to run labs and check my fluid levels, adjusting as needed. I will go in for a repeat scan halfway through chemo to be sure it is working, and they may change my treatment plan based on that.

My hair will fall out later this week. I am actually not bothered by this. I am definitely not what some would call a "girly-girl". I see hair as something to keep my head warm, and hate spending time and money on it. I bought a wig last week and I admit it was nice to just grab it off the stand and be ready to go, ha ha. I also have a hat and a scarf, and I am not afraid of being bald, so the next time you see me I may look a little different (I will also lose eyebrows and leg hair). Once my hair starts to fall out, I am going to let the boys cut it with the buzz trimmers. They will get a kick out of that!

As of now, the plan is to have 6 rounds of chemo that begin every 3 weeks, but this may change. That puts it ending in mid-December. After that I will have surgery to remove both breasts, and will most likely not do a breast reconstruction. About a month after the surgery I will have radiation daily for 6 weeks.

I am at peace with my treatment plan. Obviously I would rather NOT be going through all of this, but unfortunately the tumor is 8 cm by 6 cm by 5 cm (that is 3" by 2.5" by 2" for my American friends *grin* ) and I no longer have enough time to try any alternative treatment options.

A couple of friends have asked me to share the symptoms I first noticed (which I will have to do next time), because 32 year old women who have recently nursed 5 children and do not have ANY risk factors are not supposed to get breast cancer. Every woman I have told of my diagnosis has gotten that same look in her eyes -- the one that says "Oh my goodness, if it can happen to HER it can happen to ME." And they are right. This can happen to anyone, and each of the doctors who told me that there was no way it could be breast cancer, that there was no need for further testing, that it would be fine to wait 6 months and see what happens, were wrong. Period. Thankfully I listened to my instinct and went to a different doctor who actually listened to my concerns and agreed that the large tumor he could feel was worth investigating. He referred me to a breast cancer specialist (a great one!), and the team I have in my corner now is awesome.

Lesson for today: Listen to and trust your body. Doctors are not bad people, but they do not know your body like you do. If your doctor does not listen to ALL of your concerns and address them until you feel the issue has been resolved, find a doctor who will.

The Wait Is Almost Over

On September 9 of last year I discovered I had breast cancer, and for the 355 days since then I've been waiting for someone to do something about it.

Two things you should know about me:
1. I am not a patient person.
2. I do not like needing other people to do things for me.

The waiting has been the hardest part. Waiting for appointments, waiting for doctors to return from vacation, waiting for new symptoms to show up, waiting for someone to take my concerns seriously. Always waiting.

Later today I begin my first round of chemotherapy treatment. I wouldn't exactly say I am looking forward to it, but I feel like I am FINALLY doing something to get this cancer out of me.

All of this waiting has been good for me in some ways. I have been slowly marking things off my massive to do list, I have been researching, I have been cleaning, I have been reading, I have been thinking. I am tired.

I will update when I am able to. In the mean time, take time today to do something that you've been meaning to do but haven't. Whatever it is, just go do it. It will make you feel better. :)