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.


  1. You are so strong and brave. I hope you keep up the fight. Our family is praying and sending you our love.

  2. I read that miso can help combat the effects of chemo.

    (Sorry, I don't know how to be helpful in any way other than food.)

  3. Me too. Diagnosed at age 32, nursed 3 children for a total of about 40 months altogether, no family history. Breast cancer isn't uncommon in our age group. (Stats at There just isn't a good way to screen for it yet in our age group, which makes doctors think that it's rare. Mammograms don't work well on premenopausal women. Take home lesson: if you have a solid lump, you need a biopsy, period!!

    My lump was about the same size as yours, Colleen. Five years later all is well in my life--yours will be too.

    I'm so glad chemo wasn't too bad today. The Neulasta was painful for me, but that didn't kick in till day 2 or 3. Actually my hair falling out was a little painful too, surprisingly enough. My head felt really dry and itchy, and the hair falling out was a relief. And the side effects got worse as treatment went on. But it never was horrible. I know plenty of people who have worse pregnancies. I was able to interact with my kids and be their mom, which was the most important thing. I just looked a little freaky for 9 months or so ;)

  4. Just want to encourage you. My friend had a similar cancer last year. Fast growing, major chemo, then surgery, then more chemo. It, too had spread to lymph nodes. She is about a year out from her last treatment and is cancer free. Be of good courage!

  5. Colleen your positive attitude is an inspiration! You are absolutely awesome, and you are doing a great job -- thanks for reporting back, my thoughts were with you all day yesterday -- as I'm sure many others were too!

  6. Will be continuing to pray for you and your family. I am so glad to hear your spirit ringing through your words, good job!!

  7. My husband was diagnosed with cancer almost 5 years ago. The doctors kept dismissing it, but we kept pushing. My husband "knew" something was wrong. It wasn't until the day of surgery, despite having elevated tumor markers and such, that they finally agreed that it was cancer.

    Now, he's reaching the 5 year mark. Treatment was no fun. So I'm sorry for that.

    Found your blog through WTM Forums.

    I'll keep you in my thoughts.


  8. Are you relieved to be done with day one? I know you have many more days coming, but for me, getting that first day of unknowns out the way would be a relief. Can't wait to see your wig. I'll talk to you soon.

  9. Colleen,

    I'm glad you are in my gene pool. As my kids would say, "You totally rock." Thanks for the updates. I think of you every single day at least once.

    Prayers & love,

  10. Your friend Rosie said, "(Sorry, I don't know how to be helpful in any way other than food.)"

    And I can't help but think the same thing.

    I'm just not sure how well spaghetti sauce would keep in this heat coming from Canada...

    You do totally rock.

  11. HUGS! You're right, hair can be annoying! Let it all fall out! We are both inspired by your strength. Love, Phil and Janelle