#3 Down! – April 17, 2015

I had my 3rd infusion of the new protocol today, and as with the other two, it went just fine. I was done with the premeds and chemo in three hours, but then had another three hours for more magnesium.  My magnesium was better, but still low.

Before the infusion, though, I had an appointment with Dr. Priya.  It was so good to see her again.  She told me that everyone loves me, or at least my attitude.  She said that where the clinic is located…well, patients tend to complain about everything, even when they don’t have anything to complain about.  Me, on the other hand, had every right to complain about everything and never did.  She asked me how I did it!  That was nice to hear.

I asked Dr. Priya about the length of the second part of the protocol (Taxol, Herceptin and Perjeta).  The reason I’m concerned about when I finish chemo is that affects when I can have my surgery.  And the reason I want to have my surgery as close to the week of August 10 as possible is that I’ve scheduled some recovery time in Maui.  Someone was kind enough to give me time at a condo, and someone else upgraded me to first class.  (Yes, I’m extremely blessed)  Moving the time in Maui would be possible, but not without a lot of hassle and additional costs. Dr. Priya said I would be fine to go to Maui in my third work of post-surgery recovery, but then we also discussed the length of the Taxol protocol.  I wondered if the 2nd part of the new protocol could be shorted:  I’d received 2 doses of Herceptin, and 1 of Perjeta.  So was it the Taxol of which I needed 12 weeks?  And my questioning was confirmed when I spoke with Jennifer Glover, the nurse educator who works with Dr. Ching, my breast surgeon.  I asked her whether I really needed to wait 4 weeks after chemo to have surgery (Dr. Ching insists) because I had this vacation planned. Jennifer was surprised that I was going to have 12 weeks of Taxol, and that confirmed my suspicion.  Dr. Priya said that 1 dose of Taxotere is equivalent to 3 weeks of Taxol, so it’s possible that we could reduce the Taxol by 6 weeks!  She also said that I could have Taxol after surgery if needed, and that this is where it’s the art of treatment comes in. I can appreciate that.  She said that she’d discuss it with the tumor board and let me know. We also talked about Perjeta – we’re not sure if the Perjeta or the Taxotere was what gave me such bad diarrhea.  I said that since I was approved for it, I’m game to have it again.  After all, I’m also much better about what I eat to avoid, or at least minimize, any diarrhea. So we’ll do that.

Speaking of diarrhea, I haven’t had any problems with it for a couple of weeks.  I was able to enjoy thoroughly New Orleans cuisine, and that was the blessing behind the tooth infection and extraction.  I love New Orleans:  the only bummer was that it rained pretty much the entire time I was there.  I was able to carve out some time to go the Quarter Stitch, a fantastic yarn store in the Quarter, and go to Cafe du Monde along with Emeril’s, Cochon and Clancy’s.  Oh, and fantastic breakfast at the Ruby Slipper.  And yes, I did attend sessions at the conference, which was why I was in New Orleans in the first place.

So all in all, things are going pretty well!

One Less Tooth – April 7, 2015

This new protocol is definitely better for me.  On Wednesday, which is usually when I start feeling badly from treatment, I did feel crappy towards the end of the workday, so I took off a little early, got home, and then took a 3 hour nap!  The next day we got early release at work in preparation for the Good Friday holiday.  I managed to do a volunteer training and still watch my beloved Cardinal win its 2nd NIT title in 4 years. I took it easy on Friday and thought I escaped any bad side effects from this round of treatment.  Oh well.

I think I didn’t eat or drink enough on Saturday – my routine was off a little because I was home, and it all caught up for me on Sunday.  I felt weak and shakey, but we had a day of activities planned.  I had to make my famous bourbon yams for Easter dinner, drop that and a ham off at my sister’s, then go to the San Jose Earthquakes match.  On the way down to the game – at the worst possible point on the drive down – I told Ted that he needed to pull over because I was going to vomit.  And vomit I did.  Good thing I had a cup in the car, because Ted couldn’t pull over in time.   I was still able to enjoy the game, despite the Quakes’ loss and a crampy stomach; by the time I got to my sister’s for Easter dinner I was feeling a little better, except for the diarrhea…I was able to eat Easter dinner, which was awesome.  It was good to spend time with my family.

Yesterday I had a blood draw and the counts were heading the right direction.  My magnesium is still low, but Dr. K gave me the okay to have my tooth pulled.  I thought I was going to get Versed for the procedure, and arranged for my sister to drive me home.  Turns out it was just a local.  The whole procedure took less than 20 minutes, and half of that was waiting for the Novocaine to kick in.  The infection definitely took it toll on my tooth – it came out very easily.  The dentist didn’t put a spacer in, so it feels odd to have a missing place.  The throbbing was pretty bad last night and this morning, but right now it’s very manageable.

Dr. H (dentist) explained to me why he insisted that I delay my next treatment until a week from Friday.  He said that if he allowed me to have chemo this Friday that my counts would start to head south, and I’d be unable to fight off the 147 different types of bacteria which live in a mouth.  He said that he could guarantee that he’d see me at Stanford Hospital with an infection I couldn’t fight if I had chemo.  So no chemo for me on Friday. The downside is that this potentially delays my surgery, and I have a very good reason for wanting my surgery to be the week of August 10, which I’ll explain later.  The upside is that I leave for New Orleans on Saturday – one of my favorite cities – and so I should be feeling really great and can enjoy myself.  And maybe enjoy that famous NOLA cuisine.

Dr. Priya, my oncologist, returns from medical leave on Monday, so now my appointments are with her.  I’ve like Dr. K a lot, but I love Dr. Priya, and I’m happy to have her back.  In the meantime, there shouldn’t be much happening between now and April 17.  At least I hope not.

Can I catch a break? – March 31, 2015

I had the 2nd infusion of the new protocol on Friday.  My friend Michael came to sit with me and brought Jamba Juice.  The infusion should have been short, except my magnesium was still low, so I needed to get 2 grams over 2 hours.  So it was another 5 hours in the infusion center.

I had a busy weekend.  My friends Amanda, Angie, Catherine, Melissa and Nancy attended a free knitting workshop held at Bay Area Cancer Connections, which was a ton of fun. Angie drove 4 hours to attend the workshop, and then stayed for the weekend, which is great because it was her birthday weekend.  Lunch, movie, dinner, breakfast – the weekend flew by and it was awesome to spend time with Angie.  And as a plus, I was feeling pretty good.

Except for…on Wednesday, I woke up to some pain in my lower left molar.  This happened before, in August of last year.  Back then, the endodontist said that there was nothing wrong with the root, but it could be that the tooth would need to be extracted.  He gave me some antibiotics and the area calmed down, so I didn’t worry about it.  With 20/20 hindsight, I should have had the tooth pulled, because now my tooth is infected again, and because of the danger of infection, it will need to get pulled.  The tooth is cracked, and when I grind my teeth, the crack irritates the surrounding area, and in this case, it’s gotten infected.  It’s a balancing act between my blood counts and how infected the tooth may be, to decide when to pull it, how to treat it when pulled and when I can have chemo.

I had a blood draw today, and my counts are heading south, so I can’t get the tooth pulled this week, which the dentist wants to do.  I’m on antibiotics for the infection, so hopefully things will calm down.  I’ll have another blood draw on Monday, with hopes that I can get the tooth pulled on Wednesday.  The dentist would like to delay my next infusion until the following Friday, but I’d prefer to have it on the 10th as scheduled. Dr. K is fine with that, so I need to talk to Dr. H (dentist).  And hope that my counts are okay by Monday.  The pain from the tooth is pretty bad, I have to say, and my pain tolerance is pretty high.  There’s something about tooth pain that just makes one miserable.

I’m a pretty optimistic person, but boy, it sure feels like I can’t catch a break.  At least the effects of the infusion isn’t too bad:  the worse is the peripheral neuropathy in my fingertips.  Even though I’m off the steroids and anti-nausea drugs today, I’m feeling okay other than my mouth.  Just a little diarrhea (which I’ve gotten really good at managing), and no nausea yet.  In the meantime I’ll take lots of Advil and Tylenol, and hope the antibiotics will kick in soon.