Week 3 of Radiation Done! – October 31, 2015

Week 3 is in the books!  And thus far still no burns. Just a little redness right after the treatment, which is gone by morning. Last night there was a bit of heat along with the redness, but this morning there’s nothing.

Dr. R told me this week that my treatment will indeed be only 30 treatments, which means I’m halfway done with radiation! Apparently I’m tolerating it so well they’ve tinkered with the dosages so that I’m getting a little more each time, which allows me to have only 30 treatments rather than 33-36. I will be done with radiation by November 20, the Friday before Thanksgiving. I’m happy about this, and hope that I continue to tolerate the treatment as well as I have been. I’ve been lathering my breast with 100% aloe,  at least twice a day, along with an aloe cream that a colleague gave me. Maybe that’s why things are going well – that and the fact that I tend to tan rather than burn.

Aside from the lack of burns, I am feeling a little more fatigued, as anticipated. I don’t have as much energy and need more sleep than typical. Not surprising, I suppose, but annoying as heck for someone who is used to having energy to spare and operates on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Having to sleep 8-9 hours just seems like so much wasted time.  🙂

As for my diarrhea problems, I haven’t had to take any Imodium since Saturday, but mornings continue to be tough. It seems to be getting better, but only ever so slightly. At least I haven’t any diarrhea for a week. I’ll count my blessings.

I had chemo yesterday: Herceptin along with 2 grams of magnesium. Seems to be my typical infusion these days, until we can figure out why my magnesium is so low. Otherwise the infusion was uneventful. I even got a little nap in – which I’m needing in addition to more sleep at night.

Each day brings me closer to the end of my overall cancer treatment. Onward!

Week 2 of Radiation Done – October 27, 2015

I’ve completed 2 weeks of radiation and so far, so good.  Any redness goes away completely by morning. My doc is on a short sabbatical (what is it with my medical team going on sabbatical?), so I saw Dr. R. He said that I was “ahead of schedule,” which I take to mean that I’m not showing any side effects even after almost 2 weeks. I am hoping that my tendency to tan rather than burn will help me get through this with a minimum of discomfort.

Dr. R also said that while I seem to be “well adjusted” that some women, after 6-7 weeks of getting treatment every day, get a little depressed once treatment is completed, so he and Dr. L would like for me to make plans for something after treatment, like a getaway. He said it was doctor’s orders!  We’re going to hope that Stanford football makes a bowl game, and we’ll follow our Cardinal and that will be my getaway.

While the radiation is going well, last week my diarrhea was as bad as it has been. I have to admit that I missed some doses of Flagyl…so I contacted Dr. S, who said I should finish the Flagyl and then we’ll wait to see how things go. I haven’t taken any Imodium since Saturday, so that’s good, although mornings are still tough.  It seems to be getting better, though, so I’m hopeful that the Flagyl did its job. If not, Dr. S said he has another test he’d like to have done. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My neuropathy is still hanging around. I can’t tell you how many earring backs I’ve lost because I can’t feel the wires or the earring back. And my balance still is a little off at times because I can’t feel my toes. Dr. Priya says it can be months before it goes away. It’s annoying. I’d really like it to go away.

Dr. Priya asked me to participate in a leadership meeting. Turns out I’ll be part of a patient panel in which I’ll discuss my patient experience, both good and bad. The audience is C level executives, department and division heads – about 90 total. I think Dr. Priya asked me to participate because she knew that I am comfortable speaking to a crowd. The panel is tomorrow. Wish me luck!

One Week of Radiation Done! – October 18, 2015

Week 1 of radiation is done, and so far so good.  There’s a little bit of redness on my breast at night but by morning it’s gone, and so far my energy has been good.  The treatment itself is nothing…it takes more time to get me all situated so I’m in the correct position than the actual treatment.  I’m sure it’ll get worse as time goes on, but for now it’s all good.

The Flagyl is doing its job, as are the probiotics and yogurt.  I haven’t had diarrhea in a day or two, and that’s always a good sign.  I even had cheese dip yesterday, and thus far we’re good.  I’ll be on the Flagyl for a few days yet.

Thus far I’m scheduled for treatments until the Friday before Thanksgiving, which is 30 treatments.  The typical treatment plan is 33-36; somehow I have the sneaky suspicion that I’ll be getting radiation the week of Thanksgiving. We are planning to spend a quiet Turkey Day at home with one of those complete Thanksgiving dinners so neither of us have to really cook.  If everything I hear is correct, by Thanksgiving I’ll be pretty fatigued and all I’m going to want to do is sit at home, eat, snuggle with my kitties and maybe knit.  I love to cook Thanksgiving dinner, so maybe I can make Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas. Maybe.

One Radiation Treatment Down, 32-35 more to go! – October 12, 2015

I had my first radiation treatment today. There was more prep this first time – more measurements and some x-rays – and a check by Dr. L. Then the actual treatment, which didn’t feel like anything. I get zapped every day at 3 pm, and on Tuesdays from now on I’ll see Dr. L. He’ll check progress, and make sure my skin is doing okay. I’m to use aloe vera gel twice a day, and if things get worse other creams can be prescribed. I was told not to shave my underarm, and the instructions I received also said to use a low alkaline soap. It’s interesting that I should not use heat or cold, but rather to use topical creams to help with any symptoms. The technician looked at my tan and said it was good that I already got my tan because there’s no sunbathing while I’m undergoing radiation treatment. I also need to watch for an “exit dose,” so one more thing that Ted will have to do for me.  He’ll have to check my back for burns.

Since this was my first treatment, I’m not feeling any effects from it. However, I am having a bit of a time with the latest antibiotic, Flagyl (metronidazole). I submitted my stool sample on Saturday morning, and that night the GI doc who was covering left me a message that I’d tested positive for Clostidium Difficile, aka C. Difficile. Ironic that the way to get rid of the ‘bad” bacteria that got into my intestines from too much antibiotics (and chemo, no doubt) is MORE antibiotics, but that’s the treatment. So I started on Flagyl yesterday, and WHAM! my diarrhea is worse and I have terrible gas. It kept me up last night, but I’ve now got Gas-X and probiotics, not to mention yogurt and cottage cheese to help counteract the effects. At least we know what’s causing my diarrhea, and I hope that after the 10 days of Flagyl that my intestines will be back to normal. I’m not sure I remember what normal is!

My hair is definitely growing back.  My eyelashes have grown back, and unfortunately they didn’t grow back more lushly than they were before. The hair on my head is also growing back enough that Ted should shave my head at least every other day. I want to shave my head until I’m done with Herceptin, but if it gets too painful to do that, I may start to let it grow. Hair is also growing in places it shouldn’t, or hadn’t in years…which is a little disconcerting!


Back from Vacation, Back to Work – October 9, 2015

The past month has flown by!  My last entry was about a week before we left for 10 glorious days on Maui.  I was seen 3 times in that week about my scars; they were no longer infected, but they were very slow to heal.  In the end, I was given some tegaderm film bandages- basically really stretchy, sticky saran wrap-like bandages – to put over the parts of the scars which hadn’t healed yet.  I could keep them on all the time, if I chose, but I only used the tegaderm when I was going into the ocean.  One of the surgeons whom I saw in that week warned me to be careful of swimsuit straps.  I have little to no feeling around the scars, and indeed, by the end of the vacation, I’d reopened a little part of my scar from wearing a bikini top too long.

Other than the minor inconvenience of making sure my scars were clean and using the tegaderm, vacation was lovely.  The weather was perfect and our condo was literally on the beach.  I didn’t have a ton of stamina, but how much stamina is needed to sit on a beach?  🙂

A few days after our return to the mainland I had an appointment with my radiation oncologist and for the “simulation.”  During the simulation, a mold is made to help me achieve the same position every time I receive radiation.  Measurements were taken and recorded; the whole process took about an hour.  I got 2 tattoos, or radiation markers.  I told the radiologist that I’d always wanted to get a tattoo, so now I could cross that off my bucket list.  I got a chuckle out of him.

I start radiation therapy on October 12.  It’ll be every weekday for at least 6 weeks, so if it’s 3 pm, you’ll find me at radiation therapy.  The nurse told me that the first hour or two right after receiving treatment is when most patients report feeling tired, so I decided to get radiation later in the day and then I’ll just go home afterwards.  She also told me that because I tan, I may not feel the burn that fair skinned people feel.  I hope that’s the case.  Currently I’m scheduled for treatment until the Friday before Thanksgiving, which is 30 treatments; my understanding was that typical treatments are 33-36 treatments, so I’ll have to ask on Monday whether I need more treatments scheduled.  I hope this means that I’ll be done by the beginning of December at the latest; I still hope I can host Christmas for my family this year, but we’ll have to see how fatigued I am.

This week has been a reality check – returning to work full time after 7 weeks off.  It’s not just being at work, but the commute on top of that which has put a strain on whatever energy I have.  I really need to go to bed much earlier than my usual bedtime because I simply need more sleep.

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday.  I asked her about some general soreness I have in my knees, and she said that it could take up to a year before I feel better.  In the meantime she suggested that I walk more.

My magnesium was still low, and I still get diarrhea.  She is also concerned because my calcium is increasing. The diarrhea is not all the time, as before, but at least a few times a week.  About an hour after I left, I got a call from Dr. P’s nurse, telling me that Dr. P put in an urgent referral to the Gastroenterology (GI) department.  When I asked why, Velia said that Dr. P is concerned about my diarrhea.  I managed to get an appointment for today, before chemo.

After much discussion, Dr. S said that there was one thing he could test.  I’ve had diarrhea since the start of chemo (late January), and since I started, I’ve been on 4 rounds of antibiotics.  (port infection, tooth infection, 2 rounds post-surgery).  He said it’s possible that while I was on all those antibiotics and because I’ve been hanging around medical facilities that while the good bacteria was wiped out some bad bacteria got in, albeit at a low level.  My diarrhea isn’t every day now, and it’s not bloody, and I don’t have some of the other symptoms one might expect with a more serious case.  But worth checking out regardless.  Now I get the joy of getting a stool sample.  Ugh.

He’s also puzzled by the low magnesium.  He said he was going to consult some other folks because he couldn’t fathom a reason and it just bothers him that we don’t have a cause.  But other than that he didn’t feel an endoscopy was necessary, and since I wasn’t really complaining, we’d forgo that procedure for now.

I got a jury summons for November 4.  I am more than happy to do my civic duty, but I simply can’t while undergoing radiation therapy and chemo.  I can ask for a continuance for no stated reason for 6 months, but that would only be good until May.  I’ll still be undergoing chemo through May, so I asked Dr. P to write me a note to excuse me from jury duty for medical reasons.  She wrote it to give me a year off. Hopefully the county will accept that.

I’m here in the infusion center, getting magnesium and Herceptin.  Just another Friday in my life this year.