A Year Ago Today – January 29, 2016

A year ago today I had my first chemo infusion.  Little did I know that day what my year would be like.  It’s a little surreal to think about all that’s happened.

After last week’s infusion, I stopped to talk to a young woman who was just starting her chemo treatments.  She and her family had a lot of questions, which I hope I was able to answer.  What I found interesting was that I’ve actually forgotten the names of my chemo drugs, except for Taxotere, Perjeta and Herceptin.  I had to look them up to remember what I got and when.  Honestly, I don’t think I’d wish chemo on my worst enemy.  And I don’t think I had it as bad as some folks.

It’s been a while since my last post!  The holidays were nice; my whole family was able to gather for Christmas Eve.  Our dryer broke (it’s okay, it was over 25 years old) so we ordered a new one, but that meant cleaning out a path in the garage so it could be delivered and installed.  That took up much of what free time we had over the holidays. And then we left for Anaheim and the Rose Bowl – a little vacation with friends.  We went to California Great Adventure, Disneyland, and, of course, the Rose Bowl, where my beloved Cardinal destroyed the Iowa Hawkeyes to win its 2nd Rose Bowl in 4 years.  We drove back on the 3rd, and when we got home, I was feeling off.  I thought it was just the busy vacation.  I took the morning off and then headed for chemo on the 4th.  I was running a little fever, 99.1 degrees.  Well, that was just a precursor to the worst flu I’ve had in years.  I got a flu shot, but apparently it wasn’t very effective this year.  With all the people at Disneyland/Great Adventure and the Rose Bowl, I’m sure I picked up the flu bug there.  I had a fever of 103.3 for a night, and over 101 for several days.  And then I got a cough which I still have, although it’s getting much better.  Not the way I wanted to start 2016!

When I was finally able to go to work, it was to unpack my office – my staff and I moved locations while I was home sick.  I’m finally starting to feel settled at work, and we love our new space.

At my appointment with Dr. P last week, I asked her if taking Vitamin D would help with my muscle aches.  I also asked if I should contact my PCP about switching out one of my high blood pressure meds, as was suggested by Dr. S’s consult with the nephrology doctors, to help with my low magnesium.  So now I’m taking Vitamin D and I’ve changed one of my meds.  This week I’ve had my usual bout of diarrhea.  I also had a terrible headache on Monday, and I’ve had terrible muscle aches.  I know the Vitamin D, if it’s going to help, will take a few weeks to kick in.  But I decided to look up the side effects of Herceptin again, because I’ve obviously forgotten.  First 3 side effects?  Diarrhea, headache, muscle aches!  So I guess this will continue until at least May.  I think I’ll take Imodium every night for a week after my next infusion to see if that helps with the diarrhea; I can take Advil for headaches and I’ll hope the Vitamin D helps with the muscle aches (Advil helps with that).

Here’s to 2016!

 

Week 4 of Radiation Done! – November 9, 2015

Things are moving right along!  I finished week 4 of radiation with no difficulties at all.  I finally saw Dr. L on Thursday (he was busy Tuesday and Wednesday) and he told me that I’ll actually only need 25 treatments.  This means that this week is my final week of radiation!  The time has actually flown by, all things considered.  I really do think that Dr. L was able to increase my doses because I’m tolerating the treatments so well.  I don’t have any burns whatsoever; other than feeling more tired than normal (and feeling like I could take a nap any time), things have been “normal.”  Exciting!  I feel that when radiation ends, I’m 90% done with my treatment.

I mentioned in my last post that I hadn’t had to take any Imodium for almost a week. Well, I spoke too soon.  Almost as soon as I hit “Publish” I had diarrhea, and it didn’t really stop until today. I decided to take Imodium when I go to bed which helps the diarrhea in the mornings. I did contact Dr. S (GI doc) but I haven’t heard back yet. I think that this round of diarrhea is the result of chemo; the only way to test the theory is to see what happens after my next round of chemo. In the meantime, I’m managing the diarrhea.

My joints are sore, which leads me to believe I have a mild case of myalgia, which is a possible side effect of Herceptin. It’s hard for me to move if I haven’t moved in a while, such as driving to work (typically a 50 minute drive) or sleeping. It’s hard for me to take off a shirt, too. I’ll ask Dr. Priya about it again when I see her next week. I’d asked her about it before, but I talked about my knees only.  I can deal with it, but I’ve learned to ask rather than keep silent.

Only 4 more radiation treatments to go!

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!

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.

Disappointing News – June 4, 2015

I had my usual blood draw today, and then an appointment with Dr. Priya.  While my blood counts are good, my potassium and magnesium levels are low.  I’m sure it’s due to all the diarrhea I had this week.  In addition, my blood pressure was extremely low – 88/61. In order to help with the blood pressure, I need to drink more fluids, but with the low potassium , more fluids can make the potassium even lower.  Dr. Priya wants to give my body a few more days to recover, so I won’t be receiving chemo tomorrow.  I will go to the infusion center, but to get fluids, potassium and magnesium.

I’ll have a blood draw on Monday, and if all is better, I can have chemo on Tuesday.  The delay is disappointing, but in the end, what’s important is my health.  The labs and low blood pressure explain why I’ve felt so weak and dizzy, with headaches.  So this weekend I need to try to get the diarrhea under control, drink plenty of fluids, and eat well.

Dr. Priya is going to order another breast MRI, to make sure that the chemo is reducing the cancer.  Why continue to go through this if the chemo isn’t having an effect?  I haven’t been able to feel the lump since the first treatment, though, so it will be interesting to see what the breast MRI will show this time around.

Here’s to hoping I have  a better weekend, and that the only delay in getting chemo is until Tuesday.

Cumulative Effects – June 2, 2015

Not much to update, except that the cumulative effects of the chemo are definitely being felt.  Sunday I couldn’t keep anything down – in either direction.  That meant the Monday I was feeling extremely weak. I went to work, but had to stay home today while I gathered my strength.  I was able to eat more today, and while I still have diarrhea, I no longer have nausea.  I feel better.  I will have to figure out a way to control the nausea for the few days after chemo.

I managed to get myself to my scheduled echo in the afternoon.  The echo checks that the chemo isn’t doing any damage to my heart.  It was painless and fairly quick.   I have an appointment with Dr. Priya on Thursday.  Sometime soon I hope to have a definitive answer on whether the Taxol rounds of chemo is going to be 10 or 12 weeks.

Onward!

Happy Birthday to Me! – February 28, 2015

Today is my birthday, and I’m happy to say that thus far it’s been vomit-free.  But let’s back up.

I spent the day after Chemo #2 with my friend Nancy at Stitches West, the knitting convention, where I spent way too much money on more yarn than I’ll ever need.  We had fun regardless as we always do.  That night Ted and I joined my family for a birthday dinner celebration for my sister.  On Saturday, we went to the Stanford Men’s Basketball game vs. Cal (a win!) and then to the NHL Outdoor Stadium Series game, which was the Sharks vs. the Kings.  Levis Stadium was magically converted into an outdoor hockey arena, and while the Sharks lost, it was a wonderful experience.

On Sunday we went to the Stanford Women’s Basketball game and then I was supposed to go to work and then dinner with work colleagues, but halfway through the game I started to feel sick, like I was running a fever.  I definitely had picked up something which felt like a sore throat.  It might have been post-nasal drip, because it lasted only a few days.

My diarrhea started again earlier in the week, but I can manage it for the most part with a combination of Lomotil and Imodium.  Unfortunately, on Thursday I started vomiting. I’ve been taking Zofran, but I guess it wasn’t enough.  It’s a terrible feeling to be on the verge of nausea all the time.  So I’m happy today not to have thrown up.  I haven’t been eating all that much for a few days, which makes me weak.  It’s a problem, I know.  I need to eat more, so I’m hopeful that with today’s lack of vomiting (although I still feel nauseous), that I’ll be able to eat more.  I’m certainly going to have a piece of cake that Ted made for my birthday – diarrhea and nausea be damned!