Monday, June 25, 2012

Big Chemo #1 is DONE!

Today was big chemo #1 (out of six). I will have weekly abbreviated infusions of Herceptin for the initial 18 weeks as well, so that will be Baby Chemo. The RN had some trouble accessing my port which was not a surprise to me. When they flushed it on 6/25 and then tried to get blood, it was challenging to say the least. Today was troublesome, but it wasn't a big deal to me. They just have to be sure tht the drugs will get to where they need to be prior to starting the infusion. The morning started out with the pre-meds and all went well. I was told I would sleep because of the Benedryl dose. I learned it was just 25mg which never works for me. Add to that the Sunday steroid doses and I was not going to settle down. Once we got started with the Taxotere there was just a slight problem with my blood pressure running a little high, so the RN sat with me for about 20 minutes to continue watching it. There was some improvement, so they felt I was tolerating it well. Next came Carboplatin and a nice feeling of heavy pressure on my chest and tingling in my toes. It did not cause trouble breathing, but the RN did stop the drip and ran some saline (I think) for about 5 minutes and then resumed with no other issues. The final drug of the day was Herceptin which would take about 90 minutes. It weren't well, though I did have that heavy chest feeling again around 20 minutes into the infusion, but again, no cause for alarm since they were all on HIGH ALERT (I like to call it Def Con 4) since it was my first chemo session. All in all, I was relived to know they were right there keeping a close watch on me. And it was a pretty good day, despite the circumstances. The other patients and their caregivers were friendly and would offer words of encouragement or tips they fund helpful since it was my first time. I enjoyed showing off the super-sweet pictures of Team Mini-Pink to all who were interested. And I loved sharing information about the Cancer Support Community of East TN. It is an amazing resource for cancer patients and their families in our area. I have got to get some rest after sleeping from 4-7:30am this morning prior to chemo #1. Those stupid steroids! I feel blessed that I had such a good experience today. The nurses at TN Cancer Specialists are amazing! My Facebook post just before heading out: Tap. Tap. Tap. "Hey breast cancer. Yeah,you. I am about to open up that can of whoop a**! The doctors are coming armed with weapons of mass destruction. My friends and family are armed with prayers. My kids are cheering me on. And God is going to be there too. YOU ARE GOING DOWN BREAST CANCER! Today is just the first day of a very miserable road for you evil cancer. The end of that road is not far away" I am seriously going to kick this breast cancer booty! Peace.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chemo Countdown!

Chemo begins in less than 36 hours.  I have moments where I am strong, confident and excited to for it to get to work killing any cancer cells that might remain somewhere in my body.  But then I have the other moments were I am really scared.  I know I can do this.  I have to do this.  I will defeat cancer.

There are so many children fighting much harder than I am at this very moment.  Their parents are begging God for a miracle.  Please pray for those families right now.  My fight is easy.  Their war is so much more difficult and they need our prayers.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shaking in my booty-kicking boots

I met with another oncologist (chemo dr) last Friday. I'll post more details, but for now I wanted to mention that I will be receiving my chemotherapy in Knoxville rather than Nashville. My first chemo-breast-cancer-booty-kicking event will occur on Monday, June 25th. I am anxiously awaiting this next step. There is so much more to say, but I have to find a way to shut it down for the night. I cannot begin to express how much I would appreciate prayers during the next week leading to the big #1. I have numerous appointments to prepare for this next phase, including a return trip to Nashville on Wednesday for a follow-up with my surgeon. My drain HAS to be gone for about 24-48 hours prior to the start of chemo, so it is important that things continue to move in that direction. And I am just very scared about the entire process of chemotherapy, the short-term effects and also the long-term side-effects. I dread losing my hair. I dread the moment when my kids realize there is more going on with mommy's boo-boo. I am petrified that this cancer will return one day completely pissed-off at me for my efforts to terminate it. Petrified. Peace?...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Relay for Life - Metro Knoxville

Somehow I am just hearing about the Relay for Life event that is happening in our area this weekend.  It begins at 7pm tomorrow, June 15th.

Check out the schedule and other details here:

2012 Relay for Life of Metro Knoxville

All of these events are so amazing.  I hope many of you will consider being a part of it and supporting the American Cancer Society.


Ironic, Don't YOU Think?!?

I can hear the song in my head.  You know the one.  Ironic, by Alanis Morissette.  It has some expletives, I believe.
I mean, this could really be worse, but I just found it ironic that I got THIS (see below) in the mail yesterday:

 I'm not sure how clear it will appear, but basically, AAA (I've been a member for 21 years) has just offered me a deal to get family insurance protection in the event that any of us are diagnosed with cancer.  It would be a great deal, except that you are excluded from coverage if you have been diagnosed or treated for cancer during the last 5 years.  But I'm still seriously thinking about it for the rest of the family.  How frustrating that we didn't get this offer sooner!  Surely I would have taken them up on it and purchased the policy for the family, right?  I mean, with odds like this who wouldn't, right?  But it came too late for us.
Just thought it was ironic and I had to mention it today.  It isn't the end of the world.  Things could get MUCH worse and they have not (just note that I'm crossing fingers, toes, knocking on wood and will be on my knees praying in a few short minutes to keep it that way).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Speak Up!

CONFIRMED! The pathology results I mentioned the other day have been confirmed by my surgeon's nurse. All of the nodes removed on 5/31 were cancer-free! This means that I stick to my stage 2b and will not be having radiation.
Chemo has now been scheduled to begin on June 27th. It will be an 8 hour process. I don't know all of the details (yet, because you KNOW I'll ask for the details in advance), but it involves blood work, infusion of one drug, then waiting and being monitored, then another infusion, more waiting and a final infusion related to the clinical trial and a little more waiting. For now, the plan is to return to Vanderbilt for all of the 6 primary chemo treatments. This means a number of trips back-and-forth and some long days spent in the chemo room. But I'm hopeful that I will actually get the real drug (and not the placebo) and that the combination of these drugs will do their job and kick breast cancer booty.

I have a couple of prayer requests. Lucy is too young to have cancer and based on her mother's most recent blog post here, I can only ask for my friends and family to PRAY for her and for a miracle that only God can provide at this point. Please speak up (to God) on behalf of their family. Lucy has an older sister and a younger brother and a mommy and a daddy who are going through something unimaginable.

I also want to ask for prayers for our friend and neighbor, Wendy. She is at Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa for more testing, but again, I have to ask God for a miracle. Wendy is a mom of two young boys and a wife to a wonderful man, Russell. They are an amazing family who love the Lord and have shared their faith with so many. I just have to ask for more prayers for them. Please speak up (to God) on her behalf.

But I also have a request....I watched this YouTube video not long ago. It is funny and serious at the same time. I beg of you to PLEASE do your self-exam monthly. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or suspicions. And get a mammogram annually. Don't put it off because you think it is uncomfortable. It's not that bad. Really. My kids have inflicted more pain than that stupid booby-squishing machine. And if there are any doubts, SPEAK UP. Do not let the doctors ignore something that you think it not right or not normal. Ask for another opinion. Get a copy of your reports. Demand further testing if you just have that sense that something still isn't right. I FOUND the lump last summer and they didn't seem to be concerned. Later, when I actually read the report, it appears that they never really saw anything on the ultrasound, but the radiologist never even came in to see me personally or feel it. When I went back 6 months later the radiologist (a different one and a woman) came in and wanted to feel it and agreed it should not be there. And here I am dealing with stage 2b breast cancer.

So check out the video and hopefully you might get a little chuckle out of it. But you might feel compelled to go get that mammogram that you have been putting off. It is important to those who love you. Yes. People love you and want you to be here with them for a very long time. I posted on Facebook that it does SUCK to find out that you have breast cancer. And I can't say that the surgeries or treatments are a picnic either. But it certainly makes sense to be able to catch it early and do something about it rather than stick your head in the sand and just wish it away. My kids need me here. I'm going to do the stupid chemo treatments and have the surgeries and take the medicines and even participate in the clinical trial because I HAVE to kick breast cancer booty. And I DO NOT want breast cancer to be around long enough to have any other impact on my kids than the fact that their mommy kicked it's a**! I do NOT want my kids to have to go through cancer testing and treatment. I want breast cancer and ALL CANCERS to be wiped-out. Exterminated. NO MORE CANCERS ANYWHERE!

So here's the video:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Preliminary Optimism

Lab results, we are told, will not be available for about five business days. In the meantime, we wait. Worry. Wonder. But I had a little glimmer of information today and am really praying that it is truly about MY pathology results and not someone else, by mistake.
I contacted my chemo doctor's office in order to see when we need to schedule the next appointment. Since they are in Nashville, we have tried to get appointments with more than one doctor at a time if needed. In this case, I wasn't even sure we would need to see her until the first chemo appointment.
I've agreed to participate in a clinical trial and there is some paperwork and other preliminary testing that they are going to schedule next week when we are scheduled to follow-up with the surgeon. The trial means that I may receive an additional drug in combination with the other chemo drugs that will be used to treat my particular situation. This additional drug has something to do specifically with the fact that my original tumor was HER2 positive. I will receive Herceptin (a drug that targets the HER2 receptors) for a year and I might receive an additional drug when I get the Herceptin. Of course, since it is a trial, we won't know that I actually get the real drug or a placebo.
Due to the conversations with the RN handling my clinical trial paperwork and then a message with the chemo doctor, it sounds like there was no other cancer detected in the other nodes. Woo hoo! I would really be jumping around if this news came from my surgeon, so I'm being cautiously optimistic.
And as a result of talking with the chemo dr and the RN, it looks like my chemo will begin on June 26 or 27. They were working to schedule the appointment and will confirm with me (hopefully tomorrow).
So there it is.....June 26th or June 27th......the first day of chemo. My brain says "He** yes! Let's start kicking some cancer booty!" But my body says "Ugh. Can we just rest for a little while longer?" And I think my heart is just terrified of chemo altogether. I know that once I start the chemo, I will begin to "look" sick. It will be much more obvious. And that is a hard pill to swallow. I love to shower every day and put on makeup (even if I suck at it), get dressed, dry my hair and just feel like I'm ready to get going for the day. I dread looking in the mirror as more things change. I absolutely fear the image I will see looking back at me once my hair is gone. It is doubtful that there is anything that will really prepare me emotionally for that particular event, except to keep telling myself that the drugs are doing their job on the cancer when I look worse. These drugs are ultimately going to make the difference for me and I have got to recognize that I need to feel good about looking like crap. Chemo is going to attack everything, good and bad, so it won't be pretty (although I have heard that you sometimes end up with beautiful skin during the process) but I'm determined that it is going to be effective.
And right now, I need to rejoice that it appears the cancer had not spread beyond that one little lymph node! Happy Monday!