Friday, October 22, 2010

Chemo 3

I HAVE been meaning to post after Monday's 3rd chemo treatment but honestly, it has been a bit of a shitty week. For now, I am ok. But I need to list the things that has been problematic this week – maybe seeing it black on white will help me process it quicker:
tiredness – I was more tired than the 2nd chemo and only managed to come to work today, Friday
appetite – I have hardly had an appetite and am craving only fruit and veg, mainly fresh; with the 1st 2 sessions I had a mighty fine appetite, especially for oven-baked potatoes slices
sore arms – On Monday they used my right arm (for the drip); I am grateful for this as my left arm is really sore, not all the time, but you can feel the pain all along the veins they have used; it's freaking me out a bit at the moment, the whole needle thing...

So although these are physical things I should change my attitude about, I just had a bit of a "down" week. I believe it will change. But for now, I am just feeling a bit sick of everything, the chemo, nauseau, painful veins, people and their pitiful looks in general.

THE GOOD NEWS is that Monday was my 3rd (and last) treatment for Cycle 1. I cannot believe how time has gone by so quickly. So now the options (as per  an email by Irene) are:

Weekly taxol. You come in every week, have your chemo and go home as usual.  You almost always feel just fine the next day, and the rest of the week. The possible side effects are acute allergy to the stuff (very rare and we all know just what to do), and long term some times tingling and numbness in the tips of toes and fingers (but, with only 9 cycles almost only ever seen in diabetics). Very occasionally you need a blood transfusion.

Three weekly taxotere – a cousin drug.  Here the advantage is you only come in every 3 weeks (as per Cycle 1), but you have to get  5 daily injections (self administered or given by someone else) after each cycle of chemo. Here you can also get allergic reactions as per the taxol, and can get quite sore muscles, and generally feel a bit flattened.

I need to decide (this weekend) which one I am going for. At this stage, Option 1 seems good to me. I think...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Thanks for your sms. Am doing better thanks. My cold has cleared although my eyes are still a bit teary.  I completely understand what you're saying about your hair.  I am dreading the heat of summer as my head is covered with my scarf and my head tends to sweat a lot without my hair for some odd reason.  It does seem a long time to be without hair but by the new year it will start growing back. And better too, so hang in there. Didn't realise how much my hair meant to me.

I'm assuming you're back at work.  Hope that you're doing ok.  I must say that I still wake up some mornings wishing this was all a bad dream and at the same am amazed that for the most part I am actually ok.  Guess life will never quite be same again.

I am glad you are better, I know that if we get flu it can become quite bad and even dangerous. Ja, the hair thing...damn. I also thought I will be ok, and I am. But I suddenly realised last night that there are months ahead still, of not having hair. I am not used to wearing a scarf but it looks ok, although I am very self-conscious. 

I was back at work on Thu, felt a bit better than the 1st time of chemo. Just tired. And only slightly nauseaus. I wanted to ask you if you are eating a special diet? And are you also not eating meat? I find its the last thing I am craving...

No, I'm not on a special diet. I know of someone else who's decided to stop eating any dairy.  What I have done is make sure that I eat well.  I don't have an appetite immediately after my treatment but in the days ahead my appetite picks up and I do eat very well.  I'm not worried about picking up weight (which is usually a preoccupation with me).  So I try and have good food and regular meals. I surprisingly haven't picked up any weight.  I've never been a lover of meat, especially red meat, so still not eating much of it. 

I heard someone a few weeks ago that went out and bought 400 scarves, can you believe it!  I have a headache today and thought it was because of how tight my scarf is on my head but now realise it's related to my getting my period again.  Irene said it would stay away but this is the second time I'm getting it.  It's not great in terms of losing blood and my immune system but will see how it goes.

I know what you mean re: food. I eat very well too and seem to crave fruit and veg (luckily). I have however cut out wheat, dairy, sugar and red meat. And I am feeling great! Have lost a bit of weight but I think its because I am also not drinking alcohol so much ;-)

I also got my period 2 weeks ago. I hope your headache goes away. I usually get a bit of a headache a day after my chemo. I normally dont suffer from headaches in general.  Irene wasnt therewith my 2nd treatment, so I havent  really spoken to her or anything. I dont even know how they know if the chemo is working. Are you having a mastectomy? And going on Tamoxifan? I am, but that is next years' worries, I guess.

Impressed that you've cut out so much.  Don't think I could manage without bread.  You know I look at my mom who was diagnosed at the age of 26 and she eats everything.  So I'm trying to keep positive and feel normal and just eat the way I usually do.  I do need to cut out sugar a bit more though. 

Irene did say that she would be away for the school holidays. Think she's back now though.  I'm not yet sure what I'm going to do about the surgery. There is a high chance of recurrence with my family history so surgery seems the best option but I'm not yet sure.  As you say, it's next years worries.  Jenny said if I don't have surgery I need to have radium treatment.  But can't think of all that right now.  

Shame, I know. But please remember you are not alone. And yes, it's shit. But I know I need to have that op. Unfortunately my one breast is not negotiable but I have decided to have a bilateral mast. I am not crawling into a corner and letting this disease take over. It can have my breasts, for free, but that is where I draw the line!!! Maybe we should have it done round about the same time. Just a thought...

Anway, I don't even know if I have to contact Jenny or if they contact me? I guess more towards the end of chemo? Rather a daunting thing...

Very daunting! You know Jenny told me of one of her patients who had the op and now lives in Australia has sent her an email saying that she came second in a surfing competition!  So I keep thinking that it will be an adjustment for me but in time it will feel like my own body again.  I just get exhausted thinking of having yet another op and then having to manage all the changes afterwards.  Jenny wants to do the op in January I think but I still need to meet with her and the reconstruction surgeon.  Just don't have the energy for it, emotionally especially.  Wish there was a fast forward button...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Looking back – the lump

Monday, 26 July 2010

I called my best friend, slightly anxious. This was not because of the lump in my right breast, mind you, it was mainly because I needed to urgently see a gynaecologist but did not have one! Yes, I am 37 (then 36) and I have not been to a gynae in years. This is a sensitive subject and I feel rather embarrassed to admit this.

In the good old days, I had a gynae, we all did! A couple of us used to all go together, making consecutive appointments, and then all meet for drinks afterwards, celebrating our womanhood and well-being (any excuse). As far as I remember, he was nice enough until one of us had a bad cyst experience – a cyst he apparently failed detect. 

In all honesty, I have had 5 years to recruit a new gynae. But no luck...

So the Monday morning my bf got me the name of a reputable female gynae, in town, hopefully available. I knew that waiting for weeks would probably be my only option to get an appointment. But I managed to get one for the Friday. And soon afterwards, I received a call saying there has been a cancellation and I can come in on the following day, Tuesday. What can I say, it was meant to be...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Off to my new gynae! She turned out to be a lovely woman, from Belgium, and although I was very nervous, she did make me feel comfortable and at ease. Firstly, I answered the routine questions. After the red tape was finalised, the usual physical examination, papsmeer and sonar tests were done. Turns out I have a cyst on my one ovary and a fibroid is looming around somewhere too. But more importantly, the lump is real. 

We now needed to find out if what was inside the lump, was benign or not. This procedure is called a biopsy. There are 2 types of biopsies: needle and surgical. In my case, we opted for the least invasive biopsy, a Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) – quick to do, as opposed to a surgical procedure. It only took a minute or two. And it wasn't painful, just sensitive.

The next  step was waiting for the results. She said that it would take around 4–5 days but that she would try and pressure them to have it ready by the Friday...

cyst: any closed cavity or sac that is lined with epithelium (tissue composed of cells); they often contain air, fluids or semi-solid material

fibroid/fibroma: a benign tumour consisting of fibrous or connective tissues; they can grow in all organs

biopsy: procedure that involves getting a tissue specimen for microscopic (pathology) analysis to establish a precise diagnosis

FNA: a fine needle syringe, similar to one used for drawing blood, is directly inserted into the lump; small amount of cells are sucked up into the syringe


I have been meaning to write a bit about hairloss (and some other stuff too). It has been a week now of covering my head and let me tell you, it hasn't been much fun. The highlight of my day is when I get home and I can actually take off my doekie. A great feeling! 

Because I am still trying to get used to this new look, I have not been out much – even popping to a shop does not appeal to me. I hate the stares of pity, really, it's crap! And to top it off, I cancelled going to a close friend's birthday drinks tonight – mainly because I know that I will just not fit in with the beautiful cocktail-sipping people. I need to work on my attitude, I know ;-)

As per my last post, I did go to the market and sell oysters on Saturday. I had my doubts as to whether or not I will be able to cope – not physically, mentally. I mean, I do not want that I-look-sick-because-I-have-cancer look. But it was fine, I had a fairly good day in general. My best friend popped in and stayed for quite a while. It helped having her there, in a weird way, it took the edge off the situation. Of course I had to tell a couple of people about the breast cancer (BC) because they commented on the cap I was wearing. And yes, some shocked faces and even more good wishes. Luckily we still sold out of oysters, indeed a very busy day!

– is the medical description of the loss of hair from the head or body
– tends to be involuntary and unwelcome (I'd say!)
– may also be caused by a psychological compulsion to pull out one's own hair or the unforeseen consequences of voluntary hairstyling routines
Chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, not just the cancer cells. The lining of the mouth and stomach, and the hair follicles are especially sensitive because these cells multiply rapidly, just like the cancer cells. The difference is that the normal cells will repair themselves, making these side effects temporary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's all off!

I FINALLY HAD TO shave off my hair. It started falling out more and more in the last 2 weeks and I was dreading the "patchy" look. I went to my friend who is a hair stylist and it didn't take her too long. Afterwards, we all had a glass of bubbly to "celebrate" – a great decision as it took off the edge during this rather sobering experience! 

Now I must admit, It looks odd, even for me, who has almost always had very short hair. I think it will take a while to get used to. I do like the feeling of "baldness", just not the look. My friend I met in hospital had to go through this a week or so before me. She said she was really teary and upset. For her, it was the first physical sign of this disease. So true...

I now find myself "shopping" for hats,  headgear and coverings. It's rather exciting. I still do not feel very comfortable being out in public or even at work. But I guess this will get better with time. Yesterday was not a great day, but today is better. Tomorrow is market day, and I  am slightly nervous to face the crowds, it will be a real test!