Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chemo 2 of 9

Monday 15 November 2010

The treatment on the actual day wasn't as bad as last week. By "bad" I mean I didn't feel so completely out of control, intoxicated... I was still drowsy and a bit sleepy but nothing hectic. But that is just a bit of what I actually do remember from Monday ;-) (at home we call my short-term memory issue, chemo brain). This time they got a vein on the 2nd try but I didn't mind so much because it was my favourite nurse and she really is very careful and kind. 

Earlier, while waiting for Irene, I met a new patient. She was chatting to Colette, a woman I have met a couple of weeks ago. So I joined in. The new patient is an ICU nurse and she has been working in Afghanistan for a while. But when she was diagnosed with BC she packed up and headed back to South Africa. Her case is similar to mine. As for Colette, she was just so happy on Monday. It was her last day of Taxol! She said that she never wants to go through chemo again, ever. She already had a mastectomy before she started chemo, and will now proceed with radiation treatment. It is quite a thing, this radiation. She will be going in every weekday for 6 weeks. That's rather hectic. But unfortunately, her BC is also genetic and her mum and sisters all had to battle with it. I do hope she does well with her new treatment, she is lovely. And she was saying that she cannot wait to ride her motorbike again. Her husband bought her a BMW 650, not too shabby. I suggested she start in the new year, making it a definite goal for 2011. She agreed but said she feels like starting now already – the only thing is she might forget to do something essential, like put down her feet when she stops!

No other news really. I have had a spot of flu since the weekend and I am becoming increasingly irritated with the symptoms. But I hope it clears by the end of the week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chemo 1 of 9 (2nd cycle)

Monday, 8 November 2010

The diagnosis:
Breast cancer, stage II

The chemo plan so far:
1 Monday, every 3 weeks, for 8 weeks
Drug: FEC (as discussed in a previous blog)
TOTAL = 3 sessions
LAST SESSION = 18 October 2010

The NEW chemo plan:
Every Monday for 9 weeks
Drug: Taxol* (generic name Paclitaxel)
TOTAL = 9 sessions
LAST SESSION = 10 January 2011

So my day started with a quick black coffee and some Pronutro. Cath dropped me off at 8:45 and I went to "check in" at the hospital, got my blood taken and waited for Irene, my oncologist.

We discussed again the recommended Taxol drug I will be receiving from now on and the possible side-effects*, obviously. This is apparently not as hectic as the FEC. The main reason why they change my chemo drugs halfway during my 18 week cycle is to avoid longterm effects such as the toxicity (which causes the very sore veins and arms and makes your veins actually feel solid!). And the Taxol is a much "easier" drug with regards to these effects.

* Taxol: possible side-effects
  • numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (Peripheral neuropathy)
  • restlessness
  • heart palpitations
  • heartburn

The only downside is that there can be an allergic reaction. This they can establish by taking your blood pressure during treatment. But they only took my BP afterward the chemo session and it was 115 over 66, fairly normal, thank goodness! 

I first received the normal saline solution, to "open up" the veins. Luckily the nurse found a lovely vein without struggling, it wasn’t sore or anything, nothing like the last attemp 3 weeks ago. Then there are 3 bags of drugs including antiacids and cortisone. I can't now remember the third one.

After this the Taxol followed. It is a huge bottle (probably 1,5 litres) of clear fluid (no more FEC red devil!), administered through a drip, as previously. There is no pill form of Taxol. Just a while after starting the Taxol I felt very dizzy and disorientated and when I went to the loo the nurse had to help me a bit. I then started feeling very sleepy and dozed off a couple of times. I am just glad Cath brought me in and fetched me again as I can’t remember much although I did drive myself to hospital the previous time. During all of this, my best friend popped in twice, first to bring me a magazine, and the second time to see how I am doing. I remember vaguely talking to her, or should I say mumbling slurringly.

But from next Monday they half the dose of Taxol. So I think it will be much better then. I only finished well after 2 o'clock. Hopefully next week a bit earlier.

*Taxol: some info
  • Taxol is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug. Taxol is classified as a "plant alkaloid," a "taxane" and an "antimicrotubule agent."
  • Taxol is used for the treatment of breast, ovarian, lung, bladder, prostate, melanoma, esophageal, as well as other types of solid tumor cancers.
I woke up this morning at 6 o'clock feeling well. I slept most of the afternoon yesterday after chemo. And i had a good might's rest. It's now 9 and I am still fine. I have a few admin things to attend to today and then work tomorrow.

I will try and post more often, there are very specific things I want to mention like my diet, medical aid and so on. After my last post I felt quite ashamed for moaning and bitching like I did. I realised soon after that that there are so many things I must be grateful for. I have the most amazing friends supporting me, praying for me and sending me good thoughts and love...I thank you all!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conversation 2

Sorry didn't get back to you. Thought I'd mail and give you the full story. The actual day of the treatment was horrible – felt restless and very sleepy. Slept all day until the next day 4am. Irene said I may need a sleeping tablet after the meds had worn off but I just kept sleeping. Then not been feeling myself this weekend too – tired, lethargic. But it is so much better than the first few treatments. No nausea or anything else. Struggling though to keep away from sick people. My daughter has flu at the moment and people at work are sick too. 

Irene said she gives the full dose the first time and then she halves it for the second one and then keeps reducing it. So it should get better after this. I asked about my back pain and she said it's a common complaint and they don't know why it is that one gets body pain. Still had problems with finding a vein. I become really tearful each time they prod me. One woman told Paulina that what comes around goes around! There was much drama after that with the nurses being upset but I can understand her frustration with all the bruises she had on her arm.

Was interested in your sms about eating meat and ice-cream. Are you on a diet of some sort? I am just eating everything! In fact, I have chocolate almost every evening and indulge in frozen yoghurt whenever I feel like it. I know of another woman who doesn't eat dairy or meat but I know I won't be able to sustain it. So I'm hoping that it's okay to eat the way I am. Irene didn't say anything about a special diet, did she?

All the best with this week. It's likely to be better than before. Then it's only 8 more to go. It is different going weekly though – I feel like I'm only now recovering and I'll be back again this Thursday for more! 

Did you go on the iThamba walk? I didn't – thought there would be too many people. Heard from my colleagues that it was really great. 

Sorry for replying now only, I took some leave the past 2 days. I didnt realise that Thursday's Taxol would be so bad, sorry to hear that. And the vein story, ugh, it's the only thing I don't look forward to!

I have been rather bad with eating the last week but I just cut out a lot of sugar and meat and dairy in general. It's not that I can have it, it just helps, I think. My friend is a nutritional therapist and suggested it. That is one thing the "system" lacks – a dietician or nutritional therapist, just to give us some guidelines, you know? Maybe I will suggest it to Discovery ;-)

The walk was good, I must say, I had a teary moment at the beginning, seeing some women with banners around them with the word "survivor" on it. Anyway, it was good and there were loads of people, kids and dogs!

I wanted to ask you, why did you choose Taxol and not the 3 weekly treatment? Did Irene recommend it? I am having 2nd thoughts on the weekly chemo, the thought of going every Monday is not a particular nice one!

Good to hear from you!  When is your next treatment?  I decided on Taxol because Irene recommended it. She also said I'm less likely to get sick on the weekly one and said that the positive effects are the same if not better with Taxol. I'm not feeling myself though – still a bit fluey with a sore throat and my energy levels are definitely down. I do hope though I'm ok to get the next one tomorrow. The week goes by very quickly and I am dreading this weekly treatment but at least if it goes quick it can be over soon. Maybe speak to Irene again and see what she says. I don't know of anyone that continued with the 3 weekly injections. I know Kate too was doing the once a week as well.

I'm picking up weight so needing to exercise a bit and watch my diet. At the moment I'm just indulging – the thought of watching what I eat too is just too depressing. Also, I don't have the energy to exercise. 

I start on Monday. I just hope I can work on the Wednesday at least. I am sorry to hear about the flu, it's not nice, I know that certain levels of my blood wasn't 100% with my last chemo and Irene said it shows my body is fighting an infection. I also felt flu-ish but luckily it didn't get too bad. We aren't supposed to be taking any vitamins and stuff, I think. But eat oranges or drink lots of juice, I do believe in that.

I have now lost 6 kgs. I got a bit of a fright, to say the least. But i think it's mostly because I eat fruit and veg, and cut out the sugar in my coffee and tea. Otherwise I am feeling well. 

When is your last session? It is 9 treatments, right? Mine will only be 10 Jan 2011. Was hoping to be done with all of this in 2010 already ;-)

Do you have any idea about surgery dates? I wonder when it will be? Not sure if I told you, I saw Jenny last Saturday, she came past our oyster stall at the market...

I was back at work the next day and was ok

My last session is 23 December. Keep thinking about the op but wish in some ways that I had it done before the chemo. That way everything would be over. 

I'm seeing the geneticist next Friday. Jenny suggested I see her as I have a 11 year old daughter. Also, my brother has two daughters and his mother in law died of breast cancer so his children have it from both sides of their family. Poor things! So will see how the meeting goes. 

I'm not sure how long we have to wait until the chemo wears off before we can have the op done. I'm needing to either do it in early January or otherwise in March. Will need to check with Jenny but stalling it for now.

Thanks, sorry for all the questions, but my mind is working overtime! I understand the genetic thing, I might also look into it as it's in my family but I havent thought about it yet. I took unpaid leave for Jan but now I wonder if the op will take place, have not heard a word from Jenny and I don't have her email.

I know she's away in the UK in December, not sure when she's back in Jan. Maybe we should contact her and set up an appointment.  Irene said to wait till we finished chemo but maybe would be good to see her before she leaves in December.

Thanks. It seems that they don't operate immedaitely, in which case I guess Jan is out anyway. I feel so clueless about all these things. Have you emailed her at all?

I mailed her but did not hear from her. Mailed to thank her but didn't ask about the op or making an appointment. Think I will rather phone her and set up a time when I'm feeling ready. Still not ready to think too much about the op. I must tell you though I saw this beautiful woman, very funky, all dressed up come and say hi to the nurses a few weeks ago and it was so funny because she wanted to show them her new boobs and the nurses were too shy to look. It was really quite funny. I heard her saying that she used a very good plastic surgeon, a Dr Engelbrecht or something. Just dreading that whole conversation and all the things that can go wrong which they always need to tell you.

That might be us soon, wanting to show off our boobs!

Are you having a bilateral mast? I am. But I try not to think about it, like you. Not yet anyway, one day at a time. I realised the importance of this when I freaked out a bit 2 weeks ago, it was a bad week and I think it's because I was already thinking and dreading going once a week, for 9 weeks.  Plus the thought of a mastectomy didn't appeal to me much ;-)

Anyway, I know you told me in the hospital but I forgot your history? You had a lump before? Are you going for radiation? I am only doing mastectomy and then Tamoxifan for 5 years! I have stage 2 BC.

And I talk too much ;-)

Never a problem to talk too much. Good to have contact with you.

Yes, will have both removed if I go ahead. Don't want to have to deal with the anxiety again. Jenny said if I don't have the op then I would need radium but no radium if I go ahead with the op. I did have a fibroid adenoma removed last year around the same time but it was benign. What is Tamoxifan? Not heard about it. 

I think we must take it a day at a time and not think too much. We've already gone through so much and managed it quite well, I think (thankfully), so it will all be okay in the end...