When I recently shared my hesitation to branch off into a new direction of this blog, my WBF reminded me why by reiterating what he said when I started it a few years ago. It is a wonderful feeling to completely trust your partner. Back then I had confidence in the idea that I would be able to figure out answers because the base of my knowledge had already been established from my years of riding.
This new journey is different. Unlike what it is to figure out what to eat on a hammer fest and suffer with your friends knowing that how much it hurts in the moment no matter how you manage your nutrition, you’re going to be done, feel incredible just moments afterwards, and be able to eat a fantastic meal, I am just beginning to learn what these new miles are all about. I have a very active imagination when I have no personal experience with a process.
Cancer treatment? Chemotherapy? I am an athlete. Puissant.
Most of us know that one’s state-of-mind plays a huge part in healing so there’s no need to delve into that here. My dear, close friend and mother-out-law, (“MOL” and WBF’s mom) with whom I share just about everything, says appropriately, “The most important part of healing starts between your ears!” She caught the brunt of the anxiety I was suffering after my first dose and did her best to get me to see it, but my stubborn-self was convinced I knew best and it was only the cocktail that was causing my side effects which included a new and very volatile persona. The difference between that day three and a half weeks ago and now has opened my eyes once again to the power of our minds.
So yes, I’ve got to write so that I will not only have the opportunity to make sense of this adventure and track the detail for myself, but also to step out of my comfort zone and risk being public about a very vulnerable place. I know… I KNOW, that for me, facing that which I don’t want to share with others gives me strength if I am honest.
Since my annual mammogram on May 31st of this year, as of yesterday, August 24th, …and bear with this run-on sentence for affect, because an itemized list would not do justice to this whirl of events…I have had a followup mammogram and ultrasound locally; and with a total of six trips and 1,230 miles to Burbank and back so far, I have been biopsied by one doctor, told of my diagnosis during our consultation with my surgeon, had an initial consult with my oncologist who ordered the genetic test that determined my chance of recurrence and need for chemo, had a breast MRI, a Facetime appointment to eliminate the need for yet another trip south (ain’t technology cool) with the plastic surgeon who will work with my lead surgeon to reshape my breast to limit scar tissue buildup for clearer future mammograms (we Facetimed from the comfort of the conference room at work where to my surprise, he asked to see the merchandise, so I turned my back to the glass door and lifted my shirt and bra, showed him my breasts, and pointed to the location of my tumor at “six o’clock”), and last but definitely not least, I’ve completed two of four chemo treatments. When this (and hopefully the only) round of chemo is over on October 5th, I wait a month, have surgery for a lumpectomy, then get a dose of radiation. Somewhere between now and then I’ll begin a hormone blocker regime.
BRING IT ON BABY! I am an athlete and today I am feeling good.
Here’s what a day of chemo looks like for me:
- Because of the 205 miles to the treatment center, to avoid a trip down for naught I have a comprehensive blood draw five days prior to my treatment date at our local pathology lab. If my numbers aren’t good, they will postpone treatment until my numbers are back up. Two days before my treatment date I check to see the report is in my doctor’s hands.
- On the day of treatment, my WBF and I leave home before 4:00 a.m. for the four hour drive.
- Upon arrival; we go out to breakfast. Mine? Oatmeal from Starbucks, Lucky WBF?? A quick stop at the original Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop complete with the coolest production line I’ve seen in my twelve-and-a-half years of working in manufacturing.
- After checking in at the front desk, we’re led back to the treatment room, I take off my shoes and get weighed and measured (My WBF has now seen with his own eyes that, indeed I am five foot four AND THREE QUARTERS!) I scope out all the chairs and choose the one with the best view. At my side I have water, snacks, a good book, my phone, laptop, and tablet.
- My nurse for the day starts by taking my vitals which have been excellent so far (I AM AN ATHLETE), starts my IV, draws two vials of blood, and whisks them down the hall while I sit in my comfy leather lazy boy and settle in. Twenty minutes later we have the results.
- We talk about the other side effects I’ve experienced since the last treatment and my nurse goes down the hall again to share everything with my doctor, then returns after that with a pill cup of Benadryl and Dexamethason (a steroid to alleviate inflammation and allergic reactions). Then we wait another thirty minutes for it to take effect.
- After that my two IV bags are brought in and hung. The first bag is Taxotere. When that’s empty it’s switched out with a bag of Cytoxin. Each takes one hour to drip into my bloodstream.
- Finally, I am given a dose of a white blood cell booster that is administered by an adhesive patch about the size of a laundry soap pod. This is the most amazing part of the whole process. The nurse sticks it onto the side of my belly and within about thirty seconds it beeps and a needle snaps into my skin to set a cannula (a small IV tube). The pod has a blinking green light that blinks every five seconds until it’s ready to dispense. There’s a small window gauge showing the liquid dose. Exactly twenty-five hours after it’s attached it beeps again and it starts administering the liquid. The first time I was sitting with my MOL the day after treatment and we heard “BEEEEEEP!” It started a clicking sound and we could hear the pump at work. I don’t remember how long it took (20 – 30 minutes) but when it was complete it beeped again, it blinked red, and my WBF could see through the window that the dose was empty. As I sit here it blinks away green.
Yeah, ain’t technology cool.
During that first treatment I asked my oncologist when I’d lose my hair. “Two weeks!” he said from across the room, and on that fourteenth day my hair started to pull out in clumps. And at this very moment as I type, exactly 25 hours after my patch was attached, it has just beeped and I’m getting my booster dose.
At the end of that first treatment my doctor said that I’d start to feel like I was getting the flu in two and a half days, and sure enough it started slowly, but then came on with a vengeance. It was rough. I plan to live through this next round which will probably start tomorrow afternoon, and when it’s over I’ll be back here. Last time it took a good ten days before I felt like I was starting to climb out. This time I’m banking on it being quicker than that. I’ll let you know.