Well, 8 radiation treatments and two chemo infusions and here I am. It has been an interesting week.
Starting on Friday I had mild nausea which became progressively more bothersome. Never to the point of vomiting but smells and tastes and even some pictures of food upset my stomach. I researched – found out that the chemo drugs I am taking this time are much more likely to cause these problems. I also found out that I may have been inadvertently medicating myself for nausea . . . last winter I began having severe panic attacks. I was prescribed Lorazepam with instructions to use 1/2 milligram as needed for attack. (An aside – 30 years ago I had my first panic attacks and was diagnosed with proctitis at the same time – this time I was diagnosed with panic attacks and ulcerative colitis. Autoimmune. “Should have been on meds all these years”- despite not having ANY symptoms. Long story short – no colitis symptoms since Sept. and anxiety much improved – I believe this had more to do with the fact that I was dosed with an antibiotic in December which according to 23andme I metabolize differently from most of the population and I believe it completely destroyed any “balance” in my digestive bacteria.) Anyway – I realized I had not used Lorazepam on Thursday and Friday. Hmmm. Checked drugs used for nausea during chemotherapy and Lorazepam was right up there. Once I again started to use a small dose in the morning before confronting those huge, clanking machines – my nausea also started to subside. Gross- but fact of life is that constipation is also a problem. You will notice all the little ads on all the bottles warning about how much and which ones and how often. Turns out that the darn chemo drugs also slow the motility of your intestines CAUSING this problem even if you’re eating all the bran and roughage in the world. So – once more a little help is necessary – Milk of Magnesia , teas, and/or Sennekot will now be part of my arsenal as well. Happy day – I enjoyed a substantial, healthful breakfast before chemo today and a wonderful, flavorful dinner tonight. Sigh! Right now I feel terrific ….
I will have a pulmonary function test on Friday to ascertain if I am able to handle surgery. Then, the plan goes from there.
Todays chemo was three hours long – I am receiving anti emetics and steroids as well as Benadryl to counteract any allergic responses and to hopefully help with nausea. Using a port is causing this to be so much simpler and less uncomfortable than before – numb, poke, draw blood for tests, attach IV bags, begin therapy. Done and done. My new I Pad got me through waiting for the radiologist’s appointment as well as the three hours of chemo – THANKS YOU THREE KIDS!!!!!!!
So . . . so much to be thankful for. Feeling good. A wonderful therapy dog who visits us on Wednesdays. Wonderful meals cooked by wonderful people. A kind and thoughtful husband who is always trying to help. An Oregon yeti footprint to stamp out SFC. The moose who’s turned into a lap cat. Kids who surprised me to tears and continue to pop in and out. Wonderful books on healing. The continued prayers and wishes of so many people who mean so much to me from every part of my life. At this moment I really do feel great. Everything you have done has helped me feel positive. Thank you for helping me heal.
I have had this discussion since I was in high school and decided strong words should be used when strong feelings are expressed – they loose their currency when flung about with abandon. And so, although I have been known to use them on occasion, they still grate. However- we always used to dance around the word cancer. Some people would not even utter the work and whispered when someone contracted it. We can’t do that anymore – we have to shout and share and acknowledge so that we can help any and everyone get through this and know they are not alone. Words get attention. This awful group of illnesses needs all the attention it can get.
Two years ago I decided to take spring break to get all my appointments in order. Turned 65 so signed up for Medicare. Saw the eye doctor and learned I have the start of cataracts. Saw the gynecologist who declared tests and a D&C were necessary – scheduled that Friday so I wouldn’t miss work. Got my two month late mammogram, Wham. World tilt. They wanted to do a biopsy immediately, my doctor said he wanted to see me first, he saw the results – I got the biopsy. So the next week the doctor calls and tells me I should consider scheduling a prophylactic hysterectomy because of a thickening of the uterine lining and a slight irregularity in cells. I will call. He calls back and tells me I have breast cancer. Small tumor, Triple Negative – a type of cancer most frequent in young African/American women – not hormone receptive – not expected- which is aggressive and I need to get a surgeon. He also said ‘”fuck cancer.” ” I had non hodgkins lymphoma and here I am. ” (And the word struck the right note in those circumstances.) And he proceeded to tell me his story and that I need to fight. I lined up all the doctors, consulted two oncologists for opinions and lined up the radiologist after I had contacted the surgeon. Needed only a lumpectomy with two sentinel lymph nodes removed Not affected), localized radiation through a Savi port and cycles of chemo . . . would lose my hair, etc. OK – they said girls continued to work while doing child care. I decided to work and share my story with my associates and some of the story with my kid with their parents permission. Best thing I ever did. Preadolescent and teenage boys in a treatment center and not one unkind remark. Some prayed for me at home with their families. I was teaching summer school – four shortened days a week – and felt this would work. Work was hard when it became full time again. Got through it all. Had some chemo brain. Had a few uncomfortable days – but it wasn’t so bad. Check-ups with a scare here and there but in August it had been two years since my last chemo- my hair was shoulder length – and I could put it up again. Feeling good!
Labor Day I felt like I was breathing in a green house. Didn’t think that was right and saw Dr. Got a Z pack for the lungs and a prescription for a chest x-ray since I had had breast cancer – just checking. Then a contrast CT scan- then a lung biopsy for several nodules in my left lung.
Adenocarcinoma. Often found in women and NON SMOKERS. Go figure. Pet scan and MRI followed. Okay except for flare in lymph gland on right side and several nodules in left lung . All small. Here we go again. I started radiation on Monday and chemo on Tuesday. Will have six weeks of daily radiation and weekly chemo – with the possibility of surgery and perhaps three more cycles of chemo thrown in after. By the way, the original symptom cleared up with the Z pack. Just lucky again. Something caught early. And last week my radiologist and oncologist both cautiously, optimistically used the word “cure.” Interesting, but my genetics are getting me into trouble.
And so, I have begun again. A port was placed last week for chemo infusions since they are not able to use my right side due to two lymph nodes being gone – and the veins in my left hand are very unhappy because of the chemo there- was not a comfortable procedure but feeling better this week. I was able to go to my 50th hight school reunion on Saturday and spent Sunday at a farm and grilling with the family – all of whom overwhelmed me with support.
My sister kindly took me to my first radiation appointment on Monday. I had radiation and chemo on Tuesday and after radiation today I am feeling pretty good. I haven’t told a lot of people.I am grateful for the support I have received from them. I am just putting this out their for those of you who have an interest – and to keep the word out there that there are things that can be done, Fight early and fight hard. I f you feel you want to pass this one on, please do so