It’s been a while, so let me bring you all up to date. I finished the 12 weeks of Paxlitaxol (aka taxol) chemo treatments the first week of January. I had a recurrance of the rash from the study drug, so they decided to skip the study drug the last week (which means I didn’t take it 2 weeks out of the 12 total), but I did continue with the chemo. I wanted to celebrate that milestone – finishing one drug- before I started the next, so I had a champagne cocktail brunch at my apartment for friends on New Years Day. It was great. All my friends and a few others came by. We consumed 5 bottles of champagne and dented several liquor bottles. I learned how to make the French 75 and the Champagne Cocktail. I used my bundt pan for the first time that John sent me as a christmas present. It was great. I drank 4 drinks, didn’t get a hangover, and had a nice little celebration.
Due to the rash, my doctor wanted me to take a week off before I started the next drug course, adriamyacin and cytoxin (2 different drugs that together are known as “AC”). I started the AC mid-January. I had been hearing from *everyone* how hard it was going to be. Man, they were right! It was a real challenge. The actual chemo itself isn’t that bad. Seriously, it’s like going to a spa and instead of a massage, you get chemicals. You sit there, they give you a warm blanket, you hang out for a few hours, and they give you food and drinks (bad food, but still) if you want them. The fun actually starts 3 days later. There are a lot of other “pre-drugs” that are given to help with side effects. These stay in the system for a few days and as they start wearing off, and the chemo drugs start making their presence known.
I’ve been through 2 treatments (out of 4) so far. Two days after, I start crashing, and crashing hard. If you haven’t gone through it, it’s really difficult to explain exactly what it feels like. For me, on this drug, I’ve had incredible fatigue, shakiness, low-level nausea constantly, and generally feel like shit for a solid 4 days. Then after that I start improving, but not much. I can do things, I can attempt to eat things, and I start feeling more normal about 9-10 days afterwards. It’s really difficult to feel really ill for days on end. It’s like when you get the flu really bad, and your body is shaky and dull and you have that general feeling of malaise, only it’s constant. Add in feeling nausea all the time. Ugh. What makes this all even worse is this chemical film in the mouth – food is slimy and gross. Eating feels gross. Having food in your stomach feels bad, and it’s worse when it’s empty. Basically, you can’t win no matter what. I have 1 more month of this (2 treatments) and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through it. It is really depressing to think about, which is why I have been having an emotional breakdown every time I go in and get blood drawn (either on the off weeks when they just want to see my blood chemistry or when I’m getting the IV put in for treatment along with the blood test on the day of treatment). Up until the AC, I could handle it ok, it was no big deal, and I was pretty emotionally stable. Now I have to have a little crying session in the bathroom before I go up and see the nurse.
Anyway, saddness aside, I’m doing well. Work is going well, everyone is super supportive there. I can be gone whenever I need to, and there’s no questions or issues. My new boss (recently hired) is very concerned that I come in and work as much as I do. Even with treatment and weekly dr appointments, I’ve been working full-time, and often manage to catch overtime to make up for time out. It can be hard sometimes, but if I feel sick at work, at least i have something to do and think about rather than just sitting at home feeling the same way. I’m still being social – when I start feeling better near the end of the 2 weeks, I make plans to go out with friends, and that last weekend, I make plans for daytrips and social get-togethers. Outside of treatment day, I’m generally in good spirits and happy. I’ve managed to not get sick to date. I’ve fought off the cold/flu 3 times. I’ve gotten that sore back of the throat/hard to swallow feeling a few times and taken so much Emergen-C and garlic that somehow it went away. Even on chemo with a suppressed immune system. I’m still having great blood counts (at least on the days of treatment), so the drs/nurses are all very happy with how well I’m physically dealing with all the chemicals. On the off weeks it gets pretty darn low, but I’m having shots the day after treatment (for the AC course, it’s called Neulasta) which boosts my white blood cell production, and it’s a 2 week cycle to get it working (so 7 days in I’m not looking great, but on day 14, it’s fabulous).
Food is super challenging right now. I’ve found that the things that I can eat are things that are lemony or spicy. My favorite thing to eat is Pho – a Vietnamese soup. Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are super common and popular in Seattle, so they are everywhere. The soup has thin rice noodles in a chicken broth that you add bean sprouts, jalepeno slices, thai basil, and lime to. You season it with hoisin sauce, chili sauce &/or sriracha. It tastes great, goes down well and makes me feel good. I eat it every day when I feel crappy, and I’ve been loving the spiciness. Luckily there’s a Pho restaurant a few minutes from where I work, which I’ve been taking great advantage of!
I had a 3rd MRI after the taxol and it showed that my tumor had shrunk quite a bit – it turned from a 4x5x6 cm tumor into one 1x2x6 with 4 “islands” of cells surrounded by dead tissue. Will see what happens with the AC. Regardless, even if it’s totally gone, when they operate, I’m expecting they will want to do a full mastectomy as a precaution. The whole point of all the chemo, and the radiation to follow after surgery, is to kill any loose/rogue cells that have spread elsewhere in my body that they can’t see. The tumor is like an indicator of how well the visible cancer cells are responding to the drugs. I’ll be told afterwards, when they do the pathology on the actual tumor/tissue, what my likelihood is for recurrance afterwards within the next 5 years. That’s the concern – that if they don’t “catch” it all, it will come back. That’s why cancer patients are followed so closely for the 5 years after treatment. If it is going to come back from missed cells, it happens within 5 years. After 5 years, that indicates that it worked, and it’s only “new” cancer that is a threat. Anyway, I’ll learn more about that when I meet with the surgeon and find out results after surgery.
Ok, a few photos to lighten things up:
First AC treatment.
My new wig
Afterparty following the Frye Art Museum opening. Pizza and beer at Stellar’s.
Antiquing in Tacoma with my dear friend Andree. Thanks to Karen for the awesome sock monkey hat!