I'm hoping to be more consistent with these posts...really...I promise....well here we go...
After the pathology report I immediately met with my oncologist, Dr. Sommers at (SCOA), South Carolina Oncologist Associates followed by my surgeon Dr. Arrington to discuss my diagnosis and the treatment options available to me. Everything was happening so quickly…..one day you’re worrying about shades of lipstick…. latest fashion trends…. then the next day you’re tossed into a whirlwind of tests and appointments with doctors that will help to determine the best treatment for your type of cancer. You worry and question everything, it’s inevitable. Questions race through your mind every second of the day. Have I chosen the right doctor? How will I pay my bills? Will I be able to work? And how will this affect my family?
|My son loves the nurses...LOL!|
The wait is terrifying and not knowing invites fear and doubt….a nightmare that you don’t get to wake up from. During these times prayer and faith will help you sleep at night…trust me you will need sleep. I had to let faith guide me during the darkest times otherwise; I would have never made it through the storm Besides, I still have so much ahead of me with treatments. Every test was literally like waiting to exhale. The first test was the…. MRI, which gave more in dept information about the cancer, in the right breast and detected fibroedenoma in the left breast. Then the PET scan, which had me in tears because I had to stay away from children (my son), elderly, sick, and pregnant for that entire day because I was radioactive…then I had to wait for results, and finally good news…. the cancer had not spread to other areas or organs in the body. The echocardiogram was done to see if my heart could with stand the chemo dosage. I remember the technician saying “you have a beautiful heart, “which really stood out because I had been so tense and unhappy.
|My port placed under the skin|
My ‘team’ which now consists of nurse navigators, an oncologist, surgeons, and other medical staff hope for the best. They are wonderful at reassuring me that everything will be ok and that there will be a light at the end of this dark tunnel. I had never imaged this life and I would never want it for anyone. The blood work, needle pricks, surgical procedure, and constant monitoring, sadly becomes your new normal and just like any change in life you learn to adjust and move from one day to the next.
I met a phenomenal woman named Angela, who is a ‘survivor’ one day after an appointment with my oncologist at SCOA. I later nicknamed her ‘Angela the angel’….she has such a beautiful soul. She must have seen that look on my face the day I had to schedule yet another appointment for more tests. I was drained and still having a tough time processing the news of my new life with cancer. We sat in the lounge at SCOA talking about how cancer had impacted our lives. She had gone through the tunnel and I was just beginning the journey. She was diagnosed as triple negative and I’m triple positive. It was refreshing to meet her and hear her story. I needed her presents more than she would ever know. We met for a play date the following weekend with her twin girls and my son…such a happy day! We let the kids run around the park while we chatted about life….exchanged stories about our different diagnostics and she shared what I needed to expect from chemo. There is no better feeling than sharing with someone that understands and can relate to how you feel and what you’re going through. She helped me get through the first two chemo cycles…laughter filled….and comfortable. We will talk more about her in later posts. In the meantime please stop by and check out her blog “Lucky Duck Hits Speed Bump,” where she documented her breast cancer experience.
I made a decision early on that I was going to fight! I prayed daily for God to provide me with all of the tools, support, and guidance to weather this storm. I wasn’t going to throw the white flag in this early in journey…. I have too much to live for. By the time I met with the nurse to discuss the chemo regimen, I was already a stronger person than I had been when I initially got the dreadful diagnosis. I wasn’t looking forward to chemo at all. I had heard mixed reviews about it doing more harm than good, creating new cancers, the debilitating side effects, and just how dangerous it was because it is a toxic drug being infused into the body that would ultimately drain the body of its resources in every way possible.
|Angela and her beautiful girls|
I prepared for my first cycle by having surgery to implant the port under my skin in my chest to deliver chemotherapy to the largest blood vessel. The surgery was outpatient and lasted about 8 hours. That port itched like crazy and was so painful for the first month. I had to add a sponge piece to my seatbelt to keep it from rubbing against it when I drive my car. It left the ugliest scar and the chemo changed the pigmentation of my skin so it’s a darker shade.
The one on one meeting with my chemo specialist ( Denise) to go over what to expect during each cycle was extremely helpful and very much needed because I had tons of questions. She reviewed the treatment regimen patiently…she was wonderful, personal able, and upbeat, which made me feel better. We went over my chosen drug options, side effects, and scheduling for each chemo cycle. My oncologist and surgeon decided that I would do chemo first to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery, radiation, and then 10 years of a daily pill called Tamoxifen…. Cancer really sucks! My chemo drugs (TCH) Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin along with a new drug recently approved about 2 years ago by the FDA for use before breast surgery called Perjeta My chemo cocktails are pretty serious. I have a combination of chemo and hormonal drugs because of my type of cancer. Each drug specifically targets the tumor in different ways. There have been so many advancements in medicine and even more benefits from continued efforts of researchers all over the world. My chemo cycles are every 3 weeks at the SCOA facility. They are very routine and closely monitored.
Chemo Cycle 1
· Check in at 7:45
· Lab work
· Weight & blood pressure
· 7 hours (combination of prepping with anti nausea drugs, IV, & 4 different chemo drugs)
· Next day Nuelasta shot
· Follow up 1 week later with oncologist
· Lab work
· Weight & blood pressure
· (repeat the same for Cycles 2-6)
How you feel following each Chemo cycle
Ø Day 1
Muscle & joint pain (Claritin helps if taken for 5 days after chemo)
Ø Day 2
More Fatigue (rest)
Sense of taste is off (only taste salt & sweet)
Mouth sensitivity (Magic mouthwash works wonders)
Dehydration (fluids, fluids, fluids)
Diarrhea & or constipation
Blur vision (at certain times of the day)
Ø Day 3 & 4
*The worst days
Loss of appetite
Ø Day 5
You begin to feel better J
You notice a new side effect with each chemo cycle. The first noticeable change was gradual hair loss 15 days after my first chemo infusion. I knew it was coming, I siked myself into thinking it was no big deal but I still cried. I shed like an unkempt dog for days…hair when I woke up…hair when I showered…hair everywhere. I eventually cut it very low but in just a few days it began to come out at the roots in patches. I was losing my hair and would eventually go bald, I was losing control, and feared what this disease and chemo treatments would do to my body. You can’t prepare for it; you just deal with it as it comes.
|Day 15 after 1st chemo cycle|
I began to realize that this was pretty much my new life…on top of working full time, and being a mother to an active 5 year old. I had to learn to roll with the punches…hopefully no one has to deal with this but if you do… be prepared to go in the ring and have a few jabs thrown at you. The world doesn’t stop spinning, people continue on with their day to day lives. You miss out on all kinds of fun stuff, while you’re spending the weekend napping from complete exhaustion but you move forward.
I have been blessed with the most amazing support system. My friends, family, and other supporters have made this journey more bearable. When everything seems out of control and overwhelming, they remind me to relax and take a deep breath. It is absolutely necessary to surround yourself with positive people. Living with cancer can be very lonely and depressing. You have to live beyond the disease and not let it hold you hostage.