Monday, January 30, 2012

One Treatment Down...

I'm starting to think I have a thing for updating my blog the night before chemo treatments. It feels good to have that first treatment behind me! I feel like I know what I'm walking into tomorrow morning! So unlike the last treatment where I had not a clue what to expect! They tell you all the bad stuff that can happen to you, and somehow you believe that all those things will happen to least I did! I soon learned that not everything they said would apply to me, nor would they have communicated all things to me prior to treatment. 

When we made it back to the chemo room, we got ourselves some snacks & prepared to watch a movie while I got my drugs!

I get two chemo drugs the first four treatments. One of my drugs is nicknamed, "The Red Devil." It's real name (Adriamycin) doesn't sound as intimidating, but the nickname fits! It's red & it's the one that makes me lose my hair. For reasons beyond my comprehension, this drug can't be set up on an IV drip like the other one, so a nurse sits and pushes it in over about 20 minutes. It wasn't until my second hour of treatment when the nurse came to administer "The Red Devil" to me that I realized they spent the first hour juicing me up with nausea meds and some sort of hypnotic drug. I'm not really sure what the hypnotic drug does, but I'm quite entertaining a few hours after it hits my system! The nurse suggested to me that I cut my shoulder length hair because I would begin to lose my hair within the next 14-21 days. Her reasoning was that it would hurt more the longer it was when it began to fall out. I was thinking emotionally painful, but she meant emotional AND physical pain. 

The day after my treatment I have to go back and get a little shot in the arm to help boost my immune system. Basically the shot forces my bones to produce bone marrow, so my white blood cell count will come back up. The nurses said the shot would cause pain similar to severe menstrual cramps. I've had severe cramps before, and the pain from this shot made those cramps look weak! First, this pain is all over your body...every bone aching! The pain was so severe for me that I couldn't get out of the bed for a whole day & barely made it out the second day after the shot! Thankfully, I only have to get this shot after the first 4 treatments...1 down, 3 to go! 

I did get my hair cut really short...the shortest I've ever had it, but not the shortest it will be on this journey. It was probably a good thing I was still under the influence of the hypnotic drug & some nausea meds when my stylist cut my hair because I'm sure I would have been much more of an emotional wreck! And now we are at day 13 and my hair has begun to fall out. I feel like I've somehow prepared myself emotionally for it, but for the physical pain I was not!!!! It feels like someone is taking each individual hair all over my body and yanking each one out down to the root! I want to avoid the mess of losing the hair on my head, so I'm planning to have someone shave it for me. I ordered my wig & was told it would be here by today, but it wasn't. I'm a little anxious about having a bald head & no wig, but I'm gonna embrace it! 

The big question that I haven't answered yet is, "How did I do after treatment?" Aside from the severe bone pain, I was only tired and nauseated. I've heard conflicting comments on how I will respond to future treatments. I've heard that how my body responded to the first treatment is what's can expect for all treatments. BUT, I've also heard that my body could respond differently as the drugs build up in my system over time. I am praying AND believing that nausea is the worst that comes my way. I know others are praying, too. I've already seen God answer so many prayers throughout this journey, that I know NO request is too small for my VERY BIG God! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Update...FINALLY!!!!

I know it's been a while since I've updated the blog. It's been hard to find words to express how I'm feeling & what I'm going through at times. With that being said, I'll update on my progress thus far. 

Surgery day came and I was ready to just get the show on the road. I was so blessed to have an amazing operating room nurse! She looked a little like Lucille Ball and was so sweet! She told me how beautiful I was from the time she started wheeling me down the hall to the operating room until we made it into the room! Keep in mind, I'm in a hospital gown, hair net & have ABSOLUTELY NO make-up on my face...she's either sweet or incredibly delusional! Since she was my "bodyguard" while I was unconscious, I choose incredibly sweet! :) I don't remember much about that day except somewhere in the fog of the anesthesia wearing off I remember hearing an announcement over the PA system at the hospital stating visitor hours were over. It wasn't until the next day that I realized I was under far longer than anticipated. There were no complications, my surgeon just wanted to take his time & make sure everything was perfect.

Day 2 - I woke up that morning & thought, "What was I thinking having them take my back muscles?!" I won't lie, it was painful! You don't realize how much you use those muscles until they aren't there! My mom was really quick to remind me that when I see the end result I'll be so much happier that I did go with this option. Now keep in mind that I've been in the anesthesia fog & haven't a clue what anything under the gown looks like...until my surgeon comes for rounds. If you remember from my last blog, I was expecting to be flat-chested...I was not & I'm still not flat-chested. SHOCKING revelation there, but I was in lala land between the anesthesia & the pump of whatever pain killer they had me on so this revelation wasn't as shocking to me that day ad it was later. Not much info my surgeon shared with me that day shocked me, except 2 pieces of instruction... 1) I could not shave under my arms until the 4 drain tubes were removed, which could be 4-6 weeks later AND 2) I would not be able to wear my high heels for a while because of balancing issues. The shaving thing really bugged me because I'm a little OCD about it & I'm not one who is longing for the European look or smell! The shoes I felt I could handle a little easier since I wasn't feeling the whole walking around business much at that point & knew I'd be out of commission for a while. However, these 2 pieces of info got a shocked response out of me! 

On the 3rd day, my surgeon let me go home. I convinced him that I would rest much better at home. Honestly, there isn't much resting happening when you have a hard time getting comfortable because you've been cut front & back, you've got tubes  coming out of you, and you're bruised from the whole business of them flipping you during surgery. The rest came in spurts & I took it as it came. 

A week after surgery I went for all my follow-up appointments. First up, the breast surgeon...they gave me the final lab results & the cancer had NOT spread to any lymph nodes! This was a huge answer to prayer! I had been stressed about the cancer spreading after my initial visit with the oncologist. I can't remember if I've shared this or not, but I have what is referred to as triple negative breast cancer. This type is not hormone fed & it is most likely to spread. Without chemo treatment, 1 in 3 women die from this type of breast cancer. Hearing that type of statistic will scare you! After hearing they got everything, I left that appointment & just breathed a sigh of relief! My second stop that week was the plastic surgeon. Everything was healing beautifully & I had better range of motion than most of his patients after 2 weeks (I may be a little bit of an overachiever)! BUT, with all the healing there was a slight problem...I had an allergic reaction to all the bandages & glue used to put humpty dumpty back together again. So a week out & all bandages have to come off! I'm put on Benadryl & another round of antibiotics. Once the bandages were off, things started improving on the healing & comfort sides. 

After that first week, it's just been a lot of me resting & being carted to and from Dr. appointments by friends since I was unable to drive until about week 5...and only now in week 7 is it starting to feel extremely comfortable. My plastic surgeon has been the primary doctor on this journey up until chemo treatments, and he allowed me to go out of town for Christmas. It was good to get away because when I came back I hit the ground running with all sorts of appointments. There were so many things that had to be done prior to starting chemo. I had to visit the cardiologist to have my heart checked out, go to chemo class to hear everything that may happen to me on the treatments, and have my port placement done. On January 5th I went in to have my port placed, so I could begin chemo on the 10th. They were careful to not use latex, but used my old friend dermabond to seal up the wounds. I was more stressed about the fact that I was starting chemo in 5 days than to think about the allergic reaction I was having to the dermabond. I was so stressed about chemo that I was physically sick for 3 days leading up to the treatment day! I hadn't noticed the severe rash I had developed from the dermabond because when I looked at the port site all I saw was bruising! When we (me & my chemo buddy & friend, Ashlee) get back to the room the nurse basically tells us she doesn't know if I can get treatment that day, but the final word would come from my nurse practitioner. Well, she came & the answer was, "No chemo for!" I was deflated. I had psyched myself up for treatment & then I couldn't get it...all because of a stupid allergic reaction! They wanted to give it a week to heal & sent me on my way. 

So, here I am the night before my 1st chemo treatment. The rash is gone, which I'm confident is all because of the power of prayer.  A lot of people have asked why I have to have chemo since the cancer hadn't spread & they were able to get it all. The answer: 1) I have triple negative breast cancer & this is my best chance at survival! The odds without chemo are scary, but there's a flip side to it...triple negative breast cancer is MOST receptive to chemo!  So, if I have to lose my hair & my eyebrows (praying not) for several months in order to live a long & healthy life, I'll take it! 2) I'm 35 & have breast cancer...they treat aggressively when you're this young! I don't feel nearly as stressed about the treatment as I did last week. I'm still not quite sure what to expect, but I'm ready to get this thing started! I'm sure Ashlee and I will find something to laugh about (as usual) and get laughs & stares out of other patients, family members, & office staff. I'll be the first to admit that the cancer journey can send you on an emotional roller coaster. While I think every emotion is a valid & necessary part of the process, I don't dwell in the dark places long. I find scripture or songs that encourage me to keep fighting & not lose hope & when necessary I reach out to those around me that I can trust with my feelings & are walking with me on this journey. So, while I haven't a clue about what this 1st treatment will be like for me, I hope that Ashlee & I find something to laugh about & bring smiles & offer encouragement to those around us...if nothing else we are entertaining! :)