Lucky number seven

And now the calendar pages start flying from the wall. Flip-flip-flip-flip. Just like a movie.

Is it Friday already? Wow. In a  matter of hours I’ll be back in that green easy chair doped out of my head and receiving treatment. Then, in a matter of a few more hours, I’ll be back home in my blue sheets with the pink roses, sleeping it all off.

I asked time to fly. It is flying. Maybe I should have asked time to just fast forward instead so that I don’t need to actually experience all this chemo, but can still reap the benefits.

Ok. No more moaning!  It’s chemo day again! Treatment seven.

Yesterday Zsolt and I went in for my blood and consultation. This week our consultation was with the lead nurse – she’s the curly haired woman who arranged for my picc line. Definitely likeable. There’s a willingness to help that I feel more inclined to tap compared to the doctor team. For instance, my chemotherapy was meant to be at 9.30 am today. Maybe for the seasoned morning person that’s a good time. For me, it’s just . . . just . . . unimaginable. I’ve never been my best during the morning, and for something so BIG it’d simply be a train wreck.

Well, she fixed that problem in a second. Now my chemo is at 1.00 pm today.

And we talked about going home. “Okay, so how are your plans around going home?” Did she remember? Is it detailed in my chart? HOW do all these people know my story? (this blog is not advertised within the hospital for fear of offense)

I told her we still hadn’t decided and that I honestly felt quite torn. From there followed a chat about ideal vs. optimal treatment. She said that paxlitaxol is a very good drug for treating breast cancer, but also relatively new so it may be difficult to find studies that follow success rate in terms of number of treatments. So ideally I’d have all twelve treatments on schedule. That would be ‘best case’ scenario.

But don’t many people stop early? I asked.

Yes. People can stop at nine, ten, eleven treatments depending on their reaction. Apparently the tingling felt in the fingers and toes isn’t temporary – it’s permanent . . .like, lifelong. So, they carefully monitor how much sensation you feel in your fingers, whether you can pick things up, whether you stumble on the stairs, etc. If it’s gets too extreme they stop.

And here she mentioned something called ‘optimal treatment’, which is about 80-85% of treatment on schedule. At this moment, I’m still having optimal treatment despite my fever last week and my bad platlett count a while back. If you have optimal treatment then things are looking good.

But again – with this drug, there aren’t many (or any??) long term studies with hard(er) numbers.

So here is what Zsolt heard from this conversation:

You gotta do all twelve.

Here is what I heard from this conversation:

You only have to do 85%.

What was the real message? Probably this:

Decide for yourself, because I can’t tell you.

Next week I think we’ll make our final decision. The nurse is going to arrange for us to meet with the lead oncologist – the guy to which everyone refers – so we can have a direct conversation. Honestly, I can see now what he is going to say. But I want to have that talk. And next week, after that talk, I will make a decision and stick to it (for goodness freaking sakes already, Catherine!).

Here is a bit of really nice news: My fingers, so far, are fine. I haven’t had any tingling or weird reactions. I hope I don’t ever have that sensation. Every week I paint my fingernails a dark blue/purple. One of the nurses once mentioned that sometimes this helps with the tingling, so I’m hopeful!

Ok, that’s it for now. Yesterday while going to the hospital there was that familiar dread in the pit of my stomach. It sits there and begins to swell as I walk into the clinic. If only they could surgically remove the fear, this would all be fine. And today is also Zolodex day. Anyone care for a giant needle in the belly? Ugh. But it’s for the babies. The future babies.

I think a little meditation is required – so that’s what I’m going to go and do. Breath in, and out, and in, and out. Followed by a little punching and bombing and kicking around my bedroom.

See you on the other side, as always.

Breast cancer awareness month

Wow – it is chucking down rain! Buckets are pouring! The wind is ripping! For mild old England, it’s a positive storm.

Zsolt informed me yesterday that a cyclone was stirring off the coast, and we’d be seeing the influence for a few days. But I love a good rain storm. In Canada we used to sit on the porch during a really good storm and watch the lightening. Once it cracked the tree opposite our house; mind you, we were all asleep at the time, not watching (thank goodness), but the incredibly loud bang woke everyone up.

It’s quite rare to see lightening in Southampton, but a good storm is a good storm regardless. I always think that the rain is cleansing – like it washes away all the bad you’ve been through. Though the very best is when the sun shines as the rain falls, now that is something special.

It’s breast cancer awareness month. A whole month devoted to breasts. Boob-o-rama.

Apart from this blog, I’m not sure how to contribute. Maybe by suggesting to all younger women readers (I can probably count all of you on my two hands) to check your breasts, for goodness sake. Okay I know – at our age problems are unlikely, but also at our age there is no annual scan to help detect a problem. So yes, you are probably fine. Very most likely. BUT checking your breasts, whether they are smooth, bumpy, swollen, or whatever, means you’ll know what is/isn’t normal. According to this website it’s good to check about the same time each month (1 weekish after your period).  I’ll link a video below with more instructions – but be warned, you will see boobs.

Worst comes to worse, you go into the clinic with a concern and see what’s it’s like to be squirted with ultrasound lube. Slippery good fun. Besides, most people don’t get breast cancer at our age, so there’s no reason to be nervous. (Okay, I got breast cancer – but it’s  a freak occurrence! Not the norm. Please don’t let my experience put you off checking. Besides, if I hadn’t found this lump it would have kept growing inside my body. Better out than in.)

Here is the video: enjoy the view, and give it a try.

If the link doesn’t work it may be because of your region. Just search “self exam breast” and there will be plenty of information to help.

Paclitaxel

Yesterday was a whole bag of drama.

It started around 10.00 with a call from the hospital. Apparently my blood wasn’t great, bordering on unacceptable. Would I please come in for 1.00pm and have my blood retested?

Those three hours between call and test were filled with my eating meat, taking protein powder, freaking out, calling my mom, freaking out, and writing a post. It was frustrating; like what happened? Had someone from the hospital read my last blog and decided: oh yeah, we’ll see if you go home for Christmas!

No, of course not. After all, it was my blood that had low counts. Actually, it’s still my blood that has low counts.

After giving the blood, Zsolt I retired to the hospital coffee shop to await the results.

Here is an aside: These people know my name! Walking into reception, the nurse says: ‘just go on back, Catherine’ before I even get to the counter. Walking into Costa coffee, the woman who’s in charge of the chemotherapy pharmacy smiles at me as she waits for her drink, and comes over to have a chat. ‘How are you doing, Catherine?’ She even helped carry my orange slices to the table.

What the heck? It was nice, but eerie. Chemotherapy is one place I don’t want to belong. But, that being said, it’s nice when people know your name. Too bad I couldn’t remember theirs!

And about the orange slices: they’re a great distraction. As I walk down the hospital halls, with their melange of chemical and stale air smells, I bite into an orange slice and focus on the taste, texture, smell etc. It really helps with my vomiting. Okay, yes – I admit it – I still vomited yesterday, but at least I could walk down the hallway without getting sick. That is an improvement, believe me.

Another aside: I’ve painted my nails navy blue. Apart from the chipping, they look somewhat cool.

Fast forward 40 minutes and we are back at C3, chemo ward. The nurse checks my results . . . ‘they’re going ahead with it this time, but you still may miss a week.’

Bittersweet news: no immediate postponement, but the possible threat of a missed week in the future. Ah!

Here is the positive side: I have one week, as opposed to three hours, to bring up my blood. That means more red meat, more protein drinks, more vitamins, more this, more that. And better blood. Let’s hope for better blood, otherwise it’s possible you’ll witness another online meltdown (and I’m tired of that drama).

So – chemotherapy commenced. And, if you read this blog often enough, you may realize I’m writing about chemotherapy very shortly after treatment. Normally I’m way too sick for writing.

They hooked me up to the anti-sickness drugs (and I threw up) for a thirty minute drip. Then the nurse came round to hook me up to the paclitaxel (and I threw up again). She offered me a muscle relaxant to stop vomiting, but I said no thanks. And it’s good that I did, because this chemo drug does all the relaxing that’s required. Whew – it knocked me out. I couldn’t read or talk or anything. It made for an incredibly boring session. Two hours of sitting still.

However, I haven’t been nauseated since treatment, and – so far – haven’t felt like shit. Instead I came home and crashed into bed (about 6.30pm arrival) and slept, slept, slept, slept, slept.

Today I am awake, able to move around the apartment, able to eat and drink.

It’s like a freaking miracle.

Whatever that red chemotherapy drug was (AC) it was madness compared to paclitaxel. Madness, I tell you.