Post-chemotherapy physical

And finally I can relax. The past few days have been jammed packed, so it’s very good to lay here in bed and talk with you. Outside, in typical British style, the sky is grey. For Canada winter means snow and ice and deep freeze. In England winter means grey and rain and wet. I could take either climate, but my apartment grows mould with too much humidity and that is not fun, nor healthy. Sooner than later we’ll ditch this accommodation.

Anyhow! Good morning! Today I’m doing a body check. It’s been a little over one month since my last chemotherapy treatment. So head-to-toe inventory:

Toes: Still painted and enjoying the result of a post-Christmas pedicure with Mom. The ladies are lovely in their pale green varnish, though if I could go back I’d have gotten a hot pink instead. During the pedicure, despite the tingling that had occurred during chemo, there was no discomfort. And since then no tingling has returned. This is a very good thing for which I’m thankful. Paxlitaxel did not disable my toes.

Shins: Leg hair is sparsely returning, though not as Amazonian and fierce as it once was (it was like a black jungle). Due to winter and my new adoption of legging/tights beneath my dresses, I will not be shaving this season.  But it doesn’t even matter. I’ve now got my father’s legs (what every woman wants), totally bare of hair.

Nether Regions: aka The Lady. Five shots of Zolodex threw me into menopause and took away my menstruation. It’s a dry well. Unfortunate for several reasons (use your imagination) but the greatest worry is that my period hasn’t returned. Right – here is the thing. If chemo knocked out my baby-making abilities, then the periods will never return. If the Zolodex is simply taking time to wear off, it’ll return eventually. Some women get it back immediatly, others wait months – like even up to half a year. I’m not too worried, just sick of the hot flashes.

Belly: Happy. It hasn’t had a needle in over a month. Yay! I’d like to maintain the trend.

Boobs: Or boob. Whatever. Chest. Apart from my bi-weekly meltdown with fear of reoccurrence (something I really need to work on) things are great. At the moment my skin is a rich cream colour, and the scar is still red, and will likely become redder as radiotherapy progresses, but for now things are okay. My left nipple still intimidates me. I try to ignore it.

Hands: Improving daily. The extreme sensation has reduced significantly, and it’s only my thumbs that feel the discomfort. Mind you, my nails have all suffered. Oh they are UGLY. Like rotten teeth. Hopefully this disgusting mess grows out quickly. Although, as a reflection of what happened within my body during chemo, it’s quite revealing.

Face: Smiling. It’s good to be done chemotherapy. Oh, and my left bottom eyelid is essentially without lash, and I suspect my eyebrows have further thinned since I’ve returned to England. Cursed allergies! This apartment has got to go. (or rather, we need to go from the apartment)

Head: Give me a head with hair! Long beautiful hairrr! I get hair-envy, and wonder what Freud would  say about that? I look at people’s gorgeous heads of hair and crave. I crave hair. At the moment it’s thickening up on the side and back, but the top front is completely sans new growth. Hopefully I’m reverse balding, but there is a fear that I’ve simply gone bald at the front of my head. That would suck: Bye bye bangs.  AH! No way! It’s got to grow back.

Overall: I’m doing great & feeling good. Sure I get tired, but this little island between treatments has been an excellent holiday destination.

There you go – body check complete. This is the body of a post-chemo babe, and it’s coming back nicely. Yes, the hair could grow more quickly (and more evenly) but I’m thankful nevertheless.

Have a lovely day and thanks for reading this self-fixated post. Next time I’ll talk about the killer whales, which has a further reaching meaning than stuff like leg hair, pedicures and reverse balding.

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.