A recipe for living with cancer.

Archive for June, 2012

The Evil First Drug

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Here is the evil first drug which is pushed through the IV by hand.  Very very red, like Koolaid, I am drinking the Koolaid, OMG. Red used to be my favorite color, I may have to amend that. They do this by hand so they can carefully monitor it as it goes in and make sure there is no leakage at the site of IV insertion.  That’s because this stuff is so corrosive it will eat away at the tissue and make a terrible mess!  They repeat multiple times…if you feel a burning sensation at the IV site tell us immediately…how good could this be for my poor little cells that don’t have cancer!!  I was lucky it went in without incident and I was on to drug number 2.  An innocuous small pouch of clear liquid that flowed in smoothly over the course of 30 minutes. BTW said the nurse, this one can cause terrible sinus congestion after a couple of doses but we have ice packs to put on your face.  So much for innocuous.

Before I even started they gave me anti nausea medication and some steroids to help with any side effects.  Without batting an eye I popped them all in my mouth and took a slug of water to wash them down.  I now have four different drugs running around my cells doing good things and bad things and hopefully the right things.  Tomorrow I get a shot of another drug to help my bone marrow produce more white blood cells as they are being destroyed by the chemo drugs.  Science is amazing, a little scary and complicated. Do they really know what they are doing, hence the phrase, Doctors PRACTICE medicine!

The only discomfort I had today was the IV insertion oucha magoucha and the cold.  The liquids going through your arm are so cold it is actually painful, hence the lovely heated blankets which they will replace as often as you like. Tom said in the dialysis units they warm the fluids before using them, hey, cancer center, got that…WARM the FLUIDS!

At the moment I feel OK, tired, a little weird which I cannot explain, and a bit nervous for what the next week will hold. The women sitting in the other chairs in the pod, since you sit directly across from one another, are chatty and sharing and at different stages.  It was good to hear what to expect from someone going through it and be able to laugh and commiserate. 

With any luck the first meds will keep the stomach issues at bay for three days just in time for the fatigue to set in on day four. 

Ah, the anticipation of things to come.

 

 

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Waiting for the first drug

Waiting for the first drug

The room or pod as they call it has 6 chairs, three on each side separated by partitions. The chairs are recliners (my Dad would be so happy, he had an intimate relationship with his Barcolounger!) with setting for massage and heat. There are heated blankets too.

If you are sqeamish don’t look…

Tomorrow I am going to post some pictures getting chemo, the room, the “chair 2” I have been assigned and the bags of stuff going into my hand.  If this bothers you, I apologize in advance. 

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This is what breast cancer looks like.

This is what breast cancer looks like.

My breast surgeon drew this for me at our first appointment. I always wondered what exactly was going on with breast cancer. The fuzzy round ball on my mammogram was clear enough, but this gave me a whole new perspective.

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This is me….

This is me....

So what does breast cancer look like…

Anticipation, anticipaaaation, is making me wait-

Anticipation is a multifaceted word.  It can be filled with the joy or excitement of an upcoming party, concert, vacation, something wonderful you’ve been waiting for or working toward.  Or it can be filled with uncertainty, fear, foreboding, resentment while waiting to take a test in school, or hearing whether or not you got the job, what the cost of your car repair will be or the results of medical tests.

The anticipation of chemotherapy is in a class of its own. How does one prepare for chemotherapy?  I prepared by reading everything I could get my hands on and rereading it a couple times.  Well that sucked!  All that did was give me an anxiety attack.  Knowing ahead of time I will be nauseous, fatigued, vomiting, lose my hair, have my nail beds darken, can’t go out in the sun unless I look like a character from Dune, and a number of other unpleasant things I won’t go into, just sucks.  It’s not like I can avoid it, or accidentally forget it, or change it or wuss out and just not go.  What to do…ah, go to Pilates, then shop!

Pilates gives me one solid hour where I turn off my brain and focus on individual muscle groups and breathing as dictated by my instructor.  Sounds a bit like a cult but oh what a great cult.  Approaching 60 I have more core strength, arm and leg strength then any other time in my life.  When I was a runner I did have great stamina and leg strength, now I have an overall strength that hopefully I will maintain throughout my therapy.  The tech in the MRI room was shocked and amazed as I lifted myself up off the table, push up style, to transfer onto the gurney.  She said, “well you don’t need any help!”

Shopping another cult.  This was actually grocery shopping for things I thought I might want to eat after chemo.  I am going to do my best to remain a vegan throughout this ordeal, but if I need to eat some eggs once in a while or some yoghurt so be it.  But I did stock up on Rice cheese, field roast hotdogs, fake meat slices, tempeh in a few forms, organic chickpeas to make hummus without garlic, organic pastas, organic rice and chocolate.  I am a big believer in the positive benefits of chocolate.  Actually I am just a raging chocoholic fulfilling a need!  So that was at the East End Food Coop.  Then I went to the regular bad grocery store.

Hi, my name is Barbara and I am a diet soda addict. I first started drinking DP (diet pepsi) when I was 16 and I am now 2 years dechemicalized.  Two years ago, maybe three now, I gave up diet soda.  Aside from the amount of money it cost, the number of cans I needed to recycle, and the amount of room it took up in my cabinets, the stuff is toxic– just chemicals and water,  who needs it.  So like my vegan diet, one day I just up and quit cold turkey.  I went out and purchased (shopping addict too?) a soda stream and didn’t look back.  I consume on average 1 litre of seltzer a day  some days much more.  No chemicals, artificial color, flavor, just fizzy water. 

For chemo I did go out to the regular grocery store and buy Diet Pepsi, Fresca and some Ginger Ale, just in case and some Nabisco saltines.  I hope the metallic taste from the chemo doesn’t screw with my taste to much, I hope I don’t hate all the foods I love, I hope I don’t want to drink the DP and Fresca, I hope seltzer tastes tomorrow just as good as it does today.

Anticipation….

Yeah Team!! Wait -Get Me Off This Train!

I had a team to help me.  Yeah Team!  A group of doctors, nurses, technicians who knew what to do to get me well.  And I could go to Japan. It was like this revolving train ride starting at discovery of cancer and ending at cure.  There were a bunch of scheduled stops along the way and all I had to do was get on and off the train as directed and I would reach my final destination.  Its funny, but I’ve had dreams over the past few years about train trips.  In these dreams I get on the train and then get off for some reason and then can’t get back on again.  In the dream sometimes I take a bus to get to a different train station and it’s always a stressful dream.  I always wake up thinking, why did I get off the train. I may have an answer now.

I became much more settled after the appointment with the Plastic Surgeon and started planning and packing for our trip to Japan.  When I go places for more than 4 days I start laying out clothes on the bed in our extra bedroom.  As clean laundry is done I add and subtract things, as I think about sight seeing and fancy dinners, I add and subtract things. I realize I need a black top and run out and buy one add it in and even after the bag is packed I will switch things out, put in an extra pair of socks, etc.   I think a lot about things mull them over, and Tom kept saying re the BC, don’t make any decisions yet, think about it.

I had a week to think a lot about Japan and BC. I started to think back about Mom and BC and how she had all her lymph nodes removed and how she suffered for 20 years with lymphadema.  Her arm swelled up and her fingers looked like sausages, she couldn’t use her hand and the skin peeled and cracked, it was painful, unsightly and just horrific.  She was not very good at keeping up with the massage and the sleeve and glove. Then that little voice in my head spoke up again, the breast surgeon said a mastectomy and removal of the sentinel and axillary lymph nodes.  Then I realized why I’d gotten off the train in the dream and why now I wanted OFF this train.

The BC therapy train had these stops: mastectomy with lymph node dissection, reconstruction, heal for 4-6 weeks,  then two courses of chemotherapy for 6 months, lose my hair and a year course of another chemo drug, then a pill once a day everyday for 5 years.  And then possibly deal with lymphadema for the rest of my life, every minute of every day…forever. No, they would not take out all my lymph nodes.  Tom bolstered my decision showing me a recent paper on the statistical survival outcomes between woman who have the nodes removed and those who did not– it is a  .1% difference.  I can live with that.

 

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