Chemo Day 1

I arrived to my appointment about 8:30, after a pretty rough night and a 1.5 hour drive. Not the best start. My port is still sore from being put it, so the first needle poke wasn’t great, but not too bad. Once the initial needle went in, I was set for the day. That’s so much nicer than finding a decent IV site in my one arm. I’m grateful to have the port.

After the lab draw, I saw my oncologist. Jesus Vera is a great guy. He is conscientious, kind, and takes his time with us. He sounds like Ricky Ricardo. The nurses mention how good he smells. I guess we haven’t been close enough to notice. We appreciate him. I have quipped that Jesus is my oncologist. Who could ask for more?

Once I got to the infusion room, I was given 2 tylenol, then infusions of Benadryl, dexamethasone, and Pepcid, all to counteract infusion reactions and side effects. Next came a 50 min infusion of Taxol, which is the actual chemo drug. They watched me closely for the first 15 minutes, prepared for a reaction. I didn’t have one. So thankful! After that was done, I had a 90 minute infusion of Herceptin. That one is an antibody that counteracts the HER2 protein receptors. This medication has virtually no side effects, as it is an antibody, not an attacking drug. Saline was running throughout the entire process.

I had awful restless legs and was a bit drowsy for the first 45 min, due to the Benedryl. Dr. Vera has already lowered that dose for next time, so that shouldn’t happen again. Other than that, boredom was the worst part of the day. Larry was with me, but the extra chairs in the room are terribly uncomfortable, so he did go for walks. We didn’t end up playing cribbage. I think he avoided it because he was afraid I’d beat him. All in all, it went well.

After the chemo, we went to the plastic surgeon for a fill in my tissue expanders, as part of my breast reconstruction. That also went well, and I the expanders are much more comfortable now that they are fuller. I’m glad because I’ve been pretty frustrated with the level of pain and discomfort they cause. I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize, and know that I will be happy with the outcome.

So far, I’ve had some minor side effects. Last night, my intestines were overactive, partially due to the chemo and partially due to my poor choices in food for the day. I know now that the day before and the day of chemo I need to stick to very mild foods like bananas, oatmeal, rice. Lesson learned.

This morning, my face was terribly flushed and it hurt. That seems to be getting quite a bit better already.

So far, so good. Praise be to God.

Nervous

I’m supposed to be nervous about tomorrow. At least, that’s what I gather from the number of people who have asked me if I am.

My port is finally feeling pretty decent, so I guess I am ready for my first chemo treatment. It’s an early appointment–8:30 am in Duluth. I’m told it will be a full day, consisting of several appointments and several hours of sitting. I think we will bring the cribbage board. Nothing passes the time like beating my husband at cribbage.

I think the only thing I’m actually nervous about is the first 10-15 minutes of my first infusion. Nurses will be watching me “like a hawk” to make sure I don’t have any adverse reactions. I have a few medical allergies, so this is a concern for me. I am declaring here and now that God is bigger than this fear, and has me in His hand. I will take this as it comes.

It is quite probable that I will have some side effects later in the week. Considering my weak stomach, I anticipate dealing with nausea. Since I handled puking my guts out through 6 pregnancies, I figure I’ll survive this, too. And with this, I should get days off. No such luxury in pregnancy.

Today, I’m not nervous. My bravado may dissipate in the morning as I enter the clinic, but at least I’m not borrowing trouble at the moment. Little victories. And if fear grips me tomorrow, I will have my husband, who is my rock, and the Lord God, who is my Rock. It’ll be okay.

Crushed

Generally in life, I am an optimist. So much so that I know for a fact some people find me annoying. They’ve said so. I can generally find the good in people and situations and not get terribly ruffled.

Not today. Today I want to quit. I’m sick of getting cut and poked and medicated. I’m tired of being in pain. The toll it’s taking on my family is brutal at the moment and I want to be on my feet, doing my job and living my old, normal life. And chemo hasn’t even started yet.

Today, the enemy is winning. He’s attacking full-force and grabbing us all. The only way we can win is to stand firm in the knowledge that God is bigger. Surrender to Him is the answer, again. I’m too exhausted to fight, so I must trust in Him to fight for me. And for my family.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

How it all started

I had a bruise. It had no color; it just felt like a bruise on my left breast. I couldn’t feel a lump or anything, but I figured since I had blown off the routine mammograms for the last 8 years (I’m 48, and they recommend starting at 40) I’d go ahead and get it checked out. I had no idea how providential that little bruise would be. Really.

By the time my appointment rolled around, the bruise was gone, but I figured I’d go in anyway. My nurse practitioner felt a lump in my right breast! She recommended mammogram and sonogram, which I had the following week. I went home feeling confident that all was well and I’d go back in a year to do my routine duty.

Not so. I was called back for a second set of tests, and then again for imaging and possible biopsy in Duluth. That was a tough appointment. When you are called to the Breast Center for tests, stuff gets real and fear sets in. I cried silently through much of the 3 hours I was there.

Then I went home to wait. As I waited and prayed and committed it to the Lord, He gave me the peace that I would indeed be found to have cancer, but that all would be well. I had no guarantee of what that meant, but I could rest in it.

The call came late in the day Friday, and was as I expected. Friday dragged into Saturday and then Sunday. . . finally on Monday I got a call with appointments. Finally, I had something I could DO. There was something on my calendar. It was a start.

That brings me to today. I met the surgeon and found some encouraging news–I can avoid radiation by having a more radical surgery, my lymph nodes are clear, and I really like my surgeon. I also found some discouraging news–as much as I want to avoid chemo, it’s not likely, as the type of cancer I have involves HER2, a protein that enables faster growth and greater recurrence. I’ve always thought if I ever got cancer I’d go a more natural route and skip the attack of chemo on my body. Turns out I did get cancer, and it’s an aggressive sort that will perhaps make it unwise to take the time to try other methods. This makes me deeply sad, and so I pray that if I am to have chemo, both my husband and I will feel a great peace about it.

My schedule is beginning to be crazy. . . days I don’t work, I have appointments. Oh, the appointments.