Monday was a milestone for me as it marked the half way point for my Chemo treatment!! 10 Weeks down and 10 to go!!
The celebration was indeed welcomed but unfortunately, quite short lived. I was out of chemo at 3.30pm after another long day 6 hours in the chair, to then be greeted at 9pm with horrific nausea. It certainly wasn’t a pleasant night to be frank. I was sick as dog, hating life, cancer, and the vomiting of course. It was awful. Perhaps I’d been too cocky thinking that I’d escaped scott free after a few weeks of feeling pretty good since changing drugs? Silly girl. I guess the chemo felt it had to reassert some authority over my body in the form of night sweats and vom voms. Heck, it certainly made a statement that’s for sure. The $2 pink bucket from Bunnings that I had purchased for nights like these, performed pretty well that night saving the bed linen and carpet from the spontaneous chunders.
Yeah sure these nights suck and this side effect is properly fucked, but at least I know that the chemo is working as my tumour has shrunk. This reality makes these dreadful nights bearable. And if it means I have to continue like this for 10 more weeks in order to rid my body of this ‘disease’ (still feels weird thinking I’m someone who falls under this category as a carrier of such), then so be it.
In light of last week’s scan results which revealed that my tumour has in fact shrunk, people’s response to this has been quite interesting in that many people have presumed that my chemo treatment is now complete. Many think that that’s it, I’m cured, tumour(s) have gone and that’s the end of my ‘ordeal’. If only.
There are still many steps to go: 10 weeks of chemo still (hoping we can stay on track for weekly sessions), a minimum 4 week break between finishing chemo and having surgery (we’ll need to ensure that my body is healthy and strong enough to withstand the massive operation that is a double mastectomy), then another 4 week break before possible daily radiation therapy which will be for about 6 weeks. So the earliest date right now for the end of treatment is around the start of August, if I’m lucky. And that’s of course hoping everything goes to plan. This is also subject to the type of surgery I decide to have which I’m very very confused about since my last post as I’m hearing mixed reviews about whether to have a one stage reconstruction or a two stage double mastectomy/ reconstruction which can be over the course of a 3-6 month period. There are many different pros and cons for both options so I’ll revert back to this in another blog post as it’s too complex, confusing and overwhelming for me to think about.
I guess perhaps prior to my own diagnosis I was just as naive about the multiple steps involved with cancer treatment and just how complex it can be from case to case as there is no one standard linear way – its complex and subjective from patient to patient. I certainly don’t hold it against anyone who has made an obvious presumption about my chemo treatment ending because of my shrunken tumour. It’s easy to forgot that the main purpose of chemo is to prevent recurrence. Considering I’m a BRAC1 & basically a triple negative cancer means that this risk is much greater, hence why chemo is so essential in my case. So frying the bastard cancer cells continues to prevent future recurrence and metastasis. This word haunts me beyond belief. If I can eradicate it from my life now, then I welcome this double dense dose of chemo any old day. We also don’t know whether the cancer is in the lymph nodes so that’s another reason chemo must continue in order to slaughter the cancer cells that may be present there.
So right now I’m on Paclitaxel (Taxol) and Carboplatin (Carbo). The first kind of chemo drug Taxol is common for breast caner patients and the latter, Carbo is more specific for breast cancer patients who carry the BRAC1 mutation as it seems to be effective to reduce recurrence. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs do not know the difference between cancerous cells and the normal cells which is obviously why the pink Bunnings bucket has been getting a beating.
The major type of normal cells that suffer from the harsh effects of chemo are the blood cells, so it was no surprise today when my oncologist advised me that my hemoglobin (red blood) and neutrophils (white blood) cells are low. Red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body so the fact these are low doesn’t surprise me as I’ve been feeling light headed and experiencing dizzy spells. I’m bordering on anemic too which means I need to increase my iron intake. Medium – rare rump steak, please.
Neutrophils (white blood cells) fight infection, so the fact mine are considerably low means that my immune system is weak and that I’m at a high risk of getting an infection.
Poor Seany has been booted out of bed and quarantined in our spare room tonight as he’s coughing and splattering about the place. I’m not allowed on trains, planes or even at cinemas as these kind of environments are incubators for germs so I’ve had to pass up one of my fave past times which is going Hans-Solo to the movies with me, myself, and a massive tub of popcorn. Netflix will have to do for now.
My oncologist wasn’t surprised or concerned about my lowered blood count just yet, as she had advised me that Taxol and Carbo reduce the immune system on their own accord, so combine both and it’s a recipe for a reduced blood bone marrow count overall. And especially that I am on a dense weekly dose. She is determined to keep me on my Monday weekly chemo sessions, which I’m happy about. I like her, she can appear as a hard bitch. With this in mind, she said that if my Sunday morning blood test results come in on Monday and show that my blood count is still really low , there is a great possibility that the nurses will refuse to hook me up to chemo out of fear that my body is too weak. She is adamant for them to call her so she can authorize them to proceed with the chemo despite it appearing very risky to pump more chemicals into an already depleted body. It will just mean I will need to have daily booster injections for 3-4 days after chemo to stimulate white blood cells in the bone marrow to help me fight off infection and to basically, just battle on.
I’ve gone through the IVF process of needing to inject myself to increase egg stimulation, so I’m not phased in the slightest about having to self inject – it’ll beat having to drive to Royal North Shore Hospital on a daily basis which is a 1.5 – 2 hrs round trip!
So my mission right now is to stay as healthy as possible so I can stay on track. Despite the fact that I’m not allowed to take too much Vitamin C as it can be counteractive to the chemo, or that I’ve got not one nasal hair left in my nose to act as a protective barrier to stop pathogens and bacteria from weakening my already lowered immune system, I’m feeling relatively good right now considering. So right now my two main goals right now are :
- Continue to smash fresh beetroot, ginger and wheat grass juices, consume copious amounts of fresh leafy green veggies and of course will eat lots of protein to iron out this anemic predicament
2. Figure out what the hell I am going to decide to do for surgery – one stage or two stage double mastectomy?