Well, it’s Friday…….4 days since I’ve met with the Medical Oncologist. It’s taken so long to post because it was also the first day I went back to work!
It was the day we’ve been anticipating ever since this whirlwind started, finding out what this chemo, and now radiation, plan will be. Dr. Anu Goel, a beautiful young Indian woman, is revered by both my breast surgeon & plastic surgeon so I knew I’d be in good hands. After she went through my history – how I found the lump, all of the tests and results – she asked, ‘So tell me what you think will happen next.’ My heart skipped a beat, a knot in my throat and I stopped. My first breakdown in front of a doctor. She assured me it was ok, that she needed to understand what I thought and knew about the process. I said that I knew I needed chemo because of the cancer found in my lymph nodes, and then the radiation because of its agressiveness, and that all in all I thought it would be about 6 months. She then said something that was spoken to me for the first time by a doctor. “We’re here to cure you.” A weight like no other was lifted.
We went through the different types of chemo ‘plans,’ like it was a cruise line option – 4 day/3 night cruise or a 7 day/6 night cruise. Seriously. There’s the AC-T option that’s every 2 weeks for 4 months, the TAC every 3 weeks for 4 months, or the research option in which the computer randomly puts you into either the first option or TAC for 2 months then weekly for the following 2-3 months. All side effects the same – same nausea, same numbness, same hair loss, same mouth sores. The latter option in the research is believed to have lesser side effects, but it’s a gamble as to whether you’d be chosen. Even though I’m a supporter of modern medicine & a believer in research, I’m being, I’ll say it, a bit selfish. It’s my life, my kids’ lives, my husband’s life, and all of my supporters’ lives. I don’t want anymore gambles. After talking it over with Graham, we chose the TAC option.
So, starting 10/26 (I made that the start date so that I could still make my plans to return home to Louisiana for the holidays without a chemo interruption), I’ll go in every 3 weeks for 4-5 hours. Then the next day for an injection to boost my white blood cell count. This will run me to the first week of February, and then I’ll start the radiation. She mentioned how there’s internet so I can bring a laptop and still work while I got the IV injections. (Was something mentioned in my medical reports that I don’t know about?)
Then there’s the reminder to always have your advocate present. And in my case, it’s Graham. He talks through concerns or questions that aways slip my mind. Nausea medicines, cold cap questions, how it will all affect me.
The cold cap, still being researched, is an actual cap that you put on your head the day before, of and after your chemo. It lowers your body temperature to about 70 degrees, and is thought to freeze your hair follicles enough so that you dont have any hair loss. Some people swear by it. But after all of my research & talking to specialists, if there’s any microscopic cancer cells floating around, even in my brain, why would I want to do anything to prevent their death. Plus, I can’t imagine wearing that during the coldest of New York’s seasons. AND I have a sassy new wig. So no cold cap. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it all the way. And plus, it’s my only chance to see what I’d look like bald!
As for the nausea, she asked if I had nausea during my pregnancy. Graham laughed and said, “She didn’t have a normal pregnancy, even with twins.” (For those of you who don’t know or remember…..no nausea, no cravings, gained a total of 26 pounds, went to 37 weeks and worked until the day before. So in the end, what’s a little chemo, right?) I said to her that as long as I didn’t have any nausea, I’d be able to eat. But the slightest nausea, I knew I wouldn’t put one bread crumb into my mouth. So, she prescribed 3 separate medications. One she said was going to be expensive, but if I have extreme nausea, it’ll work. (It damn well better be worth the one time usage of over $350 after insurance! The other two costs $55 after insurance. Ugh, our health care system!)
Anything else? She said that I would be at about 70% of my energy. Graham laughed again, and said that it’s still twice as much as normal people. And then she looked at him, and said that he’ll have to pick up the pieces. That I’ll be tired, may not be able to cook, will need to lie down a lot, will be moody and that he’ll have to look after the kids. We both laughed. Besides the cooking, Graham already does everything. That’s how amazing HE is! He’d normally shrug all of this off, but without my cooking he knows that that’s what we’ll be asking for from our local supporters. Who, from now on, I’ll call the Brown Brigade. (still not a pink person) And then she mentions the sterilization. The fact that this may throw me into pre-menopause, and may not be able to conceive again. We have two beautiful girls. We always wanted one more, but if it didn’t happen, there’s plenty of babies that need homes. We’ll deal with that when it comes.
And for work? How could I not? I’m fine physically, except for a little soreness on my right side that I just need to work out. I get a bit tired, but then I just stop and slow down. I have a desk job, it’s not like I move boxes for a living (although I have been known to move a 5 drawer filing cabinet on my own). So it’s been good to keep my mind busy. And plus, we need the income. It’s reality. I can’t just stop because of a little cancer. And as soon as the rain stops – I’m biking to work. My lower body works fine, the upper body needs the work. I’ll only do it on the 2 days a week I don’t pick up the girls from pre-school.
As for my new tatas, they’ve been healing nicely. The underlying scars itch a bit, and the intersection where the single stitches were still have some healing to do. I’ll get one more 1/2 injection in order to stretch them a bit more, but in the end, a small C? I think? What do I know about anything lower than a DD! I mean the last time I think I was a C was what, 8th Grade? My right breast still has a bit fluid in it, that we’ve been aspirating weekly. But the doctor says that if it’s not gone by Tuesday that I’ll need a small catheter to take care of it before the chemo start. So, I’ve been pressing, squeezing, inserting gauze inside my sports bras, in order to get the skin to seal to the tissue. It’s been morphing my breast a bit, but he says that it’ll go back to a normal shape. Just make it so that fluid has nowhere to fill.
So if you see me walking around New York with hand pressed against my right breast, you’ll know the reason.
Now for you? It’s been a month since I last asked. Have you done your self-exam? Be familiar with and know your body. Don’t be afraid to asks questions to your doctor, no matter how silly you think they are.
There’s more on my mind, but my subway ride is coming to an end.
All my love,