Update From Cancer Land

Even though I’m spending less time at the hospital, with the chemo count down it feels like I’m more entrenched in cancer land than ever. However, after the count down to chemo ends there will be a new count down which will be the count down until the end of my cancer treatment which will be a victory.

In my last post I was pretty down and updating about that. I’m still having a lot more down time than I had recently due to the chemo stress, but I’ve come up for air a bit now that the shock has worn off. I forgot to mention two good things in that post.

1. My doctors are not recommending radiation. This is pretty awesome. It means I will be done with cancer treatment after chemo and I won’t have to go through another rough period after I get through this. I was going to push very hard against this if they had recommended radiation based on my test results, and am relieved to not have to.

2. I’m triple negative which means that my cancer isn’t fed by hormones (not new news). This makes it harder to treat, but a positive is that they typically treat hormone receptive cancers with drugs for 10-15 years. These are not nice drugs and have their own side effects (one of them causes cancer for example). I’m not eligible for these which is awesome in my opinion. My stay healthy instructions are to eat healthy and exercise. Two things that have not really been a priority before, but will now have to be. Drinking is also something that has to get way cut back (not because I’m a huge lush, but because more than one glass of red wine a day is pushing it based on the Docs). Dear wine, it’s not you, it’s me. I miss you.

So after having a fair filled weekend, A. and I watched the Saints lose another game (seriously guys??? cut me a freaking break here) and then went down to Boston to get my second opinion at Dana Farber. The building was really nice and they definitely have a technology edge over Dartmouth. For example, each patient and physician gets a clip that shows where they are in the building. Great for tracking you down when you’re there all day. We just had the one appointment with oncologist Ann Partridge who specializes in young women with breast cancer and is a pretty big deal in the field and at Dana Partridge.

She gave the exact same recommendation as my oncologist at Dartmouth so that was a relief. I would have happily taken a  slightly less aggressive chemo recommendation, but this is the next best thing. It makes me feel confident that I’m moving forward in the right way. It’s hard to feel like this when you hear all of the horrible things your chemo can do to you, so every little bit helps. She told me that the reason I’m doing every two weeks which gives my body less time to recover (every three weeks is a pretty common recco), is because studies have shown that my cancer (aggressive/bane) starts to recover/grow if it’s given more time and the two weeks helps avoid that. For me that may mean more side effects because my body doesn’t have as much recovery time. I left Dana Partridge feeling confident about the direction I’m moving in. One helpful thing she mentioned was that she thinks it’s “sloppy” switching doctors mid treatment (moving to New Orleans). I was a little offended at her choice of words, but whatever. The compromise I suggested was moving down before I start the taxol chemo so that I’ll begin that with my new doctor. She thought that was a good way to go so I’m going to talk to my oncologist at Dartmouth about that timing. We could stay in Vermont through all of the treatment, but my whole decision to have chemo second was because I want to move down to New Orleans and start life again. It’s important to me and something that I think will make a difference in my recovery/attitude during treatment.

I followed up yesterday’s hospital visit with a DHMC day, wouldn’t want them to get jealous. I started off the day with a 9am chemo class with A. and my Mom. We had a nurse go over my chemos and talk through probably side effects, bad side effects, and advice on how to take care of myself. She also showed us the infusion room (comfy chair that I’ll be spending a few hours in). I appreciated that they’re mostly all in private rooms, becauseI think it would be awkward and depressing to have to sit there with someone else going through it. I hadn’t realized just how long the days are going to be. First I get my blood drawn and then I meet with my oncologist about an hour later. Then it takes about an hour and a half to get the chemo mixed, then I get my anti-nausea and chemo cocktail for an hour and a half or so. That’s at least 5 hours at the hospital for each treatment and that’s for the short treatment. The long treatment will include 4 hours of treatment on top of the blood draw, wait times, and mix times. Pretty lame.

Next up I met with my plastic surgeon resident (not my actual plastic surgeon, but the one I’ve been doing all my follow ups with). I got the ok to take a bath, wear deodorant, and get some non-underwire bras. I’m almost ready to mainstream. She also took off most of the scabs, dried skin, and surgery glue around my incision sites. Now I have scars that look pretty good instead of scabs that look scary. There are still some hanging on, but definitely a major improvement. They also gave me an old lady bra that fastens in the front and has the distinction of being the ugliest bra I’ve ever owned. Going to rectify this shortly. I also got a new binder because the old one kept coming open which was really uncomfortable and frustrating. No spanx yet.

I then went down to PT which I’d been really looking forward to because it’s supposed to help me with my pain. PT is in the basement for some reason and I found out I didn’t have an appointment and my physical therapist is on vacation until early October. So that sucked. Now A. and I have to go back Friday morning to see someone else. It really sucks because everyone has been talking up my therapist as this great person to see for the issues I’m having so it’s a pretty big let down that she’s not there. I know I should be the last person throwing stones at three week vacations, but fuck your three week vacation. Seriously.

Then I got to follow up that good news with a shot in the stomach. Sorry, two shots in the stomach. The fun never ends on cancer lane. The best part was no one had told me it was going to be a shot in the stomach, so they were surprise shots in the stomach. How was your Tuesday? The first shot was to numb the area because the second shot was a giant needle. I get to do this once a month through treatment. These shots are to make my ovaries go into hibernation so that the chemo drugs don’t try to attack them and possibly put me into permanent menopause at 30. It’s going to be shitty going through hot flashes and other glamorous side effects from this, but have to keep my focus on the end game. All of the nurses were telling me how great my scar looks and how lucky I am. I just about ran out of there and did start crying as soon as I got to the waiting room. This is what happens when you get surprise shots in the stomach.

Then we went and got ice cream. Because what the hell else are you supposed to do after a day like that?

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