Today was chemo number nine. I’m on the downhill side of treatments but the second round will be every other week so I’m not quite to halfway through time-wise. 16 treatments over 21 weeks. Still glad to be at number nine instead of number one. This is the last month of round one which they’ve said all along will probably be tough. Hopefully I will have good luck on that front.
Dad took me today and it was another early appointment. I like getting there when it’s still pretty empty. I sat in the front section again but I was in a huge recliner in the corner which gave me good vantage point for people watching. They accessed my port and had some trouble getting blood again. They had to lay me down and have me do all sorts of maneuvers to get it flowing. Guess what finally worked? Lay down flat, turn my head and “clear my throat”. I guess that’s better than saying “turn your head and cough”. They’ve had me try this one before with no luck but that was the magic trick today. Last week they got blood right away sitting up normally, but the three weeks prior to that I had to be laid down every time. At least there are tricks and the port still works. I also had a lot less apprehension about accessing the port today. I think that part of it is I’ve figured out my favorite two nurses and it was one of them. I don’t know how they do things differently, but it always hurts less with the two of them. When she removed the port today I literally didn’t even feel it. They gave me the steroid through the IV rather than orally like it’s been the past few weeks. I told them I didn’t think it made any difference but as I sit here typing at 2am I guess it does cause some insomnia, huh? Might not do the IV again on that one. Anyway, here’s my week:
CBC – my numbers were almost identical to last week. At least the rise in WBCs didn’t seem to indicate any infection which is awesome. RBCs are still low but borderline so in cancer world they are great.
Skin – my poor skin is really taking a beating. I have new spots pop up daily it seems and am getting a new serum to put on them which I’m hoping will help. The balm I have is keeping them from getting worse and can almost get them all the way gone but not quite. I think part of the issue is they get good enough that the redness goes away and they’re hard for me to find but if I miss a couple applications, they come right back. But from what the nurses are telling me, it’s pretty much a miracle that I’m controlling them as well as I am so I’m happy I have the balm.
The port – it’s doing pretty well. Last week Evelyn head butted me a couple times and that stitch was killing me again, like it was poking directly into my skin trying to get through. I kept having to move the skin around until I could make it lay down and get out of the little hole it felt like it was creating. Not fun times. This week it seems to be better.
Pain – starting to have these for sure. My muscles are aching from time to time, my shoulder pain is back and my knees are getting sore at times. Most of the aches and pains seem to come and go from one day to another but the shoulder has lasted a few days. Need to get another massage and probably start them regularly. Also, not pain, but the restless leg syndrome is getting worse.
Mouth Sores – happy to say none, I have upped my mouth routine though as I know this is the end of the “easy” part. The nurse told me in the beginning that if I wasn’t getting mouth sores that didn’t mean I could slack off as they would most likely develop if I did. I’m going to have to be REALLY lucky to avoid them even with the regimen so I have to stay motivated here to at least keep them away for as long as possible.
Poop – happy to say normal. I still think I’m losing some intestine, but I’ve upped my probiotics to 100 billion for the past month and I think (hope) that is helping. Enteric coating on the pills makes sure it gets down to the intestines and isn’t wasted in my stomach. Fingers crossed it will keep working.
Hair/Scalp – I have to say, I love having no hair. It’s not nearly as traumatic as I anticipated. I know that this is because of the dosing on the trial and not a normal case, but I still have a pretty normal amount of hair if it wasn’t shaved. I did shave it again today as it was getting long enough for me to pinch between my fingers and it comes out like crazy if I pull it. But it seems to be holding on enough to stay in when it’s short so I’m letting it do that. I can see that it’s definitely thinner than my normal hair which would be apparent if it were longer. Also, my scalp is crazy dry and is showing irritation and the dry patches like on my skin. At least I can put the moisturizers and balms on my scalp since my hair isn’t in the way. On a side note, I shaved it in the back yard today and when I was out there I noticed my neighbor, who I haven’t seen to tell my condition, was stopped in her tracks seeing me bald. I’ll need to talk to her in the next couple days.
Nails – the nail balm is amazing. My finger nails are brittle and I have to keep them super short because they will bend and break if they get caught on anything. But, the nail balm has let the nails come in healthy and I was able to grow out the bad parts and trim it off so they are not flaking any more! Unfortunately, my toe nails were worse and I started later on them so I’m still fighting that battle, but my fingers look great.
Nose – The nail balm also works in my nose and fortunately it works quickly. The bad news is that if I forget, the nose bleeds come quickly. It is still not free flowing, but bad enough that I have to stuff my nostrils with tissues and a lot of blood comes out. So mental note – apply nail balm more often in nose.
Headaches – my headaches have been better. Still there, but better. The fluid definitely helped. I did not get it this week and am working hard to drink a LOT of water, so we will see how this week goes. If it’s not great I’m just going to get the fluids every time.
Girl Stuff – those hot flashes are a bitch. They come on at all times and wake me up at night. I’m in a pretty constant pattern of taking off my sweater and hat and putting everything back on again. At night, I wake up sweating and throw off the covers only to wake up freezing and cover up again. Rinse and repeat.
When mom brought Evelyn back over tonight we went for a walk. I was able to talk to a neighbor that I don’t see very often and is not in good health. She didn’t know about the cancer. I knew that she had cancer but it is in her abdomen. Turns out she also had breast cancer. Three times. She had a mastectomy in the 80’s and another one in ’06. After that they found a lump in the first side again (post mastectomy) which was triple negative. She also mentioned a tumor in her neck that was from the breast cancer so I’m not sure if that is the latest one spreading or something else. She said in the 80’s she had radiation, mastectomy and then chemo but she won’t do chemo again other than the chemo pill so I’m not sure how effective that is but I know she has a lot going on. She also has some pretty severe heart issues which sound inoperable and told me that she was going to survive the cancer but her heart was going to kill her. It was a sad conversation. But trying to look at the positive, she is not young. She has clearly battled cancer for almost 30 years, but it has not taken her yet – even with her refusing standard chemo. Her cancer came back even after a mastectomy but I’m hoping the surgeries they do now are better than those done 30 years ago. It certainly makes me think I need to man up about the scaring and let them open me up enough to be completely sure they get all the ducts out. I think that may have been the biggest message I received. I am glad we had that conversation. There are always worse cases. There are always shoes you don’t want to walk in. And I think there are always messages that we can receive that remind us we need to put our big girl pants on and deal with it. Things aren’t always pretty, but we need to keep our eye on the prize.