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Another Milestone!

I had my last Herceptin treatment today!! That means, I won’t have to sit in an infusion chair again!!

Last time in the chair!!

Last time in the chair!!

My nurse today was the same nurse I had for my very first infusion. When she asked how I was doing, my response was, “Awesome!” She replied, “You should be!” She apparently was aware that was my last infusion as well. I was back in the corner this time, surrounded by other people doing chemo. I felt a little bad that I was so happy when they were still going through the nonfunness of chemo.

Now, just because I’m done with infusions, doesn’t mean I’m done with going to the cancer center on a regular basis. I still need to go and get my port flushed every four to six weeks. The nurse’s comment was many people go every month just to make it easier to schedule, but I’m all about avoiding a trip to the Cancer Center as much as possible. I’ll be making those trips every six weeks, and not a day sooner.

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Back at the Cancer Center

I just love this place so much, I decided to come back. Actually, it’s time for another Herceptin treatment. Every three weeks I’m back in the chemo wing. It’s an easy half hour in the chair, and I usually run some errands while I’m in Erie. No problems.

I did head back to the radiation wing for a just a moment today in order to donate my Hug Wrap back to the Cancer Center. I could have kept it, but I’m not going to wear it around the house or anything. I’d rather someone else get some use out of it. The nurse had the great idea to put a little note with it for the next patient. I thought that was a good idea and just wrote a couple of lines about hoping the cheery print would provide some smiles.

Last time wearing my Hug Wrap!

Last time wearing my Hug Wrap!

 

First Herceptin-only treatment

I may be done with chemo, but I’m not done going to the RCC on a regular basis. Friday was my first Herceptin-only treatment. I was a little annoyed that I had to go out on Black Friday (we usually just stay home and hibernate), but at least my appointment wasn’t scheduled until late in the afternoon. I even managed to run a few errands on the way, since I was going to be out anyways. I should have stayed away from the mall, though. The parking lot was still crazy.

Getting my Herceptin infusion.

Getting my Herceptin infusion. You can see where they’ve accessed my port.

Herceptin treatments will last for a year, but they’re only a half an hour in the chair – so much easier than chemo. As another added bonus, I don’t feel any side effects from the Herceptin, and I don’t need any pre-treatment drugs. So, I’m in and out of the RCC in less than an hour, and I don’t notice any side effects when I get home. I didn’t even take anyone with me for this treatment, since it was quick and easy. I brought a book to read and was happy for the quiet.

Since chemo is over, I’m also on hair watch. It’s starting to get a little more obvious, but still just fuzz on my head.

Some hair growing in.

Some hair growing in.

It’s not really much longer, but now you can start to see a hair-line of scalp versus face. I’m curious how long it will take to grow back, and what it will look like when it does grow in. My neck still gets cold, so I’ve resorted to wearing a scarf to keep it warmer. My eyebrows are still teeny-tiny hairs as well. I’m not ready to give up my hats anytime soon!

Odd side effects

So, now that I’m not feeling any of the side effects of chemo, I consider myself officially done! There is much rejoicing!! I thought I’d do one last post on chemo, specifically on the unexpected and odd side effects I experienced with chemo. Everyone knows about the hair loss, nausea and vomiting, and impacts on the blood cells, but there’s more to it than those symptoms.

For example, I never lost all of my hair. Most of my head hair fell out, and I haven’t had to shave since I started chemo (a small benefit), but I never lost any of my arm hair or my eyelashes. Eyebrows did end up going. At least my hats have a low brim, and you couldn’t see the lack of eyebrows too obviously. The one place I really missed hair (besides my cold back of the neck) was in my nose. Not having nose hair caused a surprising amount of annoyance, mainly associated with the dripping of snot. There just wasn’t any hair to slow down the trip of that snot out of my nose.

Notice the stripes on my nails

Notice the stripes on my nails

One odd side effect was the impact of chemo on my fingernails. If you look closely in the photo, you might be able to see the stripes on my nails. All of my fingernails have four white, horizontal stripes on them, corresponding to a cycle of chemo. I’m fairly certain that there will be six stripes by the time the nails grow out. At least I never lost the nail. I’ve heard from some other friends who went through chemo that they lost fingernails or toenails.

Finally, and this one might be TMI but it’s for posterity and so others know what to expect, I stopped menstruating. It was most surprising because I specifically asked at our chemotherapy orientation meeting if that would happen and the nurse said no. It may or may not be permanent. I’m not really worried about it, since I’m done having kids and it’s one less hassle to deal with while undergoing chemo, but it was unexpected.

And those were some of the odd things chemo did to me. Hopefully, no long-term impacts (beyond eliminating the cancer).

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I must say, with the change in weather, I’ve noticed the cold a lot more than I used to. The back of my neck, particularly, feels the cold air. It’s really not used to being exposed this time of year. The only time I used to have my neck bare was in the summer when it was really hot and sweaty. My hats keep the top of my head nice and warm, but my neck feels left out. The one advantage of the cold weather is it’s easy to cool off when I get a hot flash – just pull the hat off for a couple of minutes and I cool right down.

Amazingly, my hair is already starting to grow back on my head. It never really all fell out, but it’s definitely thicker now than it was a month ago.

Fuzzy head

Fuzzy head

The sad part is you can’t really see it yet. It’s nice and fuzzy, and there are some longer bits of where it wasn’t shaved too tight to my head, but it’s still baby fine. Miss Curiosity asked me today when I would stop wearing my hats, and my answer is when I can not see scalp on my head. As you can see in the picture below, the scalp is pretty evident. I wish it would regrow the way StatsGuy’s hair does – nice and dark.

Fuzzy head and eyebrows

Fuzzy head and eyebrows

The other advantage of the hats is they hide my lack of eyebrows. All but a few eyebrow hairs managed to fall out, but there’s a sprinkling of regrowth (you can kind of see it in the picture above). I’m half tempted to just pull the long hairs out so everything is even as it regrows. At least I’m done with chemo and everything can start to regrow together. I haven’t minded the lack of body hair, but I would like the facial hair to come back quickly. We’ll see if the eyelashes fall out – I’ve heard from several friends who went through chemo that they lost their eyelashes weeks after chemo ended.

Last chemo!!!

You can’t see me, but I’m doing a little chair dance today. My last cycle of chemo is currently infusing to my body, and I am very happy about that. I won’t consider chemo to be over until all the side effects have cleared out, but today is a momentous occasion nonetheless. I will continue to come to the RCC every three weeks for a year in order to get my Herceptin infusions, but that is a biological and not chemo. Those infusions will be much easier than chemo. The infusion itself is only 30 minutes, I won’t need bloodwork or to meet with Dr. Li prior, and I won’t see all the chemo side effects.

This is the IV stand an infuser for the eight drugs I get each chemo cycle.

This is the IV stand an infuser for the eight drugs I get each chemo cycle.

I met with Dr. Li yesterday to get the results of my blood work and MuGA test. My red blood cell count, hemoglobin and hemocrit all came back higher. They’re still lower than the normal range, but higher than I’ve had in the past. My liver enzymes are still high, but at least they didn’t go up. I was disappointed the levels didn’t go down, since I was good and didn’t do too much physically this time. Dr. Li said I was fine, though, since they were stable and the other liver measurements were within normal ranges. My MuGA came back with my heart function at the maximum measurable level

StatsGuy came with me to chemo since it was the last one, and we celebrated just a bit by ordering lunch from the Panera in the plaza across the street.

Me and StatsGuy sitting at the RCC

Me and StatsGuy sitting at the RCC

Now that chemo is about done, I’m moving on to the next treatment – surgery. I meet with Dr. Engel two weeks from today to find out how much surgery he’ll be doing and the time frame. I’m hoping for early December for the surgery – StatsGuy won’t be teaching and I have family events scheduled for Christmas.

Staying healthy

I’m coming out of the side effects of this cycle of chemo, and I find it fascinating (when I don’t find it completely annoying) that each cycle has its own flavor to it. This cycle wasn’t too hard, at least in terms of direct chemo side effects. Outside of the two hard days last week, I really only had a little bit of nasty mouth taste and a little bit of nausea. That’s not to say I had it easy. Instead, what I’ve been dealing with is a cold.

Just before chemo, I was thinking to myself how healthy I’ve managed to stay. Sadly, that streak was broken and I caught a cold two days before this cycle of chemo. I knew there was no way I’d be completely healthy by the time I went into chemo, and I was right. Dr. Li reminded me I’d be longer getting over the cold because of chemo, and he was right. It’s a week and a half later and I’m still battling that cold.

It seems to have settled on my vocal cords and just makes me cough. For a while there, I was singing bass in the choir, if I could manage to croak anything out. My voice is back, but the cough is still with me. It’s not too bad, until evening. Once I start getting tired, even trying to talk makes me cough. I am getting better, but it is in tiny little steps. I would like to be completely better soon. At the rate I’m going through honey and lemon (makes great tea that seems to help a little), I will need to replenish my stocks soon.

I also noticed I don’t heal from scrapes and scratches as quickly as normal. I scraped my finger while removing that root ball (it comes back to that again) and it still hasn’t healed completely. Sadly, the scab keeps coming off and then it oozes all over the next finger… So, currently, I’ve got it slathered in vitamin E oil and wrapped in a bandage. If I do that every day until it heals, I don’t need to worry about it cracking open. I just have to remember to take the time.

So, my goal is to be healthy and whole going into my final bout of chemo so I don’t have to deal with these annoyances again.