Tag Archive | blood work

Adding and Subtracting Doctor’s Appointments

This week I’ve managed to remove a doctor’s appointment from my schedule, but I had to add two new ones. This is not the math I prefer to do when talking about visiting a doctor. At least the appointments I added are in my home town, so I don’t even have to drive far.

The cancelled appointment was with Dr. Li. I called in order to get my orders for bloodwork, which I had forgotten to ask for during my last Herceptin treatment. It really doesn’t matter where I get my blood drawn and tested, as long as it’s just before my appointment. I’d really prefer to do it locally than having to drive a half an hour for a five-minute needle stick. When I called to get the orders transferred, the nurse couldn’t find my appointment. That was curious. After doing a little digging, it turns out my visit to talk about Tamoxifen pushed back my three-month visit into October sometime. Great! Fewer trips to the cancer center! Except for the fact that I was planning on using the bloodwork I needed for that appointment as the bloodwork I need for my surgery on October 10th as well. The nurse just sent me the order so I can do the bloodwork when I need it.

The added doctor’s appointments were also associated with my surgery. Dr. Kang’s office called today to let me know they need medical clearance from my primary care provider before doing the exchange surgery. (Turns out, since this is essentially elective surgery, there’s a few more hoops to jump through.) Trick is, I haven’t seen my primary care provider since I was diagnosed (I figure I’m being monitored just fine without him) and the doctor I was seeing at my practice has since left. That’s OK, the nurses are still the same so they were able to hook me up. As a bonus, they can do the EKG I need before surgery at the office as well. It’s a separate appointment, since the doctor will want to see the results before giving me clearance for the surgery, but again, now I don’t have to drive across town to the Heart Institute.

So I’ve had a bit of a respite from seeing the doctor, but my schedule is filling up again as surgery looms. No problem – this is one surgery I’m whole-heartedly looking forward to.

Bloodwork for Science

Monday was my second to last Herceptin treatment. (Yes, there is dancing in appreciation of this fact that there’s only ONE MORE TO GO!!!) While I was there, I wanted the nurse to draw my blood for the Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women Study I am participating in. I was going to do it the last time I had a Herceptin treatment, but there was a problem with my meds which led to a long wait before my infusion, and I ran out of time to get it done. So, it was time to try again.

I figured it would be an easy process. I needed two vials of blood filled, and the researcher had provided the vials, the packaging, and everything. While I was accessed for my Herceptin, it would take no time at all to fill up the vials.

It’s never that easy, is it. For one thing, this was a bit out of the ordinary, so the nurse wanted to check with the supervisor, who of course was out to lunch. So, I had to wait for the supervisor to come back. The supervisor sent the nurse to the lab supervisor just to check. Usually they charge a fee for drawing blood, but I had paperwork that provided a billing address associated with the project. Finally, she got permission to draw the blood.

Vials of blood all set for mailing

Vials of blood all set for mailing

Once the blood was drawn, it was off to the FedEx Express store so I could get it in the mail quickly, before the blood started to degrade.

All packed up and ready to go.

All packed up and ready to go.

They received my samples today. I know this because I got a phone call from a researcher wanting to do my family history. I had done this for my BRCA testing, but still couldn’t remember all the details on how old my aunts and uncles are or, even worse, my great-aunts and -uncles. I vaguely remembered who had cancer in the family (not much of it), but hopefully it was detailed enough. The next step is to ask my sisters and parents to see if they’d be willing to send in blood to compare it against mine. I’ll ask them the next non-crazy visit we get and see what they say.

Darn it, more drugs

I had a check-up with my oncologist on Monday just to see how things were going. I had bloodwork a couple of days before, which came back mostly fine. I am slightly anemic, so Dr. Li recommended I start taking iron pills. I’m not too thrilled about it, but considering my multi-vitamin doesn’t contain iron (I was really surprised about that fact), I’ll probably do it. I only need one a day (or maybe every other day), which should minimize its constipation effects.

I did ask Dr. Li what he was looking for in my bloodwork (beyond the general blood counts). He explained that he’s watching to make sure my liver functions and kidney functions aren’t damaged, which would show up with some abnormal results. He’s also looking for high calcium levels, which is often a sign that the cancer has metastasized (especially to the bones) and can be a big problem. Luckily, all those chemical values were normal.

The two bad news items all had to do with the length of treatment. I asked Dr. Li how long I’d have to keep my port after my Herceptin treatments were over. His response – one to (preferably) two years. That’s the time frame that the cancer is mostly likely to recur, so the typical practice is to just leave the port in so it’s already available for treatment. That makes logical sense, but once again I was disappointed by the amount of time it takes to be done with all this cancer stuff. One to two years with my port means I’m pretty much done with my hockey career, and that is not a good thing.

Bad news number two is Dr. Li is recommending I take Tamoxifen, for the next ten years. Again, intellectually, I understand why he’s recommending this course of action (it potentially decreases the recurrence rate of the cancer with limited side effects) but TEN YEARS? I just want to go back to my old life, and it’s not happening any time soon.

And, on top of all that annoying news (it’s not really bad news – evidence of cancer is about the only bad news), I had to sit for an hour waiting for my Herceptin treatment because a new person at the Cancer Center screwed up the pharmacy order. All in all, not one of my better days at the Cancer Center.

Army of Women

logo_newI thought I’d do something a little different on this post, and talk about some breast cancer research. I can’t remember how I found the website, but the Army of Women is a clearinghouse for researchers actively seeking participants in various projects that touch on breast cancer. They are a part of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, which is a “non-profit breast cancer organization, working to achieve a future without breast cancer by focusing on prevention and finding the cause”.

The basic principle of Army of Women is they provide details about research studies in which their members may want to participate. There are two options to find a study – you can look through their list of current projects, or wait until they send you an email about a project you may qualify for. If you think you fit the bill for that study and are willing to do whatever actions are necessary, there are a few more qualifying questions to answer and a researcher will contact you about specific details on the study.

I thought it was a pretty cool idea. I’m all about science, which you absolutely know if you know IRL and should guess based on the types of posts I put up here. I signed myself up as soon as I found the website. There’s even a study I qualify for: Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women Study. You have to have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (yes – invasive lobular carcinoma) at or before age 40 (yep, I was 39). All it takes for participation is to fill out paperwork (of course)

The paperwork sent for the project - lots of things to sign

The paperwork sent for the project – lots of things to sign

and get some blood drawn and sent back to them

The return package for my blood.

The return package for my blood.

Should be easy enough. I’m going to see if they can draw my blood while I’m at the Cancer Center this afternoon for my latest Herceptin dose. You never know what they’ll find, but hopefully they provide access to the completed research so I can see their results. We’ll see!!