Tag Archive | herceptin

2014 in Review

2014 was a pretty big year for me. Not quite as big as 2013, but quite a bit still happened in my cancer journey. Therefore, I think it’s worth a look back on the year to see what changes occurred.

I started the year recovering from my mastectomy and going through radiation. While radiation wasn’t as hard as chemo, I really didn’t appreciate breaking out in hives at the end of the treatment.

Hives from the radiation treatment

Hives from the radiation treatment

With hindsight being 20/20, I’m wishing now that I didn’t decide to try reconstruction after my mastectomy. It was a pretty close decision, and now it’s looking like I went through all the pain of expansion and living with the expander (never did get anything close to comfortable with it) without the benefit of an implant at the end. It’s not a big deal living without a right breast. When I’m just going to be home, I don’t even wear a bra much.

I did finish up all my active treatments – radiation and Herceptin were the treatments in the beginning of the year. Now I access the port only to flush it.

No more of this!

No more of this!

My hair is still changing as it comes in. It’s much curlier now than it was at the beginning of the year. I think I’m going to keep it short for a while, especially now that I can go four months or so in between hair cuts. Getting a hair cut every two months gets expensive, even at the cheap place I go!

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the beginning of the year

My hair at the end of the year - so curly!

My hair at the end of the year – so curly!

Things to look forward to this year: not as many doctor’s appointments, since I’m not in active treatment. I’ll have another MuGA scan and a mammogram, but I’m not sure what else in terms of tests. I’m down to every six months with Dr. Engel, and I something similar for the oncologist.

My big goal is to get my port out. I’ve finally gotten used to it and hardly ever notice it anymore (it only took about 15 months), but I still will be happier with it out. If nothing else, it will open up my bathing suit and mastectomy bra options.

Let’s see what the year brings, shall we?

 

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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.

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.

Back at the Cancer Center

No worries – it’s just my every-three-weeks Herceptin treatment. I had to stash the kids with a friend today because StatsGuy is out of town. It’s a tricky weekend to be out of town because it’s Miss Adventure’s birthday tomorrow. We’ll be having friends over tomorrow and then have the family celebration on Sunday. I baked her cake this morning, and I’ll frost it up tonight. If I remember, I’ll post a picture of the finished product.

I got an email from my Little Pink Houses of Hope volunstar coordinator this week. We head off for vacation in two weeks, which is so exciting. I’m hoping the weather is nice for us so we can spend some time on the beach. While I don’t have a schedule of the activities they have planned for us, I do know that we’ll be doing things like stand-up paddleboarding one day, game night, and date night for the adults. There will also be a professional photographer who will take some family photos. The question becomes what to wear for the photos. I hate the matchy-matchy look, but I don’t want horrible clashing either. Guess I better go through our closets and see what I can come up with.

I started looking at what we will do on the way down to the Outer Banks, and in the afternoons. We’re planning on driving to Williamsburg on the first day, which is right near Fort Monroe. Mr. Curiosity and I just read Iron Thunder (the link leads to my review of the book) which describes the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac near Fort Monroe, so we’ll visit the actual location. While we’re down in the Outer Banks, we’ll visit Kitty Hawk as well. There’s some good history in that area! And we’ll take our bikes so we can do some riding and check out lots of beaches. It should be great fun.

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!

 

No more stickers!

Right now I’m sitting in a Herceptin treatment that I almost forgot about. I didn’t put it on my calendar, but last night I realized it had been three weeks since the last treatment and three weeks until the next treatment, which is a strong indication that I had Herceptin today. Turns out I was correct. The excitement really came during my radiation treatment before Herceptin. I guess the last set of X-rays came out OK, because I got the stickers off and replaced by tattoos today. Here’s what my breastbone looked like with the stickers:

I had four other stickers - three under my arm and another on the top line.

I had four other stickers – three under my arm and another on the top line.

The top sticker was high enough that it showed with a low-necked shirt.

Here’s what the same spot looks like now:

There's two new freckles on my chest now.

There’s two new freckles on my chest now.

You can’t even tell which are the radiation marks and which are my natural freckles. The tattoos are in the center of the red marks caused by the removal of the stickers – teeny tiny and black. The stickers didn’t want to come off. They were like very sticky bandaids that left their goo behind. Luckily they have adhesive remover in their arsenal of toys. Yeah for no more stickers!