This was my first time being sick since chemo, and I have found, that after being in chemo, getting sick is much scarier than one would expect. I laid on the couch miserable for 5 days, refusing to lay in my nice, comfortable bed, because that is where I was chemo sick, and I refused to feel chemo sick. It was like a terrible flashback. I had to keep reminding myself that this was not cancer, and I would be fine in a couple of days, however, what my mind was telling me was being completely overridden by the fear in my heart. This fear and sadness was compounded by my oldest son asking me if my bad cells had come back, and if I was going to have to go to the doctor all the time, again. I hate for my children to see me sick now, no matter what it is. I don't want their memories of me to be me stuck on the couch sick all the time.
I went to treatment by myself this last Tuesday, which was nice for me because I like to ride up there with my music blasting, singing like a rockstar (which, I might be, but I don't sing in front of anyone, so you would just never know). It also gives me a chance to get some reading done as the Herceptin, ie. liquid gold, drips into my veins. My doctor was a little shocked to see me there alone, given my history of bringing someone new every time I go. It has been a running joke with them.
I got the results back from my MUGA scan. My ejection fraction (which indicates heart functioning) had dropped from 79% to 70%. This initially scared me a little because 55% is as low as they will let it go before they take me off of the Herceptin. I figured if my EF dropped by 9% every 5 months, I might not be on this too long, and this is the stuff that is saving my life! But...my doctor said that 70% is very normal, and that 79% was actually pretty high, and he thinks that I was just nervous when they did my baseline MUGA. This is entirely possible given the fact that it took 5 tries for them to successfully thread my IV that day and they blew a vein in the process.
They also did lab work on Tuesday, and my blood counts were low, so they gave me a shot of Arnesp to boost my red blood cell production.
We did not start the Zometa yet. My doctor wants to get an MRI of my spine to see exactly how the bone is healing back in where the cancer once was. Since my bone density testing was normal, he thinks that if the bones are healing back in fairly normally, then he is not sure whether or not he wants to start me on Zometa or not. He indicated that there are some pretty sucky side effects, and he wants to strike a balance between being aggressive with my treatment and not making me miserable with treatment side effects. So, I am going back to the hospital in a week and a half to have a full spine MRI, and then the following week, which is my normal treatment week, we will decide whether or not to start the Zometa.
Other than that, treatment went pretty well.
As far as the rest of my life, we had a beautiful, organic, free-range, Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, and spent a lot of time with friends in our neighborhood. We put up Christmas lights and decorated the tree, and I got some running in.
What am I thankful for?!?! I am thankful to be in that time of the year when everyone else takes that time to examine their life and what they are thankful for. I think it is so important to reflect on the year and look past all the mildly annoying and painfully difficult times, and place emphasis on the people and the things in your life that make you happy and bless you each and every day. The top things on my list are: my family(immediate and extended), my friends (immediate and extended), my current fairly good state of health, the health of my children, my doggy, my beautiful home that I had the privilege of designing with my dad (which is incredibly special to me), twinkling christmas lights, my running shoes, and the fabulous weather that we had today!
Turbulence: I went through most of the past week with friends in turmoil, whether that be with me, with each other, or within their own lives separate from me. So, as is my nature, I spent a lot of time worrying about them and why everyone can't just get along (...and if ya need a little prozac to do that, well by all means let me refer you!) I am so thankful for the relationships that I have with my friends and family and I love them all, in all their grandeur.
Fabulous: I was able to spend a lot of time with my old neighbors and their families, as well as my brother-and sister-in-law, and some old friends from high school, as we made our tour of costume parties on Saturday. While I looked quite ridiculous in my costume, it was kind of fun to dress up and pretend to be someone else for awhile.
Touching: Sunday was our Making Strides walk. We had about 48 people on our team, if you count everyone who purchased t-shirts for the event. Unfortunately, we had a few that were unable to make it for one reason or another, but were definitely there in spirit! We had 9 of us that wore pink wigs, a couple with pink boas, and lots of other assorted pink wear. We caused quite a scene and apparently a few of us made it on to a 3 sec. blip on the news, but I have yet to see that. Most of all, we raised money and awareness for breast cancer research and treatment, and gave HOPE to those of us who are still in the thick of "surviving". I can't even begin to explain how touching it is to know that I have friends, and lots of them, that are willing to go walk 5 miles for me...and a supervisor/friend so FABULOUS that he provided "tailgate refreshments" at the end of the walk for the team!! Go TMARYMOONERS!!!!
Frightening: Apart from it being Halloween on Monday and chasing two little Ghouls around the neighborhood, I started to get nervous about the scans that I was having today. I know that their is no sense in fretting and that a positive attitude can take you a long way, but it is hard to get rid of that little nagging "what if" in the back of ones mind. Especially when it is in your nature to be prepared for whatever is to come, be it good, bad, or indifferent.
Stunning: Today was just that. I went in for my 3 months post treatment scans. And after drinking 3 glasses of CT contrast, having blood drawn, an IV threaded, beams of radiation shown through me, and radioactive material injected into my veins and pumped through my blood stream, I saw my doctor. And what did he say??? (Really, is that what you have read through this whole blog to find out?!?!) He said... that I do not have any new areas of concern and that my cancer is stable. Stable in that the liver looks unchanged, with one tiny "spot" that may or may not be malignant that is unchanged from the previous CT scan. It is so small that a needle biopsy would not even be possible, and if it did prove to be malignant would not change my course of treatment. As for my breast, they did not see any tumors on my chest CT. All of that... that was good news! It means that what I thought I had is still gone, at least as gone as it has ever been. That means that even without the chemo, and with just Herceptin, I am kicking some cancer @ss! Now, here comes the interesting part. Remember back in the beginning, when they thought that I had cancer in my bones? Well, they did follow up x-rays and determined that is was probably not cancer and if it was cancer, it was very minuet and was not creating damage to my bones. Well, it has now been established that the bone cancer, no not bone cancer, was actually.... bone cancer. HOWEVER, what I thought I had and then thought I didn't have, and now know I did have, is now GONE!!! You just don't know what you got until it's gone, do you?! Sometimes, I think that might be a good thing. It turns out that on my latest scans, they can see that the changes noted in my bone on previous scans are now healing in with new bone material. Since degenerative changes do not do that, they know that the treatment has "improved" my condition (for lack of a better way of explaining it) and therefore, the spots were cancerous. I guess maybe a higher power was noticing the the breast cancer with liver AND bone mets was a little too much for me to handle in one sitting, so he took the information back, and gave it to me now, after the treatment had it under control, to kind of "soften" the blow. I do appreciate that! And, I do feel better equipped to handle it now.
So, what does this mean for the future? It means that I will be having a bone density test tomorrow, and if all goes well and the results show that I can handle the treatment that I will need to protect my bones, I will be started on another IV drug called Zometa. I will take this every 3 weeks as I have been taking the Herceptin. There do not appear to be any significant side effects, and it will only change life as I know it by adding 15-30 minutes to my IV drip every three weeks. A small price to pay for LIFE!
What am I thankful for?! Hugs(as always), smiles on children's faces, trick-or-treating, and the feel of the fresh autumn air!