Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy please, Chemo infusion #2 done!

Hurricane Sandy may have added some anxiety to the chemo infusion. My mother picked me up last night so I stayed at their place last night and had a simple ride into the hospital today. Had to drop some things off my desk, had a minor tantrum about work related items and then had to be reminded I am off today. Went down to the Oncology center had my blood drawn, vitals taken (blood pressure, Oxygen levels good, weight down only 1lb [not to worry I will eat that back]).

Rockin' it bald
No scarves, no wigs and hat only when I go outside. Inside buildings I find it much easier/more comfortable to go straight out bald. While waiting for the blood draw one of the women in the waiting room, looks at me and says "Your bald like me, but your not even wearing a hat? I am so cold, how come you are not cold? And there is no way you'll get me in a wig". I just told her that I felt cold outside and periodically will put a hat on inside, but so far my 5 O'Clock shadow I have remaining on my head seems to be keeping it ok. Agreed to with her about the wig. Our conversation was shortened when another woman, clearly wearing a wig came into the waiting room and sat with us. General reaction to my bald head has been great.

Very Stubborn
My oncologist has me pegged quite well. We went over options to avoid the headaches after the neulasta shots (including not having them) and rearranging infusions schedules and such. We reviewed the medication I should/can take for them. And being the human being who doesn't like change that I am, I decided to keep the schedule as is and to continue to get the shots. I just feel like the risks of not having it a much greater than 3 days of headaches. My oncologist also reminded me that her office is 3 doors down for mine and that she runs into me daily and that if I need to take it easy I should. She may have repeated this last part 3 or 4 times. Yup, I am that kid.

Labs look good. Blood sugar is elevated from the steroids (157 mg/dl), but WBCs look good. Everything else is within normal limits just my hematocrit was barely low 36.8% vs normal of 37%. Nothing that needs intervention, just maybe some more meat.

Chemo Infusion #2
A little musical commentary (thanks to my good friend) about chemotherapy. Nothing like intentionally poisoning your body for longterm better outcomes:

I love the continuity of care I am receiving. Today I had the same Nurse as last time, who I love. She got me hooked up early and ready to go. Her mom had breast cancer and she commented on how good my bald head looked. No burning lines this time. IV was placed in my hand and had some achiness but so excited no allergic reactions! They say the 2nd one is really if you are going to have a reaction that this will occur.  Half way done.

The drive home
I fully expected the drive back to my parents to be Hurricane Craziness, but it was ok. Just one really strong gust of wind, one downed tree. The rain wasn't too bad. We made it back safe and sound with car parked in the garage before stronger rain came. Feel good about that and feel pretty good right now.  No Zofran headache this time. No nausea. Drinking my water, doing my baking soda mouth rinses. Pretty happy to have 2 infusions done.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hair Watch 2012 Update


My hair was making me crazy. The falling out had greatly increased, especially today. At one point today I was teaching my intern about nutritional management of patients who have had a Whipple procedure and was scratching my head when came out with a clump of hair. Oops. I cleaned my white lab coat off 3 times today. After work my mother and I went to the family friend/hairdresser who gave me the sweet pixie and she shaved my head for me today. I look very GI Jane right now. I also asked my mother if she wanted me to shave her name into my head. She said no. So just straight bald it is.

Three things.
1) Not to brag, but I have a fantastic head shape. No weird dents or misshapen. It's pretty sweet.
2) I look like a small version of my brother. 
3) My head is cold.

To quote one of my favorite bald men "Hair is overrated".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hair Watch 2012

Today is the official 2 week mark from the 1st infusion and the official day when I could start having some hair loss. I woke up this morning with a piece of hair in my mouth and thought "Well, there it goes". However, turns out my hair is not falling out in clumps yet. There has been an uptick in individual pieces of hair falling out, but nothing drastic. This is just another weird event with cancer treatment, the waiting for your hair to fall out. Many others who have lost their hair tell me it comes out in clumps usually when they were in the shower. This makes the shower an interesting experience. I checked my hands multiple times while shampooing. When there was nothing in my hands I decided to sing this to my hair:

No baldness yet, but the hair clock is ticking.What is also weird is I can feel my hair sitting on top of my head. A sensation that I previously was unaware of. Overthinking this much? You betcha.

Also, went for another run last night. Running makes me happy : )

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today is a good day. Despite a slight headache, I was able to sleep for 11.5 hours last night. 11.5. That's some good sleeping. On top of it when I got up this morning my good friend met me at my house for a run! Yay! I laced up my shoes with some NFL Crucial Catch pink shoelaces (totally embracing the pink) so I could stomp on breast cancer with every step. We did a simple out and back run for a little over 2 miles. Felt pretty darn good to get out there and run. We ran comfortably and chatted the entire time. No pain in any incision sites; in fact no pain at all. Win. Win. Win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Random Photographs

Sleeping (mostly) through the night makes you feel so much better. It's ok when you wake up at 3:30 am because you have been asleep since 7:30 pm. Headache is virtually gone and this makes me very happy.

PHOTO #1 Keepin' it Classy
It's a little dark, but above is an action shot of me doing my Maid of Honor duty and my good friends wedding. This photo makes me happy for many reasons. 1) It was an amazing wedding and I was honored to be part of it. 2)The timing of it. I got a weekend of total fun and focus on someone else before starting chemo.

PHOTO #2 The long awaited hair photo
Here's the french pixie. And you can't read it, but my water bottle says "Caution: Extreme Awesomeness". Pretty much sums that up.

PHOTO #3 Greatest. Big. Brother. Ever
My brother ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in my honor on my birthday in Arizona. This is the sweat soaked after photo (note he cut his head off in the photo, not me). Some of the further genetic testing that I am having done is research paid for by the Komen foundation so I am thankful that he and his fiance got out there and did it. And that they rocked these pretty sweet custom t-shirts. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Serious Case of the Mondays

One week from 1st chemo infusion and I am feeling pretty good. Except for this one nagging thing that won't go away. HEADACHE. I have had a headache since Saturday at 12:37 am when it woke me up from sleep. This was a cue on how sleeping was going to go for the whole weekend. Despite being Sleepless Sara I had a great weekend. I celebrated my 31st birthday with friends and family. Had lots of laughs and good food. Day time was good. But night time, when it comes to laying down right now my head wants to explode. The headache also turned me into the crazy patient. Two phone calls to the oncologists, on the night time on call oncologist and one to my regular oncologists to make sure it was fine that I had a headache. Which it is ok that I have a headache, unfortunate, but ok.

Sunday Night
This was not pretty. While trying to get comfortable I threw my back out. I was staying at my parents house Sunday night, so my mother found me in their living room swearing at the heating pad that refused to turn on at 1 am. She got me settled back into my bed as comfortable as possible (and ran around the house looking for pillows of various thickness to help out) and went to hunt down migraine medication for herself [sidenote; I am a wimp with a headache. This woman spent more than 9 months straight with a migraine and 3 days sent me over the edge].

Monday Morning
I sleep for about 3-4 hours total and not consecutively. I have nightmares about missing college students, awesome work brain. My back and head both hurt, but I decide to go to work. And I would say this is the general way I felt yesterday morning:
I keep storming my way through the day, make it through lunch (a lunch in which my boss made a delicious cake for my birthday), but then started to crack. For the first time in my life I went home form work sick. My mom picked me up (sounds like I am 12) and brought me back to my apartment. Being home, my exhaustion took over and I cried because I was tired and my head hurt. And then based on the recommendations from my oncologist I took some medication and slept for 10 hours.

Terrific Tuesday
I woke up feeling like a human being. Went to work and did not let the darkside back in. Worked a full day. Headache still in tact, but hopefully can still get some more sleep in. Thankfully, sense of humor is back with vengeance today [please see sarcastic voicemails left on multiple phones]. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

But this is why I got the flu shot

Wednesday morning woke up and bonus, no nausea! Energy level was good and headed to work. Worked a full day and then had the seemingly benign Nuelesta (White Blood Cell Booster Shot). It burned like heck going in, but dissipated quite quickly after was complete. Sat for 30 minutes and had no reaction, so far so good.

Thursday woke up felt ok. Still no nausea, but not with the greatest energy level. Went to work and during the day bam, felt like I had the flu. Muscles and bones aching and I was tired. Tired. Muscled through the rest of the day and started to feel better after dinner (food is key here).

Other item on the list for Thursday was the step down haircut. Now, lets be honest, I have never been very hair fashion forward, but I think having all of your hair cut off can be a little daunting. Fortunately, a good family friend (who cuts my mother's hair) was kind enough to take on this assignment (and I think was happy to be able to break out her razor). Let me tell you, she gave me a pretty great French Pixie [of course this is what I am told because I wouldn't have any idea beyond really short]. I am loving and rocking my new short do for the next 10 or so days that I will have it.

I was pretty tired after my haircut and WBC booster shot Thursday, came home and went to bed. Woke up this morning feeling pretty darn normal. Sometimes 10 hours of sleep is all you need. No major side effects. Slight taste changes, water is getting a little metallic-y but still eating well. Happy it's the weekend and I made it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

25% Done with Chemo

First chemo infusion complete and so far so good. Slight stomach ache right now, but otherwise feeling pretty darn good. However, underlying stomach ache could also be from not sleeping too much over the weekend and dancing my face off at a friends wedding on Sunday.

Let's recap todays events.

I check in and am handed a pager. On that lights up and vibrates. The same kind you get when you are waiting to eat at Outback Steakhouse. It lets you know when you are ready for your vital signs (heart rate up a little bit more today, was a little anxious to get this started). It then beeps to let you know you will meet with the Nurse Practitioner and we reviewed all possible side effects (only one of them nausea is a possibility and thats why they give me anti nausea meds). She also told me because I am young and do not drink heavily that puts me at risk for nausea.  I thought, well if it would help I would shot gun two beers right now, but she said no drinking on the days of chemo. I love that because I follow a healthy lifestyle and rarely drink alcohol and I am a young women this makes me more prone to nausea.

Hair loss update
My mother and I both swear we heard the doctor tell us during our last visit it would be 3 days, but we were also absorbing a lot of information at the time and turns out that I will be bald in the most 3 weeks.   It turns out most people lose their hair between 2-3 weeks. Given the length of my hair my mother (and then the nurse practitioner again today) recommended I get my hair cut real short so I don't have continuing nightmares about all the hair I will find on my pillow or in the shower. I never had the guts to try a pixie cut, so we will see what that looks like!

Infusion time
After more instructions (mouth care is a must) and directions on taking anti-nausea meds as preventive measures they put the IV in and were ready to go. After the benedryl is infused to prevent an allergic reaction I have to pee. Me, the IV pole and my shadow, formerly know as my mother, head to the bathroom. Just me and the IV pole go in. Then first up is the more harsher of the two chemotherapy drugs Taxotere. This infuses for an hour and I eat the free lunch they gave me (turkey on white with potato chips and cookie) and the offer me a drink. The dietitian in me loved that they offer everyone an Ensure! How great is that! I chose water. Once Taxotere is done infusing (and another trip to pee) it was time to flush and lets just say my vein spasmed. Good lord that didn't feel good, but nothing a heat pack couldn't fix. Next up the cytoxan, which does not hurt going in but is dripping from a glass bottle. It only infuses for half and hour. The IV is flushed and removed and were done. No allergic reactions, no nausea and good to go home.

Game Day Apparel

Above is the shirt that I wore for my first chemo appointment. The shirts are made by Eyeful Beauty and the women who cuts my fathers hair gave it to him for me. I love it and find it perfect to wear to chemo infusions. 

On the way into the chemo infusion I was singing this song to my mother as I was going down the stairs. She was impressed.  

Tomorrow after work I will get my WBC booster shot. Lets hope I continue to feel this good (keep sending those good vibes, they are sooooo working) and next infusion is in 3 weeks. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Going for the Triple Crown

Had the meeting with Radiation Oncologist and the Medical Oncologists today. First stop was the Radiation Oncologist. When meeting with her nurse she went to hand the packet of information to my mother and I had to remind her, I was the patient. She said "I knew you were young, I just still so surprised by how young". They gave me information on creams and how to deal with microwaved skin and about the 33 treatments I will need. Do you know there is a cream called My Girls? Cracked me up. However, the lovely Radiation Oncologist (who was trained in the USSR) said that my oncotyping showed Intermediate recurrence risk and that I would need to meet with Medical Oncologist to decide what that would mean. She then checked my incision sites and was very pleased with they way they are healing. Excellent.

Next we met with the Medical Oncologists. After my vital signs were checked for a second time [my blood pressure improved by 5 mm Hg between visits, but my heart rate increased by 10 beats- a little anxious maybe?] she laid out the facts. With my Intermediate risk, because even though it was a micrometasis (very little in the lymph nodes) she recommended that we go aggressive, but told me the choice was mine.  I agreed to go aggressive. Go big or go home. She gave me the chemotherapy options, including none and entering a trial, but I decided to go with the regimen she most highly recommended (didn't have the risk of Congestive Heart Failure as an option) called TC (Taxotere/cytoxan). The major side effect is decreased white blood cells and total hair loss. Yup, going to be bald. However, she said most people are able to work while having it and she had patients who ran while having it (I made sure my Mom heard that part). Nausea is not really a side effect. Score! Also, the day after the infusions I will get a shot to increase my white blood cells and ward off infections.

It is 4 cycles of TC starting Tuesday. 1 infusion every 3 weeks. So after 12 weeks I will be finished (and able to regrow my hair). She said that within 3 days of starting Chemo all my hair will be gone. The oncologist gave me a prescription for a wig. My nana wore wigs growing up and I am more weirded out to wear a wig than to lose my hair. Hats and scarves it is. (The oncologist insisted on me taking the wig prescription regardless)

I am happy that we are going aggressive with the treatment. I do not want the cancer to come back and I am glad we are doing everything to ensure that (Happy about chemo, well that just seems absurd). 

Hoping to look as good as this guy bald