Progress Preview

A quick one with the headlines:

  • Blood test (including needle) – done 🙂
  • Review with Dr W2 – done 🙂
  • Anaemia – bit better than Thursday (?!) and almost back to the level it was before Chemo 6 – hmmm.
  • Transfusion – not essential, and fit to fly 🙂
  • Chemo 7 (Taxotere 3) – DONE! FINISHED! 🙂 🙂 🙂
  • Side effects – on their way as we speak……………….
  • White cell booster – tomorrow (with needle – 😦 )
  • Chemo treat – decision made, procurement in process, wait for updates
  • Eyebrows – almost gone!!!  More about those disappearing rascals later…………
  • Fingers and fingernails – numb, tender and a not pretty – more about them later too….

Today, Dr W2 was on great form – very positive and happy with the way things are going.  I still have quite a few questions, but was highly encouraged at how positive he was about my progress.  And trust me, he is very direct and frank (for example about my lymph node involement and the need for a heavy Chemo course) so I know he does not believe in platitudes.  Duck billed or otherwise.

So there were are – 87.5% through the Chemo event and only one more chemo left.  If all goes well that will be on April 4.  Then I will be clambering over the wall and leaving the All Exclusive Chemo Club, and much as I am grateful to it, I never ever want to have to come back!

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The Haemoglobin Limbo Dance

A new factor to feed my anxiety this time is the likelihood of some intervention to deal with the decreasing haemoglobin levels.  They are doing their own limbo dance since Dr W said he would only do one more chemo (that was No 6) and see “how low they can go”. Thursday’s blood test showed that despite incredibly careful diet, piles of iron rich food and very careful attention, they have reached new depths.  Marvellous!

On the positive side, I have been able to find out a bit more about transfusions and the risks involved.  Transfusion is the mostly likely intervention as others are either less effective or carry different and greater risks.  As far as possible I have been reassured about the blood screening and other processes here, although I would still prefer not to be facing this choice.  Decisions are likely to be made tomorrow once a new vampire test is taken and the latest counts analysed.

I would be very suprised if they show any significant improvement which would merit a stay of transfusion.   Furthermore, it is pretty clear that the risk of not transfusing is quite a bit greater than transfusing the way things are at the moment.  For example, every time I travel between Yangon and Bangkok, I need a “fit to fly” letter from the treating Doctor to confirm that I am cleared as well enough to fly.  I learned yesterday that if the haemoglobin levels drop too much then at a certain level you are no longer considered fit to fly as there is a risk of becoming – something that sounded  like “hyperbombastic”!!  Being hyperbombastic on an aeroplane is not good apparently!

This is in addition to the risks which severe anaemia brings and the fact that chemo 7 may not go ahead with these low haemoglobin levels.

And I am not even considering that there could be any disruption brought by the ironically coloured crowds gathering in other parts of the city…………

So let’s see what tomorrow brings and where I shall be updating from at that point.

Follicular Update

I have not ranted about hair for a while, and surprisingly things keep changing so it is time for an update.  This was prompted when I noticed something rather odd a few days ago.

Today marks 20 weeks since I started chemo. It took just over 3 weeks and an intermediate short cut to lose the hair on my scalp.

I was and am still outraged that the hairs on my legs hung on for dear life and still most are obstinately in place. My response has been a refusal to depilate. Although as well as wanting to show them how cross I am, it is actually not wise to depilate as that can give an opening for infection.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that weird things are happening on my head. I have a soft, uneven down covering my scalp. It is around a centimetre in length on average, and mostly a very fair, non colour. Called blonde. It is not grey or white. That is a different colour – totally different. There are also quite a few dark strands scatted around. When I check the breast cancer forums online, I learn that other women have a similar fuzz. I have no idea what impact the taxotere is having on my hair as it is less than 6 weeks since the first taxotere cycle, and whether this growth is the start of hair of an interim duck phase.

The weirdest thing I have to report though is a sudden change in eyebrow behaviour. My eyelashes have been consistently patchy, and the lower ones very sparse, but the eyebrows have stayed in place. I have no idea what their game is at this stage, but I have developed bald patches in my eyebrows. Now what on earth is that about? And I am not talking about nice, even baldness – patchy horrible baldness amidst healthy brows! How gross is that?

And how unfair to wait until 20 weeks to throw this one into the game?

The Triathlon Perspective

I have just seen cancer treatment described as a Triathlon (or the Triathlon from Hell, actually was the direct quote) and it really made me smile – and think!!  There are various components to treating breast cancer, but for many of us there are three big ones.  So the Triathlon terminology with its connotation of three main physically demanding and mentally challenging elements sounds quite accurate.

The Breast Cancer Triathlon does not see us competing against each other, however, but rather we focus on completing the course against one common opposition.

For many of us on the Breast Cancer Triathlon, the three main events are – the Surgery Event, the Chemotherapy Event and the Radiotherapy Event.  Of course there are peripheral extras, such as the Port Insertion Procedure and Hormone and other Drug Treatments (such as Tamoxifen, Herceptin) and other activities to keep us from getting bored.  I could add the Twang Arm special event too.  But the biggies are without doubt those three, although we do not always tackle events in the same order.  It depends on diagnosis, pathology and an element of choice.

The surgery event was my first event.  I found it quite terrifying (before), had interesting dreams (during) and relief and discomfort (after).  Although it was the quickest event to complete by a long way, it is a significant hurdle, especially mentally, and the recovery stage requires considerable effort.

Now I am 75% of the way through the Chemo event which I find gets harder the further I go.  At this stage, I would call it the most gruelling and horrible event.  I am glad that I have rewarded myself at each of the hurdles – I am sure that has helped me to focus on the finish line for this part of the Triathlon.  The finish line of this second event is in sight but still I am not quite there.  It is a struggle to muster the staying power but I know I have to.

Beyond that I am starting to feel the need to prepare for the third event – the Radiotherapy course.  I am not exactly looking forward to it and do trust it will be less demanding than the current event.  I will celebrate course completion with the Tamixofen Treat – years of hormone treatment which is highly effective at keeping recurrence at bay. Not an event, but a kind of follow up.

So as I approach the end of the second event, I am trying hard to focus on completing the whole course and beating the opposition with all of your support and help!!!

The dark cloud of discovery

A dark

heavy

black

cloud

sweeps across my horizon

Coming from nowhere

Bringing a chill

of fear

My skin reacting

goose flesh prickling

as my fingers rest

on a

strange

alien

unwanted

bulge of flesh

where one should not be

where one wasn’t before

Unmistakable

and life- changing

******

The dark

heavy

black

cloud

thickens

squeezes

contorts

my stomach muscles

Stops my heart beat

Brings beads of perspiration

to my brow

and causes my teeth to chatter

with fear

as the radiologist

pegs

contours

of unwanted flesh

on a disembodied screen

and slowly taps

m

a

s

s …..

realisation

fear at a peak

mind spinning

She does not

stop

tapping

n

o

1

Mass

Number

One?

unimagined

unbelievable

dear gods

How can there be more than one?

******

Calm

knowledgeable

confident

kindly

amidst the

swirling black clouds

the Doctor

processes

evidence

images

He analyses

explains

the presence

of unwanted masses i

rregular shapes

And any

tiny

glimmer

of hope

of sunshine

is shattered

dispersed

enveloped

by his words

reaching through the swirling, black, overpowering clouds

crashing around my ears

changing my life forever

“highly suspicious of cancer”