LIVESTRONG:

What started as IDC (Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma) in 2011, then turned into CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) in 2013, probably partially caused by chemotherapy along with a genetic pre-disposition. Here we are now in March 2016 and I am newly diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the left breast and liver (LMBC - liver metastasized breast cancer).


So the focus has shifted yet again, BUT... I continue to THANK YOU for your prayers, love & support. I receive them with open & loving arms. My wish is that I will gain strength from you, will provide helpful information and strength to others & will help to strip away the fears we each experience.


I am strong. I am loved. I am healthy. I WILL SURVIVE!

Have you or your loved one had their annual mammogram? PLEASE, don't put it off. Speaking from experience, I highly recommend monthly self exam as well. And if you are now cancer free of breast cancer, do everything you can to insist that your doctors follow up with an occasional PET Scan and labs for tumor markers.

WARNING:
Contents may be uplifting, sad, funny, scary, downright depressing ~ THAT IS CANCER .... at it's best, at its worst.

PLEASE ~ Feel free to share this blog with anyone who is interested to learn about my journey. While I welcome their support, I hope that by sharing this experience freely to the universe I may help to support others by breaking down some of the barriers and fear associated with breast cancer and the treatment.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Chemo #18; Abraxane #10

It's hard to believe that I've been back to this cancer center and infusion room 18 times so far now for chemo infusions since March 1, 2016.  18!!! I never thought I'd be back here when I completed "the lost year" in 2011, a year of breast cancer treatment (chemo, surgery, and radiation). And then that year quickly morphed into a few more with heart failure to the point I was being counseled for a heart transplant. Thankfully my heart has improved significantly, but it will never be the same. And the heart failure is thought to be brought on partially by one of my chemo drugs from 2011.

You just never quite know what to expect when you hear those words "liver lesions consistent with metastases", especially when you went in thinking you had a kidney stone or stones. How will you react to the report that you have Liver Metastasized Breast Cancer? I don't think anyone really knows what they will do, how they will feel, or how their spouse, children, siblings, and loved ones will react. 

But when life throws lemons at you, you must make lemonade. And that's what life has thrown at me, so I'm squeezing them lemons. And no, I do not feel like I did anything to deserve this. I know this is just the luck of the draw; that cancer has no plan and can strike anyone at anytime. What I do not like the most, though, is the fact it came back the way it did. Because I know there are millions of other unsuspecting women who think that they have dodged a huge bullet when then complete their Stages I through III treatments, and feel so relieved that now they can get on with life. And then, just maybe, WHAMMY!!! But, maybe not, too. So we must go on living each day to the fullest.

Now I didn't intend to start out this Blog post with this. I had planned to go over my office visit details and changes. But when I sat down to write, and that first sentence hit the page, the rest just followed.

So now I will get onto my original intent...

I saw the Nurse Practitioner, Teresa Mortensen on Thursday. Dr. Anderson had a meeting. I've met with her two other times, and have always been pleased with our discussions, so no problem for me. Since I don't see her regularly, she went over recent history very thoroughly. I explained how the Capecitabine/Xeloda was approved and I was waiting on delivery. 

Capecitabine/Xeloda
  1. She suggests I be sure to tell my pharmacy I am taking it, since it is coming from a "specialty" pharmacy as it is not carried "by just any regular local pharmacy", in case of any conflicts with other meds. She reminded me of the most serious side effect, which is severe diarrhea, apparently to the point of dehydration causing hospitalization. If any diarrhea occurs, I am to stop the medication immediately and call my Oncologist. It may be that I'll just need a break for a couple of days, and then can resume.  
  2. I need to be sure and drink lots of fluids.
  3. There is a strong potential for hand & foot syndrome; so I need to slather hands and feet twice a day with lotions, such as, lubriderm or bag balm (a low alcohol, low perfume lotion). She also recommends I keep a close eye on the current heal peeling and tenderness I have been experiencing.
  4. Because of the hand and foot syndrome, I need to be careful of constricting clothing, jewelry, or doing any posture with knees or elbows resting on hard surface for prolonged period.
And there is a two-page list of other warnings that just arrived with the drug on Friday. Scary stuff!! 

I told NP Mortensen about the breast change, and how the blistering effect seems to be reappearing after it had shrunk down to almost nothing by early October. I expressed concern in my wanting to be able to keep up chemo on a weekly basis to get it back under control. She examined me and listened to my heart. Then we went over my blood work and apparently all the numbers were even slightly lower than last week: White blood count - 2.94 (normal is 4.6-10.2); Platelets 129 (142-424); Neutraphils - 29.1 (37-80); Hematocrit 26.9 (37.7-47.9); and Red Blood count - 2.65 (4.04-5.08);  HGB 8.9 (12.20-16.20).
Her concern is that I won't be able to do chemo next week at this rate. So we discussed the option of an injection to help my body boost up my blood levels so they don't fall further. Apparently there is some thought of doing less in this area, and Dr. Anderson has expressed such to me. But after consulting with her on this, we both felt it was necessary at this time. So I will return on Sunday and Monday mornings for a Granix injection each morning. Granix works by stimulating bone marrow to make more white blood cells. This effect helps lessen the risk of serious infections after chemotherapy. This injection can cause pain from the effect of pulling from blood marrow. Claritin is known to reduce the bone pain, or any of the other arsenal of pain meds I have should work as well. Hopefully when I return for chemo on next Wednesday, blood counts will be better.
NP Mortensen also asked about my appointment with Dr. Elboim, so I filled her in on these details as well.

Lastly, we discussed the thought of taking melatonin; both as a sleep aid and as another thing to help work on the cancer, after my consult with Danielle Schwaderer, ND. She did not see any contraindications with my other meds, but did suggest running it by my cardiologist as well.

So you can see, we covered a lot of information and again my head was swimming as we left her office and Sarah and I proceeded into the infusion room for my chemo infusion. And all went well there. I was very tired and thought for sure I would nap. But since chemo only lasts about 1.5 hours these days, we visited a bit, and I did some knitting on my Stonington Shawl. Then we headed into scheduling to set up a few more appointments and the Granix injections for Sunday and Monday.
 



YIPPEE... When we returned home from chemo, I received a call from Diplomat Pharmacy with the approval for my Capecitabine tablets (chemical name for Brand drug Xeloda. UPS should be delivering this special chemo drug Friday; and I will take two tablets morning and two tablets night, for one week on. Then take one week off; and repeat this regime. I have met my prescription dollar max for the year, so the drug is 100% covered by insurance, which is another "Yippee" in my mind. Now I just need to leave a note out since they require an adults signature to deliver this drug, and we may be both be away when it arrives.


And on Friday, the Capecitabine/Xeloda was delivered as anticipated. It is kind of scary to consider taking this drug, with all the warnings about side effects and symptoms. But on Saturday morning I will begin taking it.


Thank you all for your continued support and well wishes.





Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
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