Anastrazole

Going through this cancer journey can really do a number on a person. When it is breast cancer for a woman, what it does emotionally to a woman’s sense of sensuality, really hits hard.

First, you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Then a woman needs to make the decision to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I can’t imagine having a mastectomy and going through the healing process. A lumpectomy still leaves a scar and I also have scars from the lymph node removal but the breast is still left with a permanent reminder.

As a woman goes through chemotherapy, there is the hair loss. Total hair loss over the entire body. Men love women with long hair. Hair has such power with women. Beautiful long tresses. Thick, full hair. Gone. Eyelashes, eyebrows, gone. All body hair gone. Then the next step is radiation that burns the skin. Everything is tender and sore after the chemotherapy but then to lie in a room where no one but you is there, listening to the machine zero in on the spots in your breast and armpit, leaves one feeling exposed and cold and alone and unfeminine.

Chemotherapy and radiation is done. There is weight gain which has made me feel terrible and I am now on a strict diet. The hair finally starts to grow back. Eyelashes were huge for me. The lashes are not all there yet but they are coming. The eyebrows have come back and the hair on my scalp is doing whatever it wants. I don’t want to put any creams into my hair to control it. Then it will look flat. And I don’t want to go with the spiked look.

My oncologist put me on Anastrazole, an estrogen suppressing medication. But after two weeks of feeling extremely headachy, dizzy, lightheaded, wanting to throw up and having bouts of diarrhea, my doctor agreed to let me get off and see how I do. Another requirement was for me to see a gynecologist to have my remaining ovary removed. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 40 due to complications.

I saw that gynecologist today. We went over my health history and then he talked to me about Anastrazole. He said it is a powerful hormone suppressing medication. He also said that it will dry up my vagina into a little knot and be painful. He said sex will be impossible. After I said, I had no idea, he said I need to talk to my oncologist about these estrogen suppressing drugs and get all the facts before I make the decision to continue or not. We also discussed having my ovary removed. We will go ahead with this.

I left the gynecologist and burst into tears as I was driving home. It feels like I am being punished. First this breast cancer where I am still struggling to feel feminine. Where I am struggling to think I might be attractive. Those are all very real feelings and it takes time to work through all of them. But now this. Urinating will cause pain. The vagina will be in pain and no sex. I didn’t know. I was relying on my oncologist to tell me. I want to be able to make an informed decision. Especially since it will be affecting such an enjoyable part of life. I will be calling for an appointment where I can get the statistics and find out what the percentages are. Right now, I feel like a truck has hit me. I don’t know if I will ever feel like a sensual woman again.

Taxol – My Cancer Journey

It is now 2018. The start of a new year. I am into my Taxol treatments. I am scheduled for 12 treatments, once a week over 12 weeks. I will be heading into my fifth treatment on Friday. So far, so good.

I am not as tired as I was. The Adriamycin and Cytoxin with Neulasta treatments were rough. But the Taxol is much easier. I am experiencing a burning, tingling sensation on the soles of my feet but this is only at night and it isn’t constant. My hands have a slight tingling and burning sensation but not worrisome. As long as I can continue knitting and crocheting, I am happy. My mouth is tender and sore so I have switched to Sensodyne which is helping.

Most of the hair on my body has disappeared. My eyebrows are faint and I still have eyelashes. Yeah for eyelashes. I was seriously considering fake eyelashes but I know that I am not very steady or picky and I would end up with crooked eyelashes. I looked into the magnetic eyelashes but the reviews on those are not consistent. Some of my friends suggested I should draw on eyebrows. I could put various angles on the eyebrows which would leave Bill wondering how I was feeling. I could put on angry brows, surprised brows, puzzled brows, or just straight across. Hmmm. Will have to think on that.

We are now experiencing a deep chill here in South Carolina. Temperatures are below freezing. Not good for a woman with no hair. You really become sensitive to the cold with no hair. Even though what hair I had, was thin, it was still better than no hair. My poor horse won’t be seeing me until it warms up a bit. I just can’t do outside. I am prone to bronchitis and I just don’t want that right now.

As for my probe, I mean port, I have been experiencing tenderness and it is sore. The last couple treatments, the nurses had problems drawing blood from my port. Every time the nurses clean off the area with the alcohol, it turns my stomach. I turn my head away every time. But I think the smell of the alcohol will always stay with me and not give me pleasant memories.

All in all, I am feeling better. I even made the comment to Bill that I thought I was better off health wise than Bill. Seriously. But there is an end in sight for me. Once these Taxol treatments are finished, I will get one month of rest and no treatments before the radiation treatments being. Five days a week for six weeks. Bill and I are wanting to get away for one week before radiation begins. Bill and I need to have some alone time with each other. Just relax and rest without thinking about cancer. Without thinking about Bill’s injuries. Somewhere warm with the sun on our faces. I can almost feel it.

Seriously? Pimples? My Cancer Journey

This has got to be a joke. I mean, seriously. Really. Pimples.

Here I am in my late 50s, battling breast cancer and what happens? A number of pimples decide to show up on my chin. I had to rub my eyes and get my reading glasses. Yup! There they are. Three or four pimples on my chin.

This is so not funny. One would think that the cancer drugs that have been injected into me would take care of something as stupid as pimples. I mean, I am filled with drugs that are labelled “Hazardous Drugs”. The nurses put this stuff into me. It’s supposed to get rid of any and all cancer cells. But I guess not pimples.

I rubbed my chin just to be sure and yes, they are pimples. Daring to show up on my skin. This is insane. Ludicrous. Stupid. I mean, for crying out loud. Am I not past the point of still getting pimples? I guess not.

Well, whoever decided to blast my chin with pimples, I hope you are having a good laugh. Bald head with pimples on my chin. Great. Just great. I suppose you can’t mistake my head for a cue ball. What cue ball has pimples? Me. Just so ridiculous.

Auf Wiedersehen – My Cancer Journey

I started taking my anti nausea medication the very next day after the second round of chemotherapy. I still did feel nauseas even with the medication. My energy level was very low. I slept most of the night away Thursday. Riding my horse Friday morning, left me very tired.  But I had decided to make a decision about my hair. It was coming out. There is no way my hair would be spared. If I thought Monday to Wednesday was bad, Thursday and Friday were horrific.

Friday morning after my shower, there was a lot of hair by the shower drain. So much so, that it looked like a small mouse. Then when I combed my hair, there was so much hair in the comb, well, I cried. I put some in a pile beside Bill’s sink so that he could see how much I had lost.

This was it. I decided that after my Neulasta shot, I would go to Great Clips and be done with it. That is me. When I decide something, I do it. I do not let the grass grow beneath my feet. This does not always work out well for me but, unfortunately, that is the way I am and I was done with crying every morning.

Arrived at Great Clips and told the stylist that I needed to have my head shaved. I told him my hair is coming out and I just wanted to be done with it. There were two stylists in the store at that time with one other customer. I was seated and the stylist asked me twice if I was ready for this. I told him I was fine. I did not want to think about this any more. Just do it.

The hair came off really quickly and, surprisingly, there was no sudden gasp or scream or tears or any kind of feeling when I saw my bald head. The stylist told me I had a really nice head, not uneven or a weird shape or anything. I slowly reached up and touched my scalp. There still are hair bristles as the stylist could not shave right down but the hair is gone.

I looked behind the chair to see my hair. I was kind of surprised that I was calm. That I could look at my hair on the floor and have no emotions. Nothing.  Just a firm realization that it needed to be done. I asked the stylist to take a picture of me bald and then wearing the two wigs I had purchased. He was very kind and did so.

The female stylist told me about a young friend who was battling Stage 4 breast cancer and had thick long hair. She shaved it off for her friend when she started chemotherapy. It really hurts me to hear when young people are battling such aggressive types of cancer. I feel I am lucky.

My stylist picked up some of my hair and put it into an envelope. He said it would be a great keepsake which I was thankful for. I got hugs all around and left Great Clips wearing one of my turbans.

I look at myself in the mirror now and I am surprised by the bald head. Surprised a little. Not shocked. Not overly emotional. I have cried a couple of times. This cancer has stripped away some of my feelings of a sensual woman. I now have a puckered left breast. The lumpectomy incision healed but it has made a pucker in the area. Now my hair is gone.

I wonder what my husband thinks when he looks at me. I mean, he has to be feeling something. He says he liked my hair. But now it is gone. Cancer does not just affect the person battling it. Cancer also affects the people around the cancer patient. There is nothing they can do to ease the pain or the emotions or the fatigue or all of the other side effects from the drugs that are bombarding the cancer patient’s body. Well, there is something they can do. Treat us with love, and respect and patience.

Second Round – My Cancer Journey

My second round of chemotherapy went well. I forgot to put the lidocaine ointment over the area of my port. But the nurse is very good at inserting the line and I felt more pressure than anything else. So, no biggie that I forgot the numbing agent.

My blood work came back with good results so my second round of chemotherapy began. First filled up with saline solution. Then two different sets of anti nausea medications. I am not certain why the red “Hazardous Drugs” labels on the Adriamycin screamed out at me this time. I just kept thinking, yes, that is going to be pushed into me.

I was just so tired. I was trying to knit or read and couldn’t. I kept falling asleep. By the time the cytoxin was being dripped into my body, I felt a little more awake. But by the time I got back to the car, I fell asleep on the drive home.

Bill and I went out for dinner and when we got home, I managed to feed the pets, wash the dishes and then sat down on the couch and was gone. We had picked up more anti nausea medication and I took that but by 9:30 pm I crawled into bed and was gone for the rest of the night.

After listening to one woman describe how her hair was now returning and asking Megan, my nurse navigator, about losing hair, I had pretty much decided to wait until the next day and see how much hair would be gone.

Megan said that a number of women did hair cutting parties where they just had their hair cut short. Then there were other women who waited until their hair fell out. Then others, went ahead and had it shaved off. Great Clips does a Clips of Kindness promotion for cancer patients. Great Clips will shave your head for free. Just too tired now to make that decision. That could wait until the next day when I had to go back to the hospital for my shot of Neulasta.

Chemotherapy – My Cancer Journey

It was here. The first day, the first round of chemotherapy. My best friend and her daughter had arrived the night before and went with Bill and I to my appointment. I was frightened. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was so glad Elizabeth and Delaney could be with me.

We first met with my medical oncologist. Bill had applied the lidocaine ointment over the probe for me. I unfortunately managed to get some on my tongue. Yes, this stuff works.

I wasn’t surprised that my blood pressure was elevated. The nurse wasn’t either. The nurse inserted her needle and drew blood. Did not feel a thing until Bill asked the nurse if she could use a larger post the next time. What a man. The nurse left the iv in, sent the blood work off to the labs and we made our way to the infusion room. Infusion room.

It was a busy place. From what I remember, all the chairs were full and I took the last empty one. Large windows behind me. Glass panels on the ceiling with pictures of leaves and the sky. But none of this could detract from what would be happening and was happening to everyone there. The nurse told me they had to wait for the results from the lab before they could get started. The wait times on this varied greatly. If my blood work was good, then they could proceed. The nurse warned me that if at any time my blood work was not acceptable, I would be sent home and asked to come back in one week. Well, that was not going to happen today since this was my first treatment.

A large saline solution was plugged into me. The nurse told me I would be filled with two different types of anti nausea medicine before the chemo drugs. I was told that Zofran causes constipation and that I should alternate between the two drugs. The nurse also showed me the chemo drugs. The first one, Adriamycin, was red in color. The second one, cytoxin, was clear.

The lab results came back clear. Two different anti nausea medicines were given to me via the port. I had to wait 30 minutes once it was complete. Then the nurse put on a gown and gloves and sat beside me. I was told that she had to watch as the Adriamycin was being pushed in that it did not come back out. It took her seven minutes to push the red stuff in. Then I was told I would be given the next drug in 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes later, cytoxin was hung on my iv and it dripped into me after 30 minutes. I was unhooked from the tubes and sent home. I was given instructions to return the next day at 4pm for the Neulasta shot. It would be given into the chicken wing part of my arm.  Except my chicken wing is not so flabby. I am proud of that. Grooming, lifting saddles and riding does that for a person. An easy shot that would take 5 minutes in all.

We went home and I was fine. Tired but fine. Okay, I thought to myself. This is okay. I can do this. I will be fine. Thank goodness I told my medical oncologist that I am a real lightweight with medications. I throw up easily. I get diarrhea. I don’t know if it is my mind that is fighting the medications or my body. Either way, I know myself and that I am a lightweight. I was not prepared for what would happen in the following week.

Wigs and Turbans – My Cancer Journey

I started looking into wigs and turbans. Bill picked the blonde one and I picked something a little more adventurous. The long, light auburn wig. When the wigs arrived, I tried them both on. Then sent pictures to my family to ask for their opinion. My son was the only one who liked the auburn. Everyone else preferred the blonde wig. Bill told me the auburn one looked like she would cruise bars.

A number of wig sites are available for hair loss. When I looked at all the different options, the prices are expensive. There are a lot of wigs made of human hair. I just was not certain about purchasing such an expensive item for a short period of time. My oldest daughter actually grew her hair and then had it cut off to be donated to be made into a wig. She has beautiful hair and I was truly touched that she would do that.

A friend of mine then told me about the Paula Young website. A lot of wonderful wigs at a fraction of the price of other wig websites. These are the wigs I ordered. Just two. I am determined that this is all I will need.

I also ordered a number of turbans. Nothing that I would have to tie. Just have cute colors that I can put on my head. I researched a number of sites and went with bamboo made turbans. We have bamboo pillows and we love the feel and softness of the bamboo. The pillows do not get hot or cold. The temperature stays the same. I thought having something like that on a sensitive scalp would be the best route. The turbans arrived and are cute.

All my friends and family have told me to have fun with the wigs and turbans. Be creative. Be cute. Be adventurous. I know they are trying to be very supportive and helpful. I know they are being encouraging. But still. It is my hair that I will be losing. I don’t know how I will react when the hair starts falling out.

 

Cleared to go – My Cancer Journey

The final appointment before chemo treatments would start was with my surgeon. Bill said everything had healed well and it appeared as if the incision was finally sealed.

We saw her on Friday and she examined my incision. She looked at Bill and asked him what he thought. He told her that he thought it was healed but that he would defer to her opinion. She smiled and said she concurred with him. She also told him that he had done a great job of taking care of my incision.

We then made an appointment for 6 months time to see when I should have my mammogram. She said she wasn’t certain about the left breast but the right breast would definitely need the mammogram. We would then decide on the next steps for mammograms.

A sigh of relief that the incision was healed but a sigh of trepidation and anxiety. Chemo treatments. Hair falling out. Fingernails breaking and becoming brittle. Mouth sores. Achy bones. Nausea. Diarrhea. Constipation. Sleepiness. My body feeling like it was being punched around. The thought of having all these chemicals in my body was stressing me out.

But the greatest joy I was trying to focus on were my husband, my children, my family, friends and my pets. My son and his wife came for a visit one weekend. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend came at the same time. This was the best thing for me. To have them around me, laughing, talking and enjoying each other. Waiting for the birth of my first grandchild is giving me so much joy. I just pray for a safe delivery and that my daughter and her child are healthy. These are the things I need to focus on to help me through this.

I think I am finally getting it that I have cancer. I wouldn’t be having all these appointments and treatments if I didn’t have cancer. But it still just feels all so surreal. Reports are that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. That is such a high number. So many women. So much fear, pain, suffering and loss. I suppose there is a reason for all of this. I don’t know what it is. I just know I can’t do this without knowing God is in my life.  One day at a time with my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my pets and with God.

Probe – err – Port Placement – My Cancer Journey

I was nervous about having something foreign put into my body. It’ll be great – I was told. You will love it – I was told. I was not sure about this. I felt like aliens would be putting a probe into me with a tracking device.

Bill’s sister, Susan, took us to the hospital early that day. Bill was still on brain rest and could not drive. He was still suffering from dizzy spells. Don’t we make a pair? She dropped us off and we went in to the hospital. We did not have to wait long and I was taken to a bed to get into a hospital gown.

Bill was given a not very comfortable chair to sit in. I was hoping he would have something more comfortable so that he could sleep while he was waiting for me. But, Bill can pretty much sleep anywhere.

I was, again, given an iv. I think I am starting to feel like a pin cushion now but this nurse inserted the needle so beautifully, that I did not even feel it. It was wonderful. The nurses I had today asked which side the lumpectomy was done on and were very good about doing everything on the right. One of the nurses placed sticky pads on my back. Both nurses noticed my butterfly tattoo on my back and asked about the ball and chain. I told them the butterfly breaking free of the ball and chain was in celebration of my divorce. Both nurses laughed and were complimentary of my tattoo. I told them I was thinking of getting a tattoo once my chemo and radiation treatments were  done to represent me being a breast cancer survivor.

I was reminded that I would be sedated today. I told them I would be asleep. They asked about anti nausea medication and I told them I would probably be nauseous. I was given more medication and then told I would be sleepy. I do remember being wheeled away for the procedure. I do remember scooting over to the operating table. I do remember seeing two men who said they would be taking care of me and putting the probe, I mean, port into me. Then I do not remember anything else.

I was back with Bill. He kept telling me to drink the water and eat the crackers. There was a table in front of me with the items and I said, okay. I drank some water, ate some crackers and said to Bill, I am going back to sleep. He said to me, oh no you don’t. You need to stay awake now. I told him I don’t want to. I want to sleep. He got a little anxious with me and told me I needed to finish off the water and crackers and get dressed. Apparently, when the nurses first wheeled me back and told me to wake up, I just laughed at them. As I kept sleeping, they were getting concerned and thinking about admitting me to the hospital.

Well, I managed to finish the water and crackers and got myself dressed. I did say to Bill, are you happy? But then I do not remember at all how I got to the car. Joe, Mary’s husband, picked us up at the hospital. I just remember climbing into the back of his car, buckling myself in and saying to both Bill and Joe, I am going back to sleep. I managed to lie down on the back seat and promptly fell asleep.

Joe tried to help me out of the car when we got home and I told him, I’m okay. I managed to walk into our bedroom, got into my pajamas and crawled into bed. I had the best sleep and finally struggled out of bed at 6pm. The procedure had been done at 8am that morning. So what is wrong with just sleeping away the entire day?

I cuddled with Bill on the couch. There was a large plastic see-through bandage covering the port. I also had an incision close to my neck. My neck hurt and was strained. I think the doctor turned my head in such a way during the procedure to be able to get good access at my throat to place the tube. At any rate, my neck was stiff and sore for a good five days after the placement.

Bill was told that I could not shower for 48 hours. The bandage could not get wet. But after the 48 hours, I could shower and remove the bandage. The steri strips covering the port needed to stay on for at least five days. When Bill removed the bandage, I had two areas around the bandage that were red and very sore. Poor Bill had to take care of my lumpectomy incision and now this area. Both areas grossed me out but I did manage to put Neosporin on the sore bandage areas. I thought my skin was allergic to the bandage. Bill thought it was from the tension due to how tightly the bandage was put on to cover the area.

I was getting that much closer to the chemotherapy treatments. I still had an appointment with my surgeon in regards to the lumpectomy incision. It would be her decision if I could proceed with the chemo.

Chemo Teach – My Cancer Journey

Next was chemo teach. Bill and I were scheduled to meet with the pharmacist, Jolly. I was amused by the name because I didn’t think chemotherapy was very amusing.

I was told by everyone at Levine Cancer Institute that I had to have all blood pressure readings and blood work always done on my right arm since I had four lymph nodes removed from the left side,  There would be a possibility of some kind of lymphitis or something like that happening and I would always need to be aware of having medical procedures done on the right arm forever more. Jolly reminded me about this.

Before our appointment with Jolly, a nurse came and took blood from me (on the right again – not yet feeling like a pin cushion). I was told that this would be the baseline before chemo started. She took four bottles of my blood with her.

Then Jolly arrived with a handout. She told me about the chemo drugs I would be getting. She told me about every single side affect that I may or may not experience, but probably would. We went over my health history and Jolly was happy (ha, ha) that my health history was really good. There was concern over my asthma and my osteoporosis. I was diagnosed with asthma after the allergist I saw noted that having bronchitis almost yearly was probably due to the fact that I had asthma. Hence, I now have an inhaler that has dust on it.

We talked about my nausea and that I would be given anti nausea medication prior to chemo. Jolly prescribed Ondansetron and Promethazine for nausea and vomiting. I was also prescribed Dexamethasone which is a steroid. Lidocaine is an ointment that I am supposed to put over the port site one hour prior to chemo, then put a piece of Saran Wrap over it. The Lidocaine apparently numbs the area, however, Jolly said cheerfully that some people love it and others say it doesn’t help at all. (Why does Jolly have to be so truthful?)

We talked about how prior to the chemo injections, the nurses would draw blood from me to make sure the drugs weren’t causing problems. If there were problems, my chemo treatment would be pushed off for one week. From what I remember, the first chemo drug would be “pushed” for five minutes. The second drug would be “pushed” over thirty minutes. I think I blacked or maybe blanked out at some point during this. I was relying on Bill to catch all of this but with his brain bleed his short term memory is rotten. I would have to read through the handout. Sigh.

We were told each chemo treatment would take approximately three to four hours. Jolly talked about Neulasta and that I would have to return to the hospital the very next day for this injection. The commercial about Neulasta is not realistic, at least I am not comfortable with it. I would prefer to return to the hospital and have a nurse make sure this drug is being properly injected and that I am getting the full dose. What is Neulasta for? By this time, I am really hazy about all the drugs and just know that the Neulasta will probably make me sick to my stomach.

Again, Jolly cheerfully went over every side affect that I could potentially have, along with the fact that the risk of infection is extremely high during treatments. Oh joy, Jolly! I got it. During chemo, I really need to see my horse.  I will wear a mask and gloves, if I have to, to see my horse. Gizmo and my children and my husband are good for my heart. Although, Jolly told me I might become irritable. Lucky Bill. He is hoping to go back to work soon.

Bill and I left the appointment, our heads swimming with all the information we were given. The next day, I was scheduled for my probe, I mean port, placement. I am convinced the port also has some kind of tracking device in it. This was all becoming too real.