Onwards to A New Medication

Anastrozole did not treat me very well. I was taking it for about three weeks when it knocked me a one-two punch that left me quite sick.

I got up one morning and it was a struggle. I definitely felt like I had had one bad drinking night. Getting up and walking was not easy. I felt like the room was spinning, I was nauseous. My head felt huge. I had bad diarrhea. It was like a bad stomach flu and a bad drinking night.

I emailed my oncologist and she said to stop taking it. Then after a couple of weeks, if I was feeling better, I should start taking it again. Well, in between all of this, I had the visit with the gynecologist and I was not going to take anything again until I could see my oncologist.

The first thing my oncologist told me was since I had diseased lymph nodes, I must take an estrogen suppressing medication. She told me the statistics are that the medication suppresses reoccurrence by 50 percent. There are four different medications that I can try. We now know Anastrozole is out. I am now on Letrozole. I was told the side effects were similar but she is hoping my body will be good with this one. She also told me that there are creams and gels that I can be given to alleviate the dryness in the vagina. However, she said not many of her patients experience this problem.

I then asked about doing tests to make sure that all the cancer is gone. I have many friends and my children who are asking this question. She said that they have done a battery of studies on people who underwent many tests after treatment compared to those who didn’t. They determined that there was nothing to indicate running tests after cancer treatment was beneficial.

My oncologist then went on to tell me how she loved my hair coming in. I told her it had a mind of its own. She has extremely curly hair and told me there are hair products for curly hair. She uses one that she puts on while her hair is wet and then lets it air dry. Not only does my oncologist give great medical information but really important information on hair products. Cool!

Tai Chi/Qigong and yoga

While still living in Canada, I took a number of tai chi classes. I enjoyed them but that was several years ago. Levine Cancer Institute offers free tai chi/qigong and yoga classes to its patients, survivors, care givers and employees. My oncologist recommended that I start taking a class.

I am glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the first tai chi class. Several people there were quick to let me know that it has taken them three years to remember all the patterns. Not sure how long it will take me. I learned a pattern called, Embrace the Moon. So many different steps, stands, hand movements, all moving together. Not easy but I can laugh at myself and my attempts.

Tai Chi and Qigong are very old forms of martial art. They combine breathing and slow, fluid movements to help restore balance in the body’s energy system. “Qi” (or “Chi”) means the life force or internal energy in our bodies.

The cancer related benefits are many. Tai Chi and Qigong can calm the mind and emotions. Although when you are first learning the movements, it can be frustrating. But if you are patient and keep watching, it will happen. I’m still not sure if I should just focus on my feet and then get the hand movements or what I should do.

Tai Chi and Qigong can improve balance and help prevent falls. I noticed I was focusing on my core and breathing with the movements. This is from my previous days in yoga, I think. So that helps. Also, many cancer patients suffer from neuropathy in the hands or feet. I am experiencing neuropathy in my feet. I have many knitting projects and have found the knitting has helped with my hands. I am noticing that the neuropathy is slowly getting less in my feet. Right now it is just in my toes, a really strange feeling. But I now know that this neuropathy will not last.

It can help reduce muscle and joint pain. Cancer patients suffer with this depending on the chemotherapy drugs given to them. I have noticed more joint pain, especially in my back where I have arthritis in my spine. And now that I think about it, my back felt much better after the class.

It can help promote clear thinking and focus. Boy! Is that true. You have to stay focused on the teacher and people around you or you will walk into someone and/or get run over. I know that I have complained many times about “chemo brain” from the chemotherapy. It is very true and not just old age creeping up on me.

It can increase flexibility and energy. The tai chi has slow, fluid movements which helps with stretching your muscles. I know my energy levels have been quite low from first, the chemotherapy, and now the radiation treatments. But the tai chi will help with that.

It can uplift your spirits and improve breathing. The teacher at the tai chi class kept telling us to smile with our breathing. The people in the group were very encouraging and positive. Surrounding yourself with positive people, helps your state of mind. Following along with all the movements also encouraged me to breathe properly.

All I know is that I really enjoyed the class and I am determined to keep up with it. I know that the tai chi and qigong will help with my core which will benefit my riding abilities. I know Gizmo will appreciate that. Now on to my yoga class!

*Please note that I am referencing an article written by Susan Yaguda, RN, MSN who is with Levine Cancer Institute.

Also, the teacher recommended a series of youtube videos by Dr. Paul Lam (when you google Dr. Paul Lam include tai chi after his name). The videos are free and he gives instructions on tai chi.

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.