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!

Feeling Green – My Cancer Journey

Thursday I went back for my Neulasta shot. It was put into the chicken wing of my arm. Not bad, but a bit of a stinging sensation as it was injected. I went home, not certain what to expect.

Did I remember to take the anti nausea medicine as prescribed? No. I wasn’t feeling nauseous, so I didn’t think to do that. Bill and I also had quite the discussion about Claritin. Jolly, the pharmacist, had said to pick up Claritin for the bone ache from the Neulasta shot. Bill could not see what any of the ingredients for the Claritin had anything to do with aches and he did not remember Jolly telling us that the medical field did not know why it works but that it does There is some mechanism in the drug that helps with the pain. Bill and I argued about it then we ended up purchasing the generic brand. Did I remember to start taking the Claritin the day after my Neulasta shot? No.

Sunday I started to feel quite tired and  generally not well. Still no thought of taking my anti nausea medication or the Claritin. Monday morning, I got up, fed the pets, started to eat breakfast and started to feel really sick. Ran to the bathroom and knelt before the toilet god. I emptied everything there was in me.

Staggered back to the couch and tried to call my nurse navigator. But she wasn’t in. So I called my medical oncologist’s nurse.  She told me I needed to be taking the anti nausea medication every day. I was prescribed two and I was supposed to take one of them three times per day and the other one as needed.

While she was telling me that we as women need to stop feeling guilty about not taking care of others during this time, I felt my stomach heave. I was told I needed to take care of myself and sleep. I tried to blurt out that I needed to throw up again and while I was racing again to the bathroom, I hung up on the nurse and even though I thought I had emptied out pretty much everything, there was still a little something left that I managed to retch out.

I brushed my teeth and rinsed out my mouth. Crawled back onto the couch and fell asleep. At some point, I did take the anti nausea medication and nibbled on some crackers. Also managed to get some water in me. My body just does not like having drugs put into it.

The next day I felt better and I made certain to stick with the three times per day medication and the second one in between when my stomach started to twist. But at this point, my whole pelvic region ached. Everything around my hips was sore and ached. I called my nurse navigator and she asked if I was taking the Claritin like I had been told. Oops. My bad. I was supposed to take one Claritin a day right after the Neulasta shot. I was told to try Tylenol or ibuprofen for the pain.

I really do not like to take medication. I always end up with either/and/or dizziness, diarrhea, stomach upset, headaches and aches. But after that Monday, I religiously stuck to taking the anti nausea medicines. I hate throwing up. But then I guess everyone else feels the same way.

I started to feel better. But certain smells started to twist my stomach and I just kept away from them. My mouth started to get rough patches. I rinsed out my mouth with a special mouthwash my dentist had sent to me. The soles of my feet started to feel hot. I was tired. And I started to get really grumpy as I was waiting to see when my hair would start falling out. Each day I announced that I still have my hair. My son kept telling me not to stress out about it. I told him I wasn’t stressing, just remarking that I still have hair.

I still have hair, but it is starting to come out. Tomorrow I go for the second round of chemotherapy.

Medical Oncologist – My Cancer Journey

On to the medical oncologist. Let me tell you, having two or three doctor appointments in one week is not normal for me. At the end of this appointment, my head was pounding with information loaded but not quite wanted.

I will be with the medical oncologist for the next five years. I was told that my cancer was estrogen based which is good. From what I understand, this type of cancer is not aggressive, even though by the time my lumpectomy was done, it had gone into two of my lymph nodes.

The medical oncologist is putting me on 20 weeks of chemotherapy. I will be on Adriamycin and Cytoxan which is done by IV once every 2 weeks four times. Then I will be on Taxol which is done by IV once per week for 12 weeks. From what I understand I will be given Neulasta after the adriamycin and Cytoxan. This will be followed by radiation treatment for 6 weeks one month after the chemotherapy is completed.

Bill and I have not heard of any of these drugs except the commercials on television for Neulasta. I am really put off by this commercial as this woman has all her hair and she looks like everything is just hunky dorey. Yah right. How does she not have any of the side affects I was told about?

I was told by the medical oncologist that the first eight weeks will be rough. I will lose my hair. I cannot have my gel nails anymore because my nails will become brittle and break. I will have nausea and probably vomit although they will give me drugs to combat these symptoms. My teeth will be sensitive and possibly have bleeding from the gums so I will need a soft toothbrush and Sensodyne. By the time I get to the Taxol, I will lose all the rest of my body hair. The Taxol will make my bones ache.  I was told to be super aware of infections. I will need to thoroughly wash my hands all the time. Where does the woman in the Neulasta commercial get off by lying to us?

The medical oncologist drew pictures and made notes for me. She gave me a copy of her notes. I was told that since my cancer was estrogen related, I would be given drugs to suppress the estrogen levels in my body. I think the drug is anustrozole. This will continue for five years.

Information overload or rather, oh my! I have never been on so many drugs. I asked to see the area where I would have my chemo treatments and the doctor called my nurse navigator, Meagan.

She cheerfully took Bill and I upstairs to a room with six or seven lounge chairs. The room was bright and cheery with windows. A pleasant enough room where I will be for approximately three to four hours each visit. There is a small kitchen with various drinks and I can bring food. Each patient area has a curtain for privacy, should I want it.

Meagan was sure to give me information on support groups. Through the cancer institute I can have healing touch therapy, attend support groups, go to yoga classes, get counselling, attend various learning sessions which are all free to patients. Bill and I left feeling just numb. This is realer now. I really have cancer. But, but I just feel far too healthy to have cancer.

I don’t know how my body is going to react to all the drugs. I am such a lightweight when it comes to drugs. I tend to get upset stomachs and diarrhea from various antibiotics. I fall asleep from just the slightest sedation medications. I vomit after anesthetics. My body struggles for two days after sedations or anesthetics.

I was told to drink a lot of water during chemo. Well, I can do that. I was also told to eat smaller meals and more often. I can do that as I tend to graze all day, eating just small meals. Besides anything chocolate being my favorite food of choice, I love eating nuts. What do the people who made the Neulasta commercial think they are doing? That is not real, although I will try hard to stay as normal as possible.

On to the next appointment.

Oncologists – My Cancer Journey

Boy! Did I mess up with my understanding of what the radiation oncologist and medical oncologist does.

I met with the radiation oncologist first. This doctor let me know the difference between what he does and what the medical oncologist does. He called himself the clean up crew. He finishes up the cancer treatment after the medical oncologist.

He explained to me that I will see him for 6 weeks of treatment. I will have radiation treatments five days per week, Monday to Friday, for six weeks. Since two of my lymph nodes had been diseased, not only would the area where the tumor had been have radiation, but the lymph node area would also be treated for radiation.

I was told that the radiation could make me fatigued. Or not. He said that my skin would probably peel from the radiation. I would be given cream to apply prior to treatments and after. The entire procedure would take approximately 15 minutes. Set up usually would take approximately 15 minutes.

He told me that the medical oncologist would be looking after my chemotherapy and that I would be with her for the next five years. They would not start radiation treatments until one month after the chemotherapy would be completed. Since neither one of us knew what the plan was for chemotherapy, he said he would be in contact with the medical oncologist to know approximately when to expect my treatments to begin.

On to my next appointment.