This week two fantastic events: my last big chemo and no radiation treatments required!
On February 13th, my last big chemo took place – along with a celebration of this milestone. After the next few weeks, hopefully no more of the major side effects: nausea, total hair loss, muscle weakness, extreme tiredness. Still to complete are the remaining 36 weeks of the small chemo, the targeted treatment of Herceptin (the miracle drug for my cancer). Side effects are tiredness (sometimes extreme) and possible impact on heart function. Regular tests will be performed on heart function and infusions will be delayed to allow recovery (yes, the heart will recover, isn’t the body amazing?) and then treatment restarted.
On Valentine’s Day I met with Dr. Hatch, the radiation oncologist. A few months ago, our direction was very clear based on the symptoms of my cancer, radiation was required. What a difference a few months can make! Current research is ambiguous regarding the need for radiation with the symptoms … in fact, the side effects (some significant, particularly on the left chest side) outweigh the benefits and after extensive discussions about the new information, we (all the doctors on my case included) agreed to bypass radiation! This eliminates possible long term heart damage, skin damage, muscle damage, and emphydema, and reopens the possibility of simple reconstruction! Dr. Hatch left me with a big hug, wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day, and told me to take her off my list – I didn’t need to see her anymore. While she’s a great doctor, I can’t say I’m sorry! She even brought Dr. Powel into the room to begin reconstruction discussions again. My initial goal of bypassing radiation have been realized! Praise the Lord!
The next couple of weeks will continue with Herceptin infusions, then another MUGA test to measure heart functions. Dr. Washington (medical oncologist) will give me a couple of weeks off to allow my body to recover somewhat from the chemo, then we’re back on target for the remaining infusions. l’ll also meet with all of my doctors in March to determine remaining treatment dates and reconstruction options, including remaining surgery. The rest of 2014 will still be a major journey, but the toughest part is now done, YAY!
Random Thoughts …
Once you are diagnosed with cancer, once those words are said, your whole world shifts and changes. Those words can never be taken away. You are suddenly thrust into learning and making decisions in a world you are not familiar with. The medical team (doctors, nurses, advocates) all work with you, plying you with information, but it’s an evolving, learn as you go deal. You have to listen to your heart and learn your body and then go with what appears to be the best options. Remaining knowledgeable and involved in your treatment helps you during this journey. Having a strong support system also helps – family, friends, co-workers, and especially others on this same journey. No one understands what you are going through better than those who have been or are on this same path.
You just want to be treated normally. People tend to treat you differently. Too frequently the first thing out of someone’s mouth is “I’m praying for you”. Don’t get me wrong … I love prayer, I crave prayers, I need prayers … but I don’t want to be reminded all the time that I have cancer. I’m still the me I was before the diagnosis.
Halfway through this journey … it’s tough, but you can make it through. It’s life-altering, but not life-defining. You have to look @ the end-point, the light at the end of the tunnel. You are stronger … I am stronger … than you think. Three surgeries, multiple infections, pain, sickness, medications, weakness – all has made me stronger, helped me to realize what’s really important. Faith, family, friends.
This is not a journey you make alone. I do want to especially thank my sister Terry. While family has gathered around me and supported me, many are out of town and cannot be here. Terry is always there for every appointment, every chemo treatment, every infusion. A major commitment of time and energy, I can never truly let her know how much this means to me. While @ the infusion center, we often see patients there alone, week after week. This is not a journey you want to travel alone. There’s enough stuff you have to experience all on your own, but having someone right by your side makes it a little easier. Thank you and I love you so much, Terry!
This week has been a roller-coaster ride … but a great one! Major milestones met and conquered. I’m ready to move forward into the next stage, a little closer to that end goal. It may be some time before I can declare I am a “survivor” rather than a “fighter”, but I’ll take it!
❤ Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! ❤