Wednesday, May 31, 2023

I Am Now USB Capable (No, not really)

My chemo port was installed today. I had to be at the hospital at 6am to make sure paperwork got done in time.

Imagine my surprise when they told me that their intent for it was to put me in "twilight" but with my BMI, it wasn't an option, and they didn't have orders for being able to use general anesthesia.

In other words, I'd be awake for the entire procedure, with "moderate sedation".

Since my Oncologist, the scheduling nurse, the nurse who called to go over pre-surgery instructions, and the nurse who called with my appointment reminder told me I'd be awake for the entire procedure with "moderate sedation" I went into this thinking that's what was going to happen.

So basically they did what they'd been telling me they'd do, not the "Surprise!  Twilight!" that I was told they couldn't do.

Would have been a nicer surprise than sparkling vampires, but I digress...

They didn't give me anything for relaxation until I was in the OR. The entire time my brain still freaking out as it has been since the Oncologist told me about the port.

The meds definitely helped silence the part of my brain that was freaking out.  The "beesting" of the lidocaine injection was the most painful part of the procedure.  It was a pretty quick procedure, and a 45 minute period in 'recovery' followed before they let me go home.  I was home by 11am.

SIL drove me home, and I felt well enough to want to go ahead and work, but I behaved myself and took a nap instead.  Needed it after not sleeping the last two nights. 😂

I'm up and about, have taken some aleve, and put some ice on it.  The area's tender, but, doesn't look too bad. I did panic a little bit when I looked at it because the entire area was blue. Took me a few seconds to realize that the entire area was blue. I mean from my jaw down to mid-ribcage. Bright blue. I guess it's a bit of color so they can visually see what areas of the skin surface have been sterilized?  Either way, at first I thought there was some very serious bruising going on (thus the little bit of panic). It wiped off pretty easily too.

I have to leave the tagaderm on for 3 days. It's waterproof, so I'll be able to shower. No submersing it in liquid though.

If you don't have tagaderm (or some variation) in your home or travel first aid kit, I highly recommend it. I was introduced to it a few years ago and it is some amazing stuff. Not quite as easy to apply as a bandaid, but incredibly flexible, comes off without ripping off your skin, and lasts for days.

Relatively inexpensive on Amazon too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Illusion of Control

The chemo people called me today and we talked about everything I could expect with chemo and what was going on in the schedule.She spent an hour on the phone with me and I am SO APPRECIATIVE.

Apparently they were just placing holds waiting on the MUGA scan. I was a bit confused on this, because I thought I needed the chemo port to happen before chemo could even start, and I don't have my chemo port.

She explained they were going to do a PICC line if the chemo port wasn't in place. A PICC line basically means they're going to go in through my arm, and insert a long catheter down the vein until they get it into my chest where the larger veins are.

Yeh. No. I'm already freaked out enough about the chemo port, where they essentially do the same thing, but they start in the chest and go to the jugular. I don't need to be freaked out about this. I'll wait for the chemo port.

We negotiated. I realize that with cancer some control over my life is going out the door. My brain needs the illusion of control.

I also found out that I need to go have a blood draw a few days before every chemo treatment so they can check my blood levels.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Random Schedule Drops

Things started showing up on my calendar last night and I went into meltdown mode. I called trying to get answers, but all I could do was leave a message.

They have me starting chemo June 2nd. I haven't had the MUGA scan, or port installed.

Talk about anxiety being triggered. I like to have things nice and ordered on my calendar. I'm not a fan of 'unknowns' like this. What is going on?

I also talked to a therapist this morning, and I've realized three things that are going to be extremely hard for me:

  • I'm going to have to accept help from others
  • I'm going to have to learn to ask for help when I need it
  • I'm going to have to give up some control over my schedule

Anyone who knows me knows I have an independent streak.

I can do this. I just have to breathe.

What the hell is going on with this chemo schedule?

Monday, May 15, 2023

So. Much. Chemo.

I met with my oncologist today.  We'll call her Dr. O.

She went over the PET scan results in more detail with me, and "according to the math" my breast cancer is "Stage 1B".  I figured it was either a one or two, but she said the size or the tumors make it a 1B rather than a 2A.

For treatment the plan is

  • Doxorubicin + Cytoxan every other week for 8 weeks (so 4 rounds)
  • Taxol every week for 12 weeks (12 rounds)
  • Surgery 4-6 weeks later (lumpectomy!)
  • Radiation 4-6 weeks after that (no plan on how long yet)

Is this a lot? It feels like a lot.

This puts me at 20 weeks of treatment (or almost 5 months).

She said I'll need a port installed in my chest for the chemo to be run through, because it'll wreck the veins if they do it in the arms. I also need to pay attention to any tingling in my fingers because neuropathy is a cumulative side effect that can't be reversed. There's also the risk of heart damage. I'll need a MUGA scan to make sure my heart function is OK before they can begin.


She said I'd feel fine the day of chemo, and likely the day after, but then I'd feel "pretty crummy" like I had a severe case of the flu for two days. Following that I'd feel tired, but recovering.

I've never had the flu that I know of. When everyone else was getting the flu, I was getting fun things like strep throat and bronchitis.

I'm planning on working through it as much as I can. Sadly this means I'll be burning my PTO on cancer instead of being able to save it up for nice things like a vacation. The other option is taking a very long leave of absence, but I'd really hate that. I love my job. Most days 🤣

This is why we can't have nice things.

So much for my summer. With Covid being "over" I was looking forward to meetups, outdoor groups, and board game groups ramping up again. Instead I'll be immunocompromised and masking up.

Hell, the system already has me flagged as "immunocompromised" and they gave me the pneumonia vaccine today.

But then I'd rather be aggressive than having to do all of this again because we weren't aggressive enough.

That pectoral chain worries me. It all comes down to what is happening there.

I was supposed to finish my Bachelor's and start my Master's degree and go on a cruise in December to celebrate.

I'm pretty sure this means putting off the Master's degree until next fall.

I'm not even sure I'll get to graduate this fall.

And Dr. O didn't seem very confident that I'd be able to take my DC class.

I feel like everything I've been looking forward to this year is being taken away.

Friday, May 12, 2023

And We Have a Plan

Today was the visit with the surgeon, and it's as I suspected, there will be chemo. I did cry a little at that, but was already prepared for that answer.

The big reason for the chemo is because of the pectoral chain and just not knowing whether it's cancer in there, or not.

If surgery was first, they'd be removing the pectoral chain, along with both lumps (lumpectomy).

Instead, we're doing chemo first. She said it would be about every 3 weeks for a few months. I guess that sounds like maybe 4 or 5 sessions?  She's not the oncologist, so she didn't have that answer for me. The goal is to shrink the field of surgery.

About 4-6 weeks after chemo is finished, they'll do the lumpectomy to remove both breast cancer masses.

Another 4-6 weeks following that surgery, they'll be putting me through radiation therapy. She told me that'll be 5 days a week for at least three weeks.

She also confirmed that IVF/pregnancy will not be an option in my future. Hormone suppression will start at the end of this journey. I'm not sure if that means after chemo, after surgery, or after radiation.

If there's a bright side, I guess it's that I won't be needing a full mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

I meet with the oncologist Monday.

I've got this.

I'm going to lose my hair.

Am I even going to be able to take my class trip to DC?  I've been looking forward to that since early last fall. The surgeon feels pretty positive that I will be able to.

I need to know if I have to drop the class by May 17th.