"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Medical Updates Before Chemotherapy

This is going to be one discombobulated post. I know you're sick of hearing from me every day- believe me, I'm more sick of myself than you are! In fact, here's a few lines I wrote in my prayer journal yesterday...

"I'm so sick of myself. I can't stand the seriousness it takes to maintain this passion...How can I be joyful and aware? It's tiring to want to give and want to show support and want to tell everyone about You without feeling down about how depraved and diseased the world is. How diseased I am...I'm just plain sick of myself."

Ok- new topic...

I need to clarify some of the medical stuff. First of all, thanks to everyone who has asked about the medical side of things. I may not have answered your questions yet, but I love the interest you've taken in my particular sickness and your desire to help.

-I posted a while back that they found 2 positive nodes during surgery. Since then we've been corrected. It's 3. The doctors said it was two, assuming that I understood that the original sentinel node wasn't included in that count. 3 nodes were positive for the "c word".

-I've been 'hoorah'ing that my mastectomy isn't hurting. Yesterday my surgeon let me know that it's because the nerve endings have been deadened and that when they grow back/heal I'm likely to feel more pain and not even want to wear my prosthetic. The healing process for the mastectomy and lymphectomy could take up to a year. Hopefully I'll have gone through reconstruction by then though...

-We do not yet have an answer about radiation therapy. I'm right on the line of whether it's beneficial or not. My oncologist seems to think it would be good for me. However, we have to get opinions from radiation oncologists. But we've got time because this won't start 'till after chemotherapy.

Speaking of chemo- I will have 6 treatments. One treatment every three weeks. My drugs are Taxotere, Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide (TAC). Nearly every survivor of breast cancer I've spoken to with stage 2 or 3 has had 6 treatments of TAC, so I'm in good company.

A lot of you have asked what the side effects will be and how you can help during chemo...
My answers are "I don't know" and "I don't know." The doctors have given me a list of side effects (I'll include them below for anyone really interested) but they, along with my fellow cancer fighters have assured me that everyone is different and we won't know what chemo means for me until I actually go through round one. Which begins tomorrow...

I think we confused a lot of people by saying that my onc says I'm in remission. Most people keep asking why I'm still getting treatment. Here's my very non-medical explanation based on what I've been told: the visible tumors and cancerous tissues are gone. But my body is very likely filled with cancer "seeds." Without treatment to kill what we can't see, I would have a 85-90% chance of recurral. Meaning the seeds would keep growing and once again turn into the ugly tumors my drs love to call aggressive. PPPBbbbllllpppttt!! (That's me sticking out my tongue.)

How chemo will work- I'll go to my oncologist's office. Sit in a big chair, and let them stick a needle in this new lump in my upper right chest- my dreaded portacath- and then try to relax for a few hours while I get drugs to combat TAC and then the actual TAC, all intraveneoualy. My nurse said I am likely to get cold because it's a lot of fluid being pumped into me and it's all room temperature- well below my body's 98.6. But I've got a great blanket from the Teen Angels and I'll be wearing my new comfy and warm chemo outfit!

Paul, the coolest guy in Cypress, Texas (after my three Domino men, of course. Sorry Paul!) has also let me know that I might get a funky taste in my mouth. From what I've gathered so far, I am unlikely to have any other side effects on the actual day of the chemo treatment. (Which is good since I'm planning on being with my monthly bunco group later that night!)

The reason the care calendar hasn't been updated to ask for food is because we really have no idea when I'll be the sickest, and if it will land on a weekend when Terry has more time and can easily prepare meals or not. After this time around, (and since most people tell me the bad effects of chemo treatments build as you go) we will gladly accept help from all you generous people (and superb chefs!) again.

Prayer Requests:

That I'm a lucky blessed one and I fly through chemotherapy treatments with minimal effects. (I know, I know, asking for a lot!)

That I am open to those around me who are also receiving chemo treatments so I can show them a source of hope and Christian love. (Like I wrote above, it's becoming harder and harder to care about others when I feel so broken and just want to curl up in my bed with... oh, I don't know... a steak and baked potato (is that good food to eat in bed?) and watch marathons of The Real Housewives, Parenthood, or Friday Night Lights.)

Chemo Drugs and Their Possible Side Effects (this info comes straight from papers I got from my onc.) I haven't paid much attention to these side effects-- just like I ignore the labels on Tylenol. Some of it is likely to happen, some not. We'll see...

Taxotere belongs to a group of medicines known as antimicrotublar (say that three times fast) agents.

-hypersensitivity reaction: shortness of breath, flushing, low blood pressure, cough, and chest pain. You will be given premedications to minimize this reaction.

-skin rash, red scaly, swollen or peeling areas of skin, changes in skin color or nails.

-fevers, chills, joint pain, back pain.

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-sores in mouth and/or throat

-numbness and/or tingling of hands and feet, weakness, tiredness

-fluid retention, usually begins in legs but may be generalized.

-nausea and/or vomiting--usually mild.

-hair loss.

Adriamycin (aka the Red Devil) (really, that's written on my sheet)
Adriamycin belongs to the group of medicines known as antitumor antibiotics. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer.

-Urine color may turn reddish-orange during the first 48 hours. (A little weird that I'm sharing that with y'all!)

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-pain, redness, or swelling at the intravenous site caused from a leakage of the drug.

-rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or shortness of breath-sores in the mouth or on the lips

-increased sensitivity to sun, use sun screens when outdoors during the day.

-hair loss- complete

-darkening of soles, palms, and nails.

Cyclophosamide (Cytoxan)
Cytoxan is in a class of drugs known as alkylating agents. It is used to treat cancerous and noncancerous conditions.

-bladder irriataion and bleeding needs to be reported immediately. This side effect is rare. Force fluids (2 liters in 24 hours) before and after treatment. Empty your bladder every 2 hours after Cytoxan.

-mild nausea begins 2-4 days after infusion and may persist up to 24 hours; also may experience loss of appetite

-sinus congestion

-metallic taste

-decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) leading to infection and bleeding

-low sodium levels, may lead to seizures or confusion, uncommon

-hair loss (may begin two to three weeks after treatment)

-darkening of skin and nails

-missed or irregular menstrual periods

-potential fertility problems


  1. Thanks. 'Twas very helpful. I hope you document with Before-After-After pictures. I'm such a dork about picture taking, aren't I? (P.S. Did you see FNL is starting a new season next week?)

  2. Thanks for the info on the drugs. That was very informative and helpful for all of us on the outside looking in. Your BFF IS a real dork about pictures!

  3. That helped answer a lot of questions! Now we know EXACTLY what to pray for tomorrow and every day! Love you girl!!

  4. I found this site while looking for ideas to help you and it's been really informative! Apologies if you've already seen it-


    Good luck Sarah!! I will definitely be praying for you! I wish I could come to Bunco tomorrow! I miss all of you ladies!

  5. You have such a great attitude going into chemo and I am certain you will handle whatever is thrown your way with courage, grace and humor just like you have done so far. You are an amazing woman with a kicking new outfit to wear tomorrow who has more prayers being said for her than she can imagine.

  6. Good luck tomorrow-we'll all be thinking about you!!!

  7. You might be interested to know that taxotere causes permanent hairloss in around 1 in 16 women. There is a support group for anyone affected www.aheadofourtime.org
    Sanofi aventis keep this adverse side effect hushed up for obvious reasons.
    if you would like to read more about this you can read the latest article on
    There are many more. Its not to put anyone off having it, its just to make people aware that its happens more oftzen than they say!
    Good luck with your treatment
    Take care

  8. I agree with Em...take those pics! And I was quite fascinated by all the medical stuff so I appreciate you sharing. I'll pray that not only do you breeze through treatment but that you get to meet some amazing people during this time. God sometimes gives us very cool people in our lives during very weird periods of our life. Love you!

  9. It is ok to focus on yourself during this time. What you are doing is hard. You will be a witness to people simply by how you go through this struggle. God will be working in you during all of this. You will come out the other side ready to do what He has planned for you.

  10. I haven't commented on your blog before because we are in touch every day and we usually talk about it then. However, I feel compelled to comment today. I think this is a great forum for friends, family and acquaintances to keep in touch and support and sympathize and/or empathize with you. I enjoy reading all the comments and getting to know some of the people in your life better. And I know that you are already so knowledgeable and have done so much research on breast cancer, its treatment and the side effects. As I told you in one of your cards, cancer is meeting head-on a formidable opponent in Sarah Domino. You are so positive and have such a great attitude and that's sooo important in your fight. So I hope you take all the positive, caring comments you get on here and keep them in your heart and head for your down times. You have got such a great support system and it's more evident every day. And as you start your treatments today, I pray that you won't let any negative and/or unnecessary comments made here, however maybe well meaning, affect your sweet spirit and optimism for a full recovery. You will get there. I believe it with all my heart. Even if you DO have to wear a "hair hat" for a while like Micah says....

  11. Just wanted to let you know we are praying for you daily. I know God will bring you through this. Shaenelle should be arriving in Chile by now and they are praying for you as well. Keep looking to Jesus, HE will comfort and encourage you and your family. If there is anything we can do, just let us know. Love Ya =)


Your comments and emails keep me going. So keep 'em coming!