It's been a long time since I've written an informational blog and I've been getting a lot of questions.
1.What does chemo feel like?
It doesn't feel like anything going in. There's still a loud pop and a sting when the needle goes in my port, but it's not much more than getting a shot. By the time I'm done getting all the meds and chemo liquids through my i.v., I'm tired, but on a bit of a high from steroids at the same time. The first two signs that it's hitting me are a headache and a smell in my nose that stays with me until about day 9 of the cycle. The smell is accompanied by a feeling in my head that I can't explain. As the days go on, I get nauseous. This is the worst. Everything tastes bad (even water!) and I constantly have a bad taste in my mouth. This usually goes away around day 10. But I've noticed that as the treatments progress, my taste is getting worse and worse and there are fewer and fewer things I can eat, even between cycles.
I get a lot of side effects that remind me of the last trimester of pregnancy: heartburn, tiredness, achiness, constipation, etc. My eyebrows and eyelashes are just now starting to thin. I haven't had to pluck my eyebrows in about 6 weeks. I shave my legs maybe every two weeks. My head is covered in mostly bald patches, but there are still some hairs that are hanging on!
I've noticed that these last few weeks since chemo #3 I've seen a big drop in strength. I was playing around with friends the other day and was shocked to realize that it takes all my strength to jump about 2 inches off the ground. And two days ago I was getting gas and was too weak to pump a full tank. Holding the nozzle into the hole drained me and I could only do half a tank! A bit disheartening to keep getting weaker and weaker...
2. What's this diet you're on?
Thanks to Paul's advice, I've been going to a nutritionist. He ran every possible test on me during my first visit. And because of the effects of the chemotherapy and my unrelated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, just about everything in my body is messed up: my cholesterol, iron, hemoglobin, red and white blood cell count, liver, gall bladder, creatinine, vitamin D, vitamin B1, B6, B12, glucose-insulin reactions, cortisol, progesterone, and because of PCOS my estrogens 2, 4, and 16 are completely off. So, I'm taking 29 pills a day. (Here's the list for you medical nerds out there: glutamine, metabolic synergy, B12 Folate, Vitamin D Supreme, C3 Curcumin, OmegAvail Ultra TG, CoQnol.)
All of that sounds really bad, but I'm assured it's not. I'm hopeful that the vitamins will knock my numbers back in order in 6 months or so and I'll get to slowly decrease what I'm taking.
He's also got me on a "lifetime" diet that is very low in sugar/carbohydrates (due mostly to PCOS, although many people believe cancer builds on sugar) and high in fruits and veggies. I'm eating more organic and trying to avoid preservatives. I rarely eat red meat and consume a lot more fish. All on doctors orders. (My onc. says that this diet will make me healthier "for sure" but doesn't propose that any of it will necessarily keep me cancer-free. From what I've read otherwise, I do believe diet and nutrition plays a big part.)
This nutritionist is "out of network" with our insurance, so anyone who has been SO wonderful to send us money, please know that this is probably where your gift is going. You're helping to keep me healthy!
3. Are you going to do radiation?
Yes. My onc recommended it. I visited a radiation onc last month and his opinion is that 4 out of 5 cancer docs would recommend radiation. I will be doing it in Cypress for 6.5 weeks every weekday. It's been weighing heavily on my heart what we'll do for childcare during this month and a half when I'll need to be out of the home for 1.5 hours every day. So please pray for that.
4. Then what?
After radiation we will make a final decision about reconstructive surgery. Since my BRACA tests were negative we won't remove my ovaries. Jury's still out on prophylactic mastectomy on the right side. I won't make a final decision on that until after another consult with a plastic surgeon. As far as reconstruction goes, I will likely have a TRAM flap operation. (as opposed to regular implants.) We don't know if we'll opt to do this surgery at the end of the year or not. While it is verrry appealing to get it over with in 2010, I don't want to be recovering during the holiday season. But, if we wait and do it in January then our medical deductible starts over. So timing here is unclear.
Then I will do treatment that I think my onc has referred to as "bone glue" before and we haven't really gotten into. It's a period of either shots or pills. And lastly comes five years of a pill called tamoxifen. At this point, if memory serves correct, I will have about a 70% chance of being in remission for good.
Whew! I think that covers your bigger questions.