Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I've been waiting for this post for a long time!

First of all let me give you an update from my last post...

I did not end up having the pericardiocentesis last week. Once I got to the hospital they did another echocardiogram and the doctor felt that the fluid had actually decreased slightly. He was worried about there being too little fluid to do safely without hitting my heart and felt that a surgical drainage and biopsy would be the better route. After talking with my oncologist we have decided to hold off on that for now. She thinks that one of my medications (the Taxotere) could be the cause, but she has only seen that happen once before. Right now she has me on a course of steroids for the next month to see if that will fix the problem and I have a repeat echocardiogram scheduled for the end of August.

Because she thinks the Taxotere could be the cause of the fluid, she decided to let me skip it last Friday! I don't need to delay it at all, I just didn't need to get the last dose thank goodness! I did still receive my Carboplatin (the other chemo med) and the Herceptin (the medication I will continue until April), and as of right now I am very happy to say that


I have been waiting to type those words for a long time! Looking back there is part of me that feels this has been the longest 3 1/2 months (5 really) of my life, but there is also part of me that feels the time went by relatively quickly. While this experience definitely hasn't been easy, I have to be honest and say that it was not as bad as I was expecting (probably because I was expecting the worst). What surprised me the most what how much of a "normal" life I was still able to live. I never had to call in sick or go home early from work. I still exercised almost every day. I still saw my friends and family and just kept focusing on living life as much as I could. There really is a part of me that feels that I can get through anything if I can make it through all of this.

I celebrated my last day of chemo at a Twins game with my coworkers on Friday night. We made a "Circle Me Bert" sign and it worked...I was "circled" sometime around the 6th inning! The rest of the weekend wasn't actually very good...the nausea was worse than any of the previous cycles. Today I am happy to report that I am feeling (mostly) back to normal.

It would be really great if all of the ridiculously annoying side effects from chemo would just instantly resolve after the last treatment, but sadly I know that's just wishful thinking. I should start to see some hair growth in about a month or so. I plan to document with lots of pictures! My nails are brutal right now so I will be patiently waiting for them to grow out. The numbness and tingling in my hands and feet might persist for quite a while. I am really excited for my energy levels to get back to normal, my skin to not be so dry, and to come out of menopause!

The next two months are now filled with a lot more appointments. My Monday afternoons off are filled until October! I will be meeting with my plastic surgeon in a few weeks to discuss my second surgery (where the tissue expanders will be removed and the actual implants placed). Realistically I won't be doing that until around mid-October.

I really can't even begin to thank you all so much for all of your love and support through this entire process. The kindness that has been shown to me by not only my family and friends but also complete strangers has been completely humbling. I only hope that I can do my part to pay it all forward. This journey isn't over for me yet, so I will keep the updates coming!

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fear and Frustration

As I write this post I have a lot of different emotions and thoughts running through my head.

Right now I should be thrilled that my last round of chemo is only a few days away, but that joy is currently being overshadowed with fear and frustration.

If you read my last post you know that my second echocardiogram showed a growing pericardial effusion that I needed to meet with a cardiologist to discuss. Well I had that appointment on Friday afternoon. He said that the fluid is most likely caused by inflammation, but there is a small chance that it could be related to a spread of the cancer. He wants to be sure, so he recommended that I have a pericardiocentesis. This is a procedure done in the cath lab under conscious sedation. A needle will be inserted into the sac surrounding my heart and the fluid will be drained and sent to the lab for analysis. It is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

I won't lie, I am very nervous about the procedure. I'm also incredibly nervous about the results. I know the odds are that it is not related to a spread of the cancer, but that doesn't always mean much to me anymore since the odds were that my breast lump wasn't cancer either. I guess I just wasn't expecting to have to worry about something like this so soon. I will definitely keep you all posted.

Since my last treatment I have overall been doing ok. Last Thursday I went in to be evaluated for a blood clot. I developed an area on the back of my calf that was painful, red, and warm. Those are all symptoms of a clot, but fortunately it ended up being cellulitis (an infection of the skin). I have been on an antibiotic and the symptoms have been resolving. I have also developed an infected fingernail for which the antibiotic seems to be helping as well.

I am still trying to stay hopeful and positive about everything, but lately it has been more difficult. I am really just frustrated with being a patient. I have had at least one appointment for something every single week since the end of February. Prior to this I have always been pretty healthy, so the past 5 months have been quite a change.

I am just really ready to be done.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

17 days and counting

A lot can happen in 17 days.

One thing I know for sure is that 17 days from now I will be getting my last session of chemo (let's hope for good).

It's a little strange to look back on the experience now. I just realized that 17 days after my first treatment was when my hair started to fall out. Those 2 1/2 weeks certainly went by fast, so hopefully these next 2 1/2 will do the same.

This cycle I made the one primary mistake a chemo patient should never, EVER do, and that is forget to take your nausea medication.

Derek and I went to a movie Saturday afternoon and I thought I had the pills in my purse, but as in typical, chemo-brain fashion I actually left them sitting on the counter. Instead of taking my medication every 6 hours I had to stretch it out to 8 which lead to more nausea than I had previously experienced. I was still very lucky and never actually had any vomiting, but it felt like I was playing catch-up for almost 24 hours with the medication.

Other than that there have not been any new symptoms. I still get very restless and anxious from the Compazine I take for nausea. My new favorite routine on Sunday night post-treatment is taking my sleeping medication early and getting 10 hours of sleep (it's fabulous)!

One new development is actually my heart. I had an echocardiogram a few days before starting treatment in April. I was told everything was normal but have recently found out that there was actually a small pericardial effusion (fluid collection surrounding the heart) found. At the time it was small and asymptomatic so it was essentially nothing to worry about. Two weeks ago I had a follow-up ultrasound (I need one every three months). On this scan the pericardial effusion has become slightly larger and is causing some increased atrial pressure. Both of my artria (the top chambers of the heart) are also slightly dilated along with my inferior vena cava (the main vessel bringing deoxygenated blood back to the heart).

Sorry for all of the big fancy medical terms.

In layman's terms, I'm not a cardiologist and have no clue what it all means! The Herceptin that I will be receiving until April can cause heart damage, but they don't necessarily think it should be causing these particular changes so I have to have a consult with a cardiologist just be sure. Even during exercise I have no symptoms so I am not too worried at this point. It's just become one more thing to cross off of my list trying to get back to "normal".

I wanted to attach some pictures of my nails since I have been complaining about them. They don't  think my fingernails will fall off, thank goodness. The toenails are more likely to fall off because of wearing shoes, so I am trying to wear flip flops as much as possible now. Once the nails turn dark they also get more sensitive, but they haven't really been painful lately (just still very numb).

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely" -Roald Dahl
Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day