Thursday, October 18, 2012

Let's Do This Again! Chemo Round 1 Update and Starting Chemo Round 2

I am writing this post from the chemo chair as I receive my round 2 of chemotherapy.  I love the free wifi here at Oncology office!

In my assigned chemo chair, right before they accessed my port.  My hair looks awful now, and I hate to say this, but I think it's gotta go!

What did we learn from Chemo Round 1?  Hooray!  My first round of chemo is complete. We met with the oncologist earlier this morning and reviewed how the first round of chemo went.  My body pretty much yelled at me during the first round of chemotherapy.   So, we are changing some things up a bit for round 2.   We aren't going to administer the Neulasta shot, which is normally administered to patients 24 hours following chemo treatment to help increase white blood counts (aka, boost my immune system) .  Last round, I had an allergic reaction to the drug an hour following injection and had to receive steroids through my port to get it under control.  So, we are going to go without it this time around, and check my white blood count (WBC) a week following treatment.  My WBC was low one week following the chemo round 1 injection, regardless of receiving the Neulasta shot.  This time next week, if my WBC and Neutrophil count (ANC) is low as it was last time, I will likely be given Neupogen,   Neupogen is offered to decrease the chance of infection in folks who are receiving chemotherapy medications that may decrease the number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell needed to fight infections.)  In about a week, I will probably be given Neupogen for three days to kick start my immune system into high gear.

The oncologist also reduced the dosage for the chemotherapy drug.  We are just going to take a "less is more" approach and also administer all of my injections slowly, to allow my body to handle it better.

Is the treatment effective?  Well, the oncologist checked out the area of cancer on my left breast, and palpated the many lymph nodes that were involved.  She said that really, it will be this 2nd round that will tell us more, now that my breasts feel like they are fairly back to normal from breastfeeding.  When I started last round, I was still pretty engorged, as I was in the weaning process.  (Of course, Abbey didn't drink any of the expressed milk--I had to pump and dump due to all of the drugs).  So, it was so difficult to tell the size and feeling of the cancer last time.   Still yet, it feels as if there is change since last time--and I think it is good change.  To me and the oncologist the cancerous area feels more mobile and slightly smaller.  Also, I have been feeling pain in my left breast.   She said this can also be a good sign.  A lot of patients report the same type of pain I am having as their cancerous regions decrease in size.   Perhaps it is the cancer, as it is getting smaller, pulling at some of the areas of body to which it is attached.  After she performed the exam and we asked her all of our listed questions, we were ready to attack Chemo Round 2.

So, the first thing they do when you sit in the chemo chair is draw two vials of blood from your port.  They run those to the lab and verify that your white blood counts are high enough to actually have the treatment administered.  Today, my WBC was 3.8 (low, it should be 4.8-10.8), and my absolute neutrophil count was a normal 2.6 (this was .1 at the end of week 1 of Chemo 1, so there has been significant improvement here.).  The neutrophil count is the one they are most concerned with.  The nurse told me that if it is below 1.5, they won't do chemo treatment.  I would probably be given neupogen to help increase that number and then try later.   But, we didn't have to go there this time, and for that I am thankful!

I am praying that we can keep my immunity up!  We are going to use a lot of natural intervention here, with daily healthy-packed smoothies, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, added vitamins and some good ole' flax seed.  This is going to be a fun experiment to see what interventions work and what do not.  The scientist in me is probably having a little too much fun with this.  I save every one of my lab reports and compare week to week and review differences in what I did (what I ate, how active I was, etc.).  Then, I speculate reasons for the differences in each of the labs.  Last round, week one, I wasn't juicing or eating a smoothie each day.  So, at least I will have these two weeks to compare and that will be the experiment.  Of course, there are already many flaws in the study, because I will not be having the Neulasta shot this round.  I'm using the scientific method here, and my prediction is that my neutrophil count (ANC) will be better than the .1 result of round 1 chemo at week 1, due to the dedicated juicing and making smoothies of fruits and vegetables that are packed full of antioxidants that I will be ingesting.  Stay tuned for the results, which will be posted approximately one week from now.

The scientific method, which I will use for my experiment this round.

For the 9 months since Abbey was born, I have made my needs my lowest priority in our immediate family.  I just didn't take care of my body as well as I have in the past.   I always felt that taking the best possible care of the kids meant dropping everything and meeting all their needs.  Looking back, I realize that forgoing some of my important needs could possibly cause long term health issues.  I am now focused on taking better care of myself.   One has to have this balance in their family.  If you aren't taking good care of yourself, you may not be able to take care of your family as well.   Drew is helping me with this, constantly reminding me, "Have you eaten recently?," "Do you need more water?"

We are very thankful to have Drew's parents helping us out this week with the kids.  During the last round of chemo the first week was SO tough.  I have heard that the treatments actually even build--meaning this one will be tougher than the first and the next will be tougher than this one.  So, having them here is very helpful.  Plus, it looks like 3 of us will be using the hair clippers in the near future.   Looks like we will need to line Luke up, then me and then Drew for barber Drew's haircutting studio.  My locks are no longer lovely and will probably just need to be shaved off.   I was thinking about letting Luke try a little since I don't care how it looks.  He will get a big kick out of it and me being bald won't bother him as much since he had something to do with it. :-)

I am excited to see the results of this second round of treatment that God is using to HEAL ME COMPLETELY!   :-)

To our prayer warriors--we are SO thankful for you!  Here are our current prayer requests:

  • That my cancer shrinks away to where it is no longer detected.
  • Pray that my immune system stays up, works effectively, and keeps me from getting ill.  
  • Please pray for God's direction in any other natural treatment we should pursue to keep my immune system up and attack this cancer.  
  • That my body doesn't experience any adverse reactions from the drugs that are administered to me this round.
Thank you prayer warriors!  I will do a post dedicated to you at the end of round 2.  I want everyone to see ALL of the MANY answered prayers so far!


  1. You may not remember me - a friend of Holly's (and fellow French horn player) from high school. I'm living in Houston now with my husband, 5 year old daughter, and 3 year old son, and wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you - LOTS. :)

    1. Yes, I remember you, Trish! Drew's family lives in Sugar Land, so we visit the Houston area fairly often. Thank you SO much for praying for me!

    2. We're in the Sugar Land/Richmond area, so I've probably passed right by them in Target or HEB some time. :) Small world!

  2. Heather - I'm thinking about you and saying prayers. You continue to amaze me in your selflessness. Giving of yourself as you have in your blog is an inspiring thing to watch. Hugs and LOVE!

    1. Awww...thanks Debi! Hugs back at you! Thanks for your prayers.

  3. This was a very encouraging post! You're Wonder Woman! I love that you are using the gifts God has given you, your love for science, to help yourself. Such a great idea. And you never know, what you are learning about the natural side of healing may be meant to help others
    as well. Go for it! Thanks for the update and specific prayers. I will continue to pray. By the way, I can totally see you rocking' the head scarf or a cute wig. You go for it!

    1. Sorry, that was from me. Amy Stogsdill

  4. Hi Heather - You don't know me but I know Tom and Kathleen's family and Doug and Cindy Ferguson. I am a breast cancer survivor since 2009. I have had a left breast mastectomy and reconstruction at OSU (my plastic surgeon came from MD Anderson!) I had 4 rounds of chemo. You will be in my prayers on a regular basis.

    I just read your blog and can add a couple of things from my experience.

    I shaved my head even though the chemo nurse said not to. I wish I had listened. It was painful to lay my head on the pillow at night due to the stubble. I even tried to "wax" my head with duct tape but it did not work! I did wear a little soft knit cap to sleep in and that helped.

    Looking at what you can do from a health standpoint to boost your immune system, the juicing I think is perfect. I only did a little of it but should have done more.

    Google Vitamin D3 and see what it does for your immune system. I had an interview here in Findlay with Stan Scarbrough who is a compounding pharmacist and into holistic health, etc. He recommended I use a liquid D3 supplement but said I needed to check my D levels first. My family doc allowed me to get it checked. I started taking 5 drops a day (2000 IU in each drop) and I have been taking it for about 1 1/2 to 2 years. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I only do 2 or 3 drops. I really feel this has helped my immune system. I also take calcium citrate and magnesium. I do take other supplements but I really believe in the D3.

    Someone gave me a book called "Natural Strategies for the Cancer Patient" by Russell Blaylock, MD. Good book by a neurosurgeon who decided to research better ways for cancer patients to get the most out of their treatments.

    Hope this helps a little. You have a beautiful family and I know that your faith and trust in God is a wonderful strength to you. My faith in my Lord brought me such peace in the midst of a cancer diagnosis.

    Blessings to you and your family...