Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost halfway there!

We just met with my oncologist and I am getting my 6th drip of Taxol this afternoon.  6 out of 12 total.   That means I am halfway there with this chemo drug.  Also, remember how my initial treatment plan included 4 rounds of AC (adriamycin cytoxan, once every three weeks), followed by the 12 weekly infusions of Taxol? Well, we had to stop the AC after two rounds, because it was just way too tough on my immune system. Our plan was to come back to pick up the final two rounds following my Taxol treatment. But, we are going to have to revisit that at the end of the Taxol treatment.   The Taxol is so effective and my cancerous area is shrinking dramatically.  Dr. H. can't even feel the swollen lymph nodes any longer.  It is so exciting!  She said we may either skip the last two rounds of AC altogether or try them again after surgery.  My body is going to need to recoup before I go into surgery.  My body pretty much does the opposite of recouping while on AC.  

So, here is the new and improved, especially-designed-for-Heather treatment plan:

  1. Continue with the weekly Taxol infusions.  Only 6 more weekly doses to go after today.
  2. On 1/8/13, I have an appointment with my surgeon.  She has an ultrasound machine in her office and will take a look at the cancerous breast and nearby lymph nodes to see the progress.  I am excited to see her reaction! 
  3. After I complete the 12 rounds of Taxol, I will have additional imaging studies. Likely, I will have a PET exam and maybe even a breast MRI.  This will hopefully show more clearly what is remaining in the left breast--whether it is simply scar tissue or cancer. 
  4. Then, I will probably have surgery after my blood counts have some time to get back up into normal range and I am physically well.  The surgery will include removal of my left breast and any cancerous lymph nodes.
  5. The pathology from surgery will show us what is truly remaining in the area. We are praying for miraculous results and NO CANCER!  :-)  
  6. If there is cancer remaining, we may come back to more chemo (AC).   Either way, I will be receiving radiation therapy as well.
  7. After Chemo, Surgery and Radiation, I will be taking the anti-estrogen drug, Tamoxifen, for "at least ten years".  Recent studies have shown that there is a lower chance of recurrence for pre-menopausal women if they take the drug for at least ten years.
  8. After Radiation, I will have reconstruction surgery for the left breast and a mastectomy of the right breast, along with reconstruction of it.  Hopefully, all in one surgery.
So, that is that!   I really hope I don't have to have any more of that AC.  I don't like that stuff.  The Taxol isn't too bad; that is, considering it is chemotherapy, it is not too bad.  I am noticing though that the side effects continue to build from week to week.  

I was at the chemo infusion room every day last week except for Friday, in hopes of receiving chemo.  I received neupogen injections on Monday through Wednesday and my wbc finally shot up on Thursday so I could receive chemo.  On Thursday, they reduced my dosage of Taxol, so it wouldn't be so hard on my immune system.  I came in yesterday for labs, assuming my wbc would be low.   My ANC was at .8 yesterday (needed to be 1.5 to get chemo), so I received a neupogen injection. Today, it was 12.7!!!  Normal range is 1.5-6.5, so we jumped to the other side of the scale today.   We are beginning to figure me out.  Hopefully this reduced dosage of Taxol, along with coming in a day early for labs and neupogen, will continue to help keep me on schedule.   So much to be thankful for!   Thank you Lord!

Now, we are excited that we can begin to make our Christmas travel plans.  It is hard to plan around weekly chemo, especially not knowing when I will get to receive my treatment from week to week.    This whole cancer thing has been tough on my personality type.   It has required a lot of sitting around, not getting out of the house, and has not allowed me to plan things like a typically do.  I like to be on the go.  I like to get out every day and do something new.  I am a planner.  Cancer has helped me grow in ares that needed some balancing out.   After all is said and done with this cancer, I feel that God will have taught me SO MUCH!  Cancer has actually been a blessing for me.  I will be a better human being having gone through it. Now, it is not such a blessing that I want it to hang around much longer. I am ready for it to be gone forever.  But, the experience has taught me so much this far.  When you are in the middle of bad situations in life, it is often difficult to understand how God could intend for it to be part of his big plan.  Initially, it was difficult being hit with an aggressive cancer diagnosis--especially at my age, where I was in my life, and with kids so young.  But, as I reflect back on the things God has taught me through the experience, I understand how he is using this bad thing, cancer, for good.   (Romans 8:28-And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  So, in the midst of the storm, I can rest assured that He is in control.  He is sovereign.  He is Lord of my life.

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