Friday, January 4, 2013

Hooray for Chemo!

Weird blog post, title, huh?  Using "hooray" and "chemo" in the same sentence is probably normally forbidden.  I sat next to a nice lady last week who was on the exact same chemo schedule as me.  The physicians initially thought she was at stage 0 breast cancer after finding a tiny mass on a mammogram (she was around 37 years old). After 3 surgeries, she was re-staged at stage 2b.  She also started out with two rounds of the "AC" chemo, but it did a number on her body as well.  So, Dr. H. stopped that treatment and moved on to Taxol as well.  She was even hospitalized with a bout of a gastrointestinal virus and low white blood counts.  She told me that after going through three surgeries and 9 rounds of chemo, she would choose to undergo the surgeries again over chemo in a second!  (Just to give you a little glimpse into how excited we are to have chemo behind us!)  So, when I am not able to get my chemo due to low white blood cell counts, it really is a bummer.  I get very excited to be able to check off each week of chemo and get this part of our journey behind us.

I had my labs drawn on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, which revealed white blood cell counts that were too low for me to accept chemo treatment.  Third time's a charm, right?  Well, that was true for this week. I knew when I begun having terrible lower back pain at 9:30pm last night that the neupogen injection was kicking my bone marrow into high gear.  I finally decided to take Ibuprofen around 1:45am just so I could get some sleep.  You see, getting appropriate amounts of sleep is extremely important in order to have a properly functioning immune system.  Since I only got a little sleep last night and a little the night before, I was concerned that my counts may not be high enough to receive treatment today.  But, my labs this morning revealed my ANC came up from .9 yesterday to 1.9 today!  Hooray--just over the 1.5 I needed to get the treatment.
Notice I am wearing my OU Sooners shirt in support of the team for the big game tonight?  Hooray for treatment today and "Boomer Sooner!"
I have now officially been in this infusion room every day of the week, at every possible time (morning and afternoon).  So, this has given me many opportunities to meet new people, since I have probably seen almost every possible patient of this office who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.  It is so much fun meeting new people every week!

Here is some more great news.  When we first began treatment, the cancer mass in my left breast on ultrasound looked to be around 14 cm wide.  It was HUGE!  My oncologist, just by palpating, measured the mass's width at 7cm.  And that is just the width of the mass---we do not know if the mass now is scar tissue or cancer.  So, the cancer's size could be smaller than 7cm or it could even be gone and the mass may just be scar tissue!  Either way, I'm excited at the remarkable improvement. This is one benefit to undergoing neoadjuvent (pre-operative chemo) vs, receiving chemo after the mass is removed.  We can tell physically that the chemo is doing it's job.  I'm excited about my appointment on Tuesday, 1/8/12 with the surgeon.  She has an ultrasound in her exam room and will check out the mass.  She will be able to tell a little better what is remaining:  cancer or scar tissue.  How exciting!

OK, ready for more good news?   I mentioned in my post yesterday that I was scheduled for an MRI of the brain and right shoulder and a venous doppler ultrasound of my port area.  I have been having some pain in my right shoulder and neck ever since my port surgery.  I think that it is probably just due to injuring it during the surgery for placement of my port (positioned strangely for a while) and then due to sleeping improperly after the surgery.  I began chemotherapy the day after my port surgery, so the area probably has been having a little more difficulty with the healing process.  I actually couldn't even raise my right shoulder for a month.  Then, about a month ago I began getting strange headaches.  The headaches were sharp pains that would shoot periodically through the top of my head.  When I mentioned it to the nurse practitioner, she wanted to check it out via a brain MRI right away.  I asked if we could wait a few days to see if it subsided, and she was okay with that.  Well, it subsided and I have only had the periodic head pain for a few days since then.  Then, when I had the headache again for several days in a row, my oncologist wanted to go ahead and get it all checked out.  She said I had suffered with it enough.  The oncologist's nurse sent me an AWESOME email just an hour after I had left ARA imaging for the MRI.  The MRI of the brain showed no unusual reason for the headaches.  Hooray again! I still need to ask if they saw anything strange to cause the shoulder/back/neck pain, but I really think it is all due to my injuring it after port placement surgery.   That was so kind of the nurse to send me such a speedy email.  The staff here at Texas Oncology is just so wonderful!

OK, hopefully the last good news will be that OU will beat Texas A&M at the bowl game tonight.  I am not getting my hopes up though because it seems OU seemed to have a performance peak mid-season and A&M's performance continues to improve week after week.  Perhaps Johnny Manziel, the Aggies quarterback, will experience the "Heisman curse."  He won't be playing just to lead A&M to victory.  He also has something to prove--that he is well-deserving of that Heisman trophy.  Bowl games in the past have, at times, been treacherous for Heisman winners.  Boomer Sooner!

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