Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From the Chemo Chair #4

As I write this, there is a woman in the chemo chair across from Shane and I screaming at the nurses about how no one at this hospital can do anything right. She is making a scene and throwing a fit about how no one pays attention to her. She keeps saying "you can apologize as much as you want, it doesn't matter to me anymore" In fact, she just told one of the medical providers to roll her out the window and she wouldn't care. I feel so badly for the people that are trying to calm her down and keep her from disrupting the other patients who are trying to rest while getting their infusion. Some people have the ability to ruin everyone's day to get the attention to focus on them. I'm not sure what happened to her that made her so upset, but I can guarantee that there is a much better way to deal with her issues than she is dealing with them. Screaming at the people who are trying to help you is probably not the quickest way to getting what you want. Be thankful for your health care professionals and know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes!

Speaking of being Thankful, this year we are spending Thanksgiving with our friends Steve & Heather and their son Matthew. We are so thankful for our friends for inviting us over to share the holiday and look forward to enjoying the evening together! I'm hoping that I'll be feeling good enough to even do some black Friday shopping : Woodburn Company Stores open at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day! We will, however, be missing our family this year. Driving over the pass in the snow was one obstacle to spending the holiday with our family, but the impending chemo-sickness and the fact that I have to have my neulasta shot on Friday afternoon makes it hard to travel 300 miles. I'm not sure that the car is the most comfortable place to be when dealing with the worst side-effects of the Taxol and Carboplatin! We are planning to go home and be with the family for Christmas this year, at which point I'll be celebrating my second-to-last dose of chemo! Hopefully this weekend I'll have the energy to go with Shane to get a Christmas tree and at least help put up some of the decorations. Its going to all depend on how well I tolerate this round of chemo. Since I'm getting the infusion on Wednesday this time around, my worst days should be Saturday and Sunday this time :-( . Monday I'm scheduled for a MUGGA of my heart to ensure that the Herceptin isn't doing too much damage and I'll meet with my surgeon for the first time since my Mastectomy.

Anyway, today's commute the chemo was much easier than I anticipated given that yesterday was rather icy in Salem and I had assumed that traffic would be heavy and slow given that the temperatures were below freezing this morning. Luckily, traffic was moving along fine and we got to the Center for Health & Healing right on time. Something that wasn't moving along well this morning was me. I woke up around 4am with a sore throat, runny nose, and a that achy feeling that you get when you come down with a nasty cold. I couldn't help but worry that Dr. Luoh would want to postpone treatment because of illness and concern that an additional treatment might interfere with my body's ability to fight off this infection. Mr. Cautious apparently had the day off today and the nurse practitioner is taking care of patients. She checked me over, admitted that my throat was red and swollen and then continued on her examination. Whew - bullet dodged. The Nurse practitioner "Meg" was amazing and hilarious. She made me feel like things are going to be ok. She mentioned that she had read that younger people with HER2 breast cancer that receive Herceptin as adjuvent therapy actually do better than those in other situations. I'm very happy to hear this as the HER2 issue has been one of my biggest concerns going through this process. I am keeping high hopes that this is the last encounter I have with the "c" word.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know that we have a lot to be Thankful for this year (a roof over our heads, plenty of food, good jobs & insurance, a great medical team & the most current treatments in cancer, two fur-kids, wonderful supportive families, fantastic friends and each other!) Sending love and hugs to everyone we don't get to see this year!

Heather & Shane

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From the Chemo Chair

Today's chemotherapy session has started. Shane and I are here on the 7th floor in the Center for Health and Healing at the Knight Cancer Institute, both plugged into our laptops. Shane is supposed to be working on his paper, and I'm supposed to be working on work...I think neither of us are completing the task at hand. There's a lot of beeping and movement in the chemo room - but there is also a sense of calmness that is brought about by the knowledge and integrity of this place. The nurses and staff here never forget your name, or your spouses name, or the reason why you are here. Without looking at your chart they can tell you what's gone wrong with your treatments, whats gone right, and how many dogs you have waiting at home for you. These people are amazing...and for the life of me I can't seem to remember their names have the week to week. I guess this is why they are the medical staff here and I am just the patient. Hopefully, you will never have the honor of meeting these people who make coming to the chemo room so much easier, but if you do I promise you are in amazing hands!

We checked in with Dr. Luoh this morning, went through my typical "I think the cancer has metastasized" concerns and got the go ahead for treatment. After the next chemo cycle I will have another Mugga scan to make sure that my heart is holding up to the herceptin infusions.

My sickness hasn't been overwhelming, however Tuesday I came down with either the flu or food poisoning and had to be driven home from work. I threw up most of the day on Tuesday (in addition to severe diarrhea) and was finally able to keep down an anti nausea pill long enough to get the vomiting under control. While painful, my doctors are pretty sure that the bout with nausea was unrelated the chemotherapy and more than likely tied to the box of cherry tomatoes that I ate about 1/2 an hour before getting sick. My coworker LouAnn indicated that she thought I had taken them out of the kitchen to throw them away - so they must not have looked as appetizing to everyone else as they did to me! Regardless, by Wednesday morning I was feeling like myself again and today I was well enough to have my chemo and herceptin! Thanking God that I'm able to get the infusion on time and in full strength!!

Speaking of strength, In the past few weeks I have met several women at WOU who also have had breast cancer or are currently in the fight. Interestingly, all of these women were diagnosed with the HER-2 oncogene. I'm starting to think there is something in the water at Western that is causing this overproduction of HER2 cells! Regardless, I am comforted by the fact that these women have gone through the treatment and are doing well in their lives! Its very inspiring to know that there is so much hope for us out there.
On the same note, as October has worn down and it is no longer Breast Cancer awareness month, I hope that people don't forget to donate to these organizations who are seeking to find the cure and that people don't forget to have a mammogram or check themselves for changes. I found it so inspiring to have so many people focused on breast cancer for the month. I know many women with breast cancer are turned off by the month of October, but I, for one, think that this kind of attention is going to get the funding necessary for us to beat this thing!

Sending all of our love and thanks for everything!
Heather & Shane