Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Chemo Chair 12/16/2010

This treatment has been longer and a little harder than the last. This morning I left home without my cream to numb my port. Granted, i've only used it once since starting chemo, but once you go numb its hard to go back. Shane is working today to finish up some hours for his practicum so I am missing his company here in the chemo room. Instead, i'm planning on working from the chemo chair since we are right in the middle of payroll at work. This morning while waiting to meet with Dr. Luoh, I met a woman named Ray who is starting her treatment today for cancer of the esophagus. She was told initially that she would have 3-4 years to live and so, wanting to spend as many years as possible with her new grandbabys, she opted for a far more strenous chemo and an experimental drug. Today was her first chemo and she was obviously scared and concerned about what was to come. I talked to her for about a half an hour and told her that chemo was not as bad as she expected it to be and that there is always hope. She was extremely worried about the naseau, and I assured her that there are amazing drugs to help keep it under control. Another women joined our conversation. She has had lung cancer for 10 years and has been on chemo every since. She helped me to reassure Ray that everything would be fine and that there are new drugs coming out all the time to fight this. Sadly, I felt like the lucky one in the group. I haven't been given a timeline for my survival. In fact, if the cancer doesn't return, I plan on living my full healthy life. I hope that the chemo can send these amazing women NED (no evidence of disease) and that Ray is able to spend many happy years with her new grandbabys. There are so many amazing people that I've met on this journey. Its a sad way to meet people, but honestly I think this process brings out the humanity in people. Sitting in the waiting room on the cancer floor, people will smile at you, talk to you, tell you all about themselves and their families. Anywhere else you go, people hide behind a magazine or their iphone. This insane journey has given me the opportunity to be closer to so many strangers at a level I never thought possible.

So, as you all know today is my second-to-last chemo treatment. I'm so excited to be done with the process, but scared out of my mind that the cancer will come back once I'm done. I still have a number of treatment options to continue throughout the year, so chemo isn't the end of the road for me. This morning I met with Dr. Luoh and informed him that I'm doing well other than I'm tired a lot. Because we are coming up on the end of treatment we talked a little about my next steps: Tamoxifen, Radiation, Herceptin and some additional treatments that he is suggesting. For the first time, Dr Luoh mentioned that I have approximately an 80% chance of my menstrual cycle returning after chemotherapy. If this happens, he is planning to put my on a medical menopause to see how well I tolerate the symptoms of menopause for an extended period of time. If everything goes ok, he says that we need to discuss the possibility of removing my ovaries at the time I have my exchange surgery for my breast implants. It had crossed my mind that I might have to have my ovaries removed at some point, but I didn't realize that it would happen so quickly. Dr. Luoh explained that because I have a high risk cancer and lymph node involvement it is smart to do everything we can to keep the cancer from returning. I agree with him, but also know that this is a HUGE step to take. Having this proceedure means that Shane and I will never have the option of having our own children. As we have discussed, adoption is always an option and there are hundreds of thousands of children out there who need a home! My heart and mind tell me that if we decide to pursue having kids that adoption is the best option regardless of whether I have ovaries or not - but there is a small piece of me that is somewhat disappointed that this major milestone in life may not be something Shane and I get to experience. Preganancy can also be risky because of the hormones that come into play. Due to the fact that I have estrogen recpetor postive cancer, the hormones from preganancy can increase my risk of the cancer returning or metastisizing elsewhere in my body. Shane and I definately have a lot to talk about before this summer. Initially, we had forgone the cryo-embryo freezing assuming that I had a good chance of my menstrual cycle returning, and after the 5 years of tamoxifen we could make our decision about whether or not we want to have kids. I guess I didn't realize how many choices we would be making this year and how quickly these choices would need to be made.

Despite these recent unveilings, things are going well. Shane just found out thaat he received an Outstanding Service Award at work today, and is happy to be finished with the term. I am working to complete my project and practicum and plan on finishing my project paper/thesis over winter break. We look forward to seeing everyone over the holiday break.

All our love & wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

Heather & Shane


  1. Thanks for keeping us posted, Heather. What a way to gain perspective! And you're right - there's so many things to think about and talk about. Keeping you both in our prayers. You are so strong - even though you may not feel like it sometimes - and I know you both can do make the choices that are right for you :)
    Sarah Maher

  2. My heart goes out to you both Heather. I am really glad I got a chance to meet you and know you a little bit. I wish the best for both of you. You are both amazing individuals and together an amazing couple. I wish I could be there with you all for the Holidays. Hope things go well and please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for either of you. Take Care.