Monday, January 24, 2011

01/24/2011

Hey everyone! We haven't updated the blog for a while because, honestly, there hasn't been much happening in the cancer realm. I am feeling much better and know that things are only going to get better from here on out. I have been trying to walk with Shane or do yoga daily in order to get my strength back. Its amazing how my body has changed and become so inflexible since the surgery in August. I really haven't done much physically because right after surgery I started chemo. I am re-learning my body and trying to reshape it to the body I remember - only better. In mid February Shane and I are thinking about trying to ride the "Worst day of the year" ride in Portland. Its an 18-mile bike ride through Northeast Portland. I'm not sure yet if my body will be up to it, especially since I'm barely able to walk the two-mile loop at the dog park! Only time will tell! All of this exercise is only going to aid in losing the 17lbs I gained during chemo! Cheers to being able to fit into my clothes again!

I met with the radiology oncologist, Dr. Henig, two weeks ago to discuss "the plan". I will be getting "radiated" five days a week for 7 weeks (36 times). Most of the side effects involve fatigue and burning of the skin. I think our friend Faye said it best when she described the fatigue as your body being worn out from fighting all the damage that the radiation is doing to your body. In fact, the radiation will kill a portion of my lung. Dr. Henig said that I shouldn't notice the part that will no longer work unless I'm planning on running the Boston Marathon. I guess I should probably remove "run marathon" from my list of things to do in this lifetime! Luckily, the oncologist believes that they will be able to miss my heart so there shouldn't be any damage there! I need to save as much of my heart as possible to get through the Herceptin!! :-)

Thursday my Plastic Surgeon "deflated" my tissue expanders so that there would be more loose skin in order to avoid the radiation causing my skin to get tighter around the expander and also so that my "good" breast would be out of the line of the radiation beams. I am officially the only person I know who has gone from a DD to an A, to a B, then a C and back to an A again! Either way, Dr. Thaker, my plastic surgeon said that I will probably be able to have my exchange surgery in August or September once the skin is completely healed and we know that the radiation isn't going to cause a capsular contraction. I can't wait to see the final product and look half-way normal again!

Wednesday I will go in to get my tattoos, which the team will use to line up the machine each day, and get the machine calibrated to my particular situation. I'm not excited about the tattoos, but think they might be an excuse to get a real tattoo that I've always been too chicken to do. What better excuse than to cover up radiation tattoos!? Its my understanding that the radiation will start Monday, January 31st. I'm hoping to get an appointment super early in the morning so that I can avoid interfering with work as much as possible.

Thursday I have Herceptin at OHSU. This will be my first trip to the infusion room without getting the full chemo! I currently have eleven Herceptin treatments left, then hopefully I'll move right into the Neratanib trial. Please keep your fingers crossed that it's still open when I finish!

Hope everyone is enjoying the first month of the New Year! We will keep you updated when radiation begins!

Heather & Shane

Thursday, January 6, 2011

From the Chemo Chair 01/06/2011- GOODBYE CHEMO!!

This is probably going to be an information-dense post... so I apologize to anyone reading that doesn't really want to sift through the jargon to get the point. For those of you who would rather just get to the meat of the blog, here it is: THIS IS MY LAST CHEMO!!!!

Anyway,
I am about to finish my first bag of chemo - only two more bags to go. Period. No more chemo for me after today!!!! In all my excitement Dr. Luoh reminded me that this treatment isn't over yet and I would need to be particularly careful about sickness and fatigue after this treatment. He said that even though I'm 90% done with chemo today - this last 10% (the last chemo) could technically feel as bad as 50%. In other words, this chemo is going to be the worst yet. Dr. Luoh also reminded me that I will still have 11 treatments of Herception - luckily the Herceptin doesn't cause any side effects so it will be a quick 1/2 an hour infusion and then back to life! After the Herceptin is done I'll be able to have my port removed!!!

Shane and I had a number of discussion items on our agenda for Dr. Luoh this morning as we have both been doing our research surrounding the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium, some up coming cancer trials, and the possibility of having my ovaries removed. Dr. Luoh indicated to us that some retrospective research coming out had indicated that the survival rates of women who are post menopausal are higher than those who are not and therefore the medical suppression of my ovaries or removal completely may be a good option to decrease my chances of the cancer returning which explains why he brought this up for the first time during the last chemo. He indicated that we could have this discussion once I was finished with radiation and that radiation would need to be our focus for the time being.
We also talked to Dr. Luoh about my current chances of reoccurance. According the BCIRG006 report with all of my treatments I have a 20% chance of reoccurance over the next 5 years. Shane feels like 80% chance that the cancer won't reoccur is great odds. Personally, I'm dwelling on the 20%, but trying to keep my chin up. In order to reduce these odds further Shane and I talked to Dr. Luoh about possible clinical trials available for me. Apparently there is a clinical trial that I could start after radiation that would have me taking the diabetes drug Metformin that possibly reduces the chances of reoccurance in the future. The other trial I would start after Herceptin utilizes an oral drug called Neratanib to target HER2 cancer specifically. Of course, Dr. Luoh suggested that I focus on the treatment at hand and plan for the best rather than getting too worked up about applying for clinical trials. Since he is the administrator for both of these trials, he assured me that we would talk about them when I was eligible and he would definitely keep me in the loop about any upcoming opportunities that I can take part in. I'm really in hopes that I'll be able to take part in both trials, if not, I think we are all leaning toward the Neratinib trial.

Next week I will be setting up an appointment with the radiologist to get started on my "calibration" for radiation and my tattoos to line up the machine. We are also planning on meeting with our Naturopath face to face for the first time (our appointments have all been over the phone) to talk about how to minimize the risks of radiation and some supplements I can take to make sure that my body is effected as little as possible - other than killing cancer cells. Just as a side note, Dr. Kaszor, our naturopath will be featured at the Komen Portland Breast Cancer Symposium in March! Shane and I are planning on attending and soaking up as much additional knowledge as possible. If only knowledge killed cancer cells!

Despite the linger fears of finishing chemo today and losing my poison-laden security blanket, I'm really excited and optimistic that I will not be spending 5 days every 3 weeks laid out on the couch! I'm excited to get my hair back - which has already started growing at a snail's pace. I'm excited to be able to walk up the stairs without losing my breath, drink a cup of coffee without getting sick, taste food, lose all of this weight caused by the steroids, finish the entire two mile walk at the dog park without gasping for breath, not have a consistently dripping nose from my lack of nose hair, stay up past 7:30p.m., and most of all enjoy life as its meant to be enjoyed! Hopefully in 5, 10, and 20 years I'll be able to look back and say that I'm SOOO glad that I finished this chemotherapy and even more glad that I didn't have to do it again! So here's cheers to everyone who has been so amazing to help us out and show support since starting this craziness in September and here's to closing this chapter of the cancer journey and continuing on to the next chapter: radiation.