Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Next Stage of the Climb - Chemotherapy

Friday afternoon, I met with the oncologist.  He went over the pathology report with me and we went over the options.  His recommendation was chemo followed by radiation followed by hormone therapy.  He confirmed that, due to the size of the tumor, it's classified as Stage 2.  Had it been Stage 1, radiation and hormone therapy would have been enough.  To give him credit, he did ask me my opinion and what I would prefer.  I have already discussed this with daughter, before hand.  I feel I need to do what I can to reduce chances of the cancer recurring.  Because, if it does recur, then, it would be considered Stage 4. 

He explained the recommended treatments, answered daughter's questions (including why he recommended what he did), referred her to supporting studies at her request, etc., etc., etc.  I am not questioning the need for chemo.  Just dreading the side effects.  Not so much the hair loss (much as I love my long hair, losing my hair doesn't really phase me), but the other stuff (nausea, fatigue, etc.).  I can only hope and pray that I will be one of the lucky ones who will feel less side effects.  But, I do have a tendency to feel nausea at the drop of a hat, so, most probably, I'll have at least that particular side effect.  :p

Oncologist recommended less spicy food while on chemo (to reduce nausea, apparently; I was brought up on spicy curries!).  Also, I was told to avoid raw food (to avoid ingesting any bacteria, etc., since my immune system will be depressed) and that includes vegetables and fruits, in addition to steak tartare, sushi, etc. (which I never eat, anyway, so not a problem).  If I do eat raw veg and fruit, I have to take extra care to wash them carefully, peel, etc.  It'll be easier to cook them. 

The doctor ordered more lab tests (blood work - I'll get them done on Monday), an echo cardiogram (to be scheduled), and a port for a catheter inserted, surgically, for the chemo.  I'll have to see the surgeon for that.

Chemo is most likely to start in 3 weeks' time.  I will need to go in weekly.  Initially, the chemo will be administered every three weeks, with hydration and other drugs (to combat nausea, to boost immunity, blood cells and platelet counts, etc.), being given on the alternate weeks.  That is supposed to last 3 months.  To be followed by another 3 months of weekly chemo.  Followed by radiation.  Followed by hormone therapy. 

After the consultation with the surgeon, I went into the treatment room (a large room with two rows of recliner-type chairs lined along the walls; someone had made an effort to decorate it for Fall with scarecrows and autumn leaves), sat in one of the chairs, and spoke with a nurse who went over a few details and tips with me and gave me some literature to read.  It made it all too real. 

My smile felt a bit cracked, all evening.  I had known I'd likely receive chemotherapy, yet, having it confirmed left me feeling a bit shell shocked.  I guess I had been secretly hoping that I could avoid it.  Have I mentioned that I rather dread the treatment and its side effects?  

In the evening, family and friends called to inquire about the results of the oncologist visit.  Some friends brought dinner and their daughters brought a movie to watch with daughter.  Aunt and cousin came to talk and give support with their presence.  I am grateful they kept us company. 

Tomorrow, I will take a deep breath and start preparing myself for the next stage of the journey up the mountain.  One step at a time. 



  1. I tried sending this once and I think it got lost. Was a mastectomy one of the options since there was no lymph node spread? It seems it would be far less invasive and have fewer full body side effects than chemotherapy and radiation. Oncologists, because of their training tend to think first in terms of chemo, radiation and hormone therapy, but I would really question why a mastectomy isn't an option since preservation of the breast doesn't seem to be your highest priority. Living alone and going through chemo is going to be difficult, although not as difficult as it used to be. You know by now that because of my training, I tend to take a practical, non-emotional approach to these kinds of things, but it doesn't mean I'm unsympathetic. I am. I watched my mom go through all of that treatment, but hers was at a higher stage when diagnosed. I'm just sharing the "conversation" I had with myself a long time ago. I think it would be easier on your daughter if she didn't have to watch you go through chemo if there is an acceptable alternative. You can regard this as a private message and not publish it as you wish.

    1. I published it, as you can see, because this might be a questions others might also have. Yes, we considered the pros and cons of both options. The reason for chemo is to get at any stray cancer/latent cancer cells that might be lurking anywhere in the body, not necessarily just in the breast (unfortunately, along with many other fast growing cells such as hair and nail cells). Just in case. And thank you for the link you sent in a separate comment. By the way, I do appreciate your "practical, non-emotional approach" as you call it. :)

  2. This may help clarify:

  3. Bless, sometimes they can give you meds to combat the nausea, and you may not necessarily loose your hair. If you do, it will grow back. May I suggest you use paper towels in your bathroom for visitors to use, germs don't get passed that way with towels, etc. It worked while my DH was ill and never caught a cold, etc. Things have changed so much over the years, and if you do need to talk any time I am here to listen should you want to.

    ((((HUGS))))) and prayers. Could a relative accompany you to chemo? Goner Mom

    1. Yes, they said they can give anti-nausea meds. Dr. did say that I'll lose my hair and it'll grow back.

      Thank you for the paper towels suggestion. I think that is a great idea.

      My daughter will probably go with me for the 1st chemo, and after that, maybe other family and/or friends. Thanks for being there for me; I'll probably contact you once I start treatments. :)

    2. Oh, the paper towel idea is great!

      In addition it is probably very useful to have a big box of cheap medical face masks. You can make sniffling visitors wear those and of course you can wear them yourself, if you are in an environment with an infection risk (like a doctor's waiting room).

      Being several time zones away, it's ok if I get the night talking shifts. :D

      All the best to you and DD


    3. The box of face masks is another great tip! Thank you for mentioning it. I shall ask my friend the pharmacist to get a box of it for me. I was told that some people find themselves experiencing bursts of energy at 2:00 a.m., so, night time talks might be a very real possibility! :)

  4. I am so sorry you have to have the chemo/radiation/hormone therepy.. I am praying for you, as you climb that mountain, that God be with you and help you with the nausea, And each thing you go through. I want to share my favorite bible verse.. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1.
    sending a big ole hug and know I will be praying for you and daughter.

    1. Judy, thank you for the Bible verse. A long time ago, I read the Bible, cover to cover, and since then, I've re-read some sections, but haven't read it through. I think I might start reading it from start to end, again. There are so many lovely affirmations in it. Thank you, too, for your prayers for daughter and me.

  5. I'm sorry you will have to go through chemo, but I am happy to know you have such a great support system. In real life and also all the wonderful people online keeping you (and your daughter) in their thoughts.

  6. This is a tough call for you and I can understand how hard it is to face. In that chemo room you will be in good company and I hope that you can all support each other. Sometimes we make lovely friends in the most unexpected places.
    ((((Hugs)))) Bushlady

    1. Thank you, Bushlady. I suppose we will be sharing a special bond in that chemo room.

  7. Bless, I'm not sure if I've ever commented before. I've been reading your blog off and on for a few months. You seem like such a wonderful lady. I am sorry for your diagnosis and proposed treatment plan.
    Last year I was diagnosed with stage 2 grade 2 endometrial (uterine) cancer. I had a full hysterectomy, followed by chemo, followed by brachytherapy radiation.
    Some things that really helped me were acupuncture the day before and the day after each chemo, chewing very small pieces of crystallized ginger, eating minimally - these helped to alleviate the nausea.
    Before each chemo, they gave me (through the IV) anti-nausea drugs along with drugs to help prevent allergic reactions. I had some pills to take afterwards, but was able to avoid taking them using the methods described above. (I have been very sensitive to meds for a number of years and try to avoid taking anything I don't have to.)
    My insurance paid for my wig when I lost my hair. Of course scarves and hats are nice, too. My hair started to come out in bunches or clumps after my second chemo, if I remember correctly. I had to have it shaved off then because you could not brush it or wash it - it was just coming out any time you touched it.
    There are loads of online forums you can find so you can read and compare your experience to that of others in your situation. That was very helpful to me.
    If you are interested, there are always local support groups you can attend.
    Please take your treatments one step at a time and remember nothing is set in stone and you have to listen to your body.
    If I think of anything else that may be helpful I will post again.
    Know that you are not alone and that I will pray for you.
    If you have any questions, I will look back here, just in case.
    Take care and God bless you,

    1. Jo, how very kind of you to comment and share your own experiences with me. I hope your prognosis has been good, and your recovery complete.

      I have not yet sought out the on-line forums or local support groups, but will probably do so in the next few days. Thank you for the tips - I have crystallized ginger on hand and ginger cookies, and the nurse also suggested graham crackers.

      I am so happy you reached out to me. Please do keep in touch and post as and when you are able. I look forward to hearing from you, again. My best wishes for your continued recovery and good health.


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