Posted by: healingseeker | March 18, 2010

3rd Chemo session out of 8 was a Success

Thursday, 18 March 2010

My 3rd Chemo session out of 8 was a Success. My husband Randy dropped me off in time for my 9:00 appointment. They tested my blog, took my blood pressure and temperature, and then sent me up the hall to the chemo room. My blood pressure was pretty close to normal as I felt entirely calm about this now familiar process. Apparently, my temperature normal runs almost a degree low for it has been that way the last few times I have gone. My blood counts were all in the normal range.

I brought my chemo kit like I normally do. Unfortunately, I forgot my blanket. Fortunately, they have blankets available; however, it is not as comfy and warm as the one I normally bring. I set up my DVD player on the tray table. They gave me a cup of ice water. I put on my comfy slippers and got settled into the recliner. Before long, Randy came in with Ham Biscuits and a large cup of ice from Hardees. He was told I should be finished around 12:45 to 1:00.

While they gave me the premeds, I ate my breakfast. I had brought a 2-liter bottle of Ginger Ale along to use with the cup of ice. These days, I can only drink Ginger Ale, water, juice, and milk shakes. Diet Coke, my previous favorite drink, tastes nasty. Mt. Dew makes my stomach feel uncomfortable. So, I am obviously no longer addicted to caffeine. That is probably a very good thing.

As for side effects, other than a bit of the feeling of being nauseous for the first few days after my 2nd round of chemo, that was about it for side effects. During the second week after chemo, there were 2 or 3 days when the top of the roof of my mouth felt a bit scalded. I took that medicine that numbs your mouth and throat for about 45 minutes on one of those days. That helped. Since it was only the roof of my mouth, I was able to fully taste my food the entire time between 2nd chemo round and 3rd. That’s been lovely! My appetite was quite small immediately following chemo. As the 21 interim days progressed, my appetite increased. I had originally lost 10 pounds. A week ago, I gained 2 of those pounds back. This past week, I gained 2 more of those pounds. I generally eat 1 ½ to 2 or 2 ½ meals a day.

On March 1st, I attended a nutrition class as part of the I CAN COPE class for cancer patients and caregivers. I found it really interesting to learn two things:

* Chemo leaches protein from the body.
* We need to get our vitamins from food alone as vitamins can diminish the effectiveness of chemo and radiation.

I find myself craving more nourishing food. Since some days, I can only eat one real meal a day, I make certain that there are veggies, fruit, and protein items in that meal. I still possess my sweet tooth; however, my craving for sweet stuff is not as strong as it used to be. I sometimes make myself a thin vanilla milkshake that is more milk than ice cream since milk also contains protein.

I rotated between a few days of multiple energy to be followed by a day where I had to do a lot of sleeping. Having a specific purpose for the day gives me the necessary energy to accomplish those tasks. By listing furniture on Craigslist, we got lots of buyers for the furniture located in the vacant house belonging to my mother-in-law who lives in a nursing home and my deceased father-in-law. While Randy balanced his time doing his job and visiting his mother daily, I gladly took over this task. I also spent about four days setting up a garage sale to be scheduled for some warm weekend. There are 14 steps between their main level and the garage and basement. Thankfully, God fueled me with the necessary energy to climb those stairs multiple times to get more items to display in the sale. God also gave me the necessary agility to make it safely down their extra steep staircases every time. Other than a very few more items, all their belongings are now located in a nicely displayed outlay in the ground level rooms and garage. I did that Monday through Thursday of last week. Friday, I slept all morning, got up for a couple of hours to do some writing, and then spent all afternoon in bed. My body obviously needed to recuperate.

This week, I took full advantage of having peak energy and being possessed of a nearly normal appetite. Randy and I went to our favorite restaurants. I also met one of my best girlfriends for lunch at Olive Garden. I sold some more furniture. I attended a Cancer Support Class. I spent the last couple of days doing some spring cleaning.

As a possible chuckle for you, I watched two episodes of that Hoarders show. I’m more of a purger than a hoarder; however, I did have an accumulation of school supplies that I may never use again. I taught for 14 years. I went through a lot of these supplies in our storage facility and recycled a car trunk full, and found a bunch more of items that I could add to this future garage sale. This emptied up about eight of those large Rubbermaid storage bins. Then I went through my closets. Living in a log cabin in the country, we have very limited closet space. I took all the clothes I used when working in an office for three years and stored them in some of those bins. I took all the clothes I called my “school teacher clothes” and stored them in some more of those bins. Additionally, I took the more exotic outfits I used when doing storytelling gigs and stored those as well. I still have other clothes I can use for storytelling gigs that are less “out there.” As a storytelling with multiple long braids, those more exotic outfits were a nice match. Now, as a storyteller who is currently totally bald and will need to wear her wig when hired, my more “normal” type storytelling outfits will work much better. While I was at, I put all my spring and summer clothes in my more accessible guest bedroom closet that I use as my main office. I put the fall and winter clothes in the less accessible closet in our den.

I panted my way through doing some of that. My energy is not what it used to be. On March 8th, I did get my heart tested. My ejection fraction is at 60% which is good enough to do chemo. A hot shower and a good night’s sleep left me feeling recovered. It felt so good to get all these purging and organizing activities done. I even found a Rubbermaid bin where I can store my “chemo kit” in between sessions. Our living room is once again a place I wouldn’t mind showing off to guests.

One March 11th, I met with both my oncologist and surgeon. They both found that the tumor in my left breast is smaller. My surgeon, Dr. Mark Patterson, said that before, he could feel the formerly 3×5 inch tumor all the way from the left side of my left breast to about ½ inch past my nipple. He says that now that tumor is significantly to the left of the nipple. My oncologist, Dr. Dharmen Patel, said that he could no longer feel any inflammation in the lymph node under my arm nor that hard node that was formerly the hardened scar tissue from the breast biopsy I had on January 4th. This is all very good news. I imagine that the grapefruit size benign fibroid tumor in my uterus is probably getting smaller as well. Dr. Patterson said that since I finish chemo on July 1st, I probably will have my surgery around the middle of July. Since I will be having a double Mastectomy and a Hysterectomy, he said that it will save the insurance company thousands of dollars and makes the most sense to do the following:

On the same day, have the double Mastectomy. He will appoint a female doctor (I can’t recall her name) to do the right breast while he does the left breast. This will take about 1 ½ hours. He asked if I planned to do reconstruction surgery down the road. I wasn’t sure. He said that if I know for sure I do NOT want to do reconstruction, they make a wider cut to remove the breast. If I think I might like to do reconstruction eventually, using the fatty tissue from my tummy, then they make a more narrow cut. I want to keep my options open as I am only 51. I will be 52 when the surgery gets done. He said that a plastic surgeon would be the one who would do the reconstruction. In any case, they wait for about a year after I get done with all treatments to make certain the cancer cells are gone and my body is totally recovered. Since I have post surgery chemo and radiation to go through for at least 6 or 7 weeks and maybe longer, I will have lots of time to think about this.

Then probably while I am still under, my OBGYN will come in and perform the full Hysterectomy that includes removing my ovaries. Estrogen feeds cancer. I never want to have children, especially at my age. I am most content to simply be a very proud aunt of four nieces and one nephew – I have two wonderful brothers and two wonderful sister-in-laws. I am the middle child and the only girl.

He said that with a double Mastectomy, I would remain in the hospital overnight. Since I also will have the Hysterectomy, I would remain in the hospital for three nights. I like the idea of getting all the surgeries and pain over with at the same time rather than spreading it out over the course of weeks. I actually don’t mind the anesthesia. My body seems to react to that very well. Then I would have the rest of the summer to recover from all surgeries. The good news is that getting to my office is simply a matter of walking a few feet. So I can still do writing while recuperating.

I am guessing that they wouldn’t begin the radiation and chemo until after this recuperation period is over. I may be wrong about that. I didn’t think to ask that question.

So to wrap up this very long Blog, during and after eating my Ham Biscuits during my chemo session, I watched only about 20 minutes of a DVD and then felt very sleepy. I pulled out the prayer shawl graciously made and sent to me by my cousin-in-law from Iowa and slept my way through the rest of my chemo session. When Randy came to pick me up about 1:00, I went to the bathroom. Once again, I am demonstrating that I must be a patriotic TN Vol fan as I only manage to pee orange instead of the expected red. I’m sure this is because I drink so much. Perhaps I should call this the Orange Devil Chemo treatment rather than the more commonly used phrase of Red Devil Chemo. LOL!

I am thrilled that my body seems to be building up a tolerance to the chemo to where the side effects are less and quite tolerable. I am holding the good thought that my 3rd round of chemo will work the same way. Any prayers you care to say about that aspect would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance! Also, thank you for all prayers you have sent in my direction in the past and to Randy’s direction as a double caregiver of his mother in the nursing home with Parkinson’s, etc. and his wife, me, living with breast cancer. Prayers for my mother-in-law would also be much appreciated. She has been in and out of the hospital twice in the last six weeks.

One last little detail – I was very proud to hear that the social worker at the Cancer Support Group said that she has been bragging a bit about my sense of humor and positive attitude to some other cancer patients she has met. I am proud that I have only indulged in those five pity parties. I know with every ounce of my being that I am will be fine that it is hard to feel the need to expend that kind of negative energy. It was also a joy to be able to share that confidence and support to a couple of women I have met, one whose father might need chemo and one who was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s what life is all about – isnt’ it?! Helping others! I certainly am most grateful for all the wonderful help sent in my direction.

Much love to you all,
Healing Seeker aka Debbie


  1. Debbie, I have been wondering about you and so glad to get your post. I am glad you are enjoying your prayer shawl and it brings you comfort and warmth. Your positive attitude is what is going to get you through this. You go girl!! I am so glad that chemo is going so well for you. Our prayers are being answered! Give Randy a hug for me!! Love you both, Diane

  2. Thanks so much, Diane. Yes, the prayers, the prayer shawl, and the positive attitude are all working great! The day after chemo, other than much in need of an afternoon nap, I am feeling great. I was able to taste my yummy lunch at 100% and eat more than I would have thought. Woo-hoo! I’m off to my nap now. Much love to you and Keith,

  3. Polly,
    Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry I didn’t notice it sooner. I wish you all the best.
    Healing Seeker aka Debbie

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