breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Chemo 6/6: Check! Now what?

I had chemo 6/6 on Friday, January 8, 2016. As happy as I am to be done (hopefully) with the chemo portion of this program, I know I’m a long way from being done with this journey. Treatment 6/6 is the end of what I think of as Phase 1. Phase 2 is surgery and Herceptin infusions.

I have Herceptin infusions in front of me until the end of September 2016. Every three weeks. Until September 2016. It seems like forever. Granted, Herceptin infusions are not bad. The worst part is the port access. I HATE people messing with my port. I don’t like it being touched. It doesn’t hurt. It just feels strange, and I’m not okay with that. There are three nodules that sort of stick out of the port that signal to the nurses where to correctly place the giant needle for port access. I have two options when they access the port: a skin freezing spray or take a deep breath and blow it out when they stab the port. For my first two chemo treatments, I opted for the skin freezing spray, but it hurt, too. It had a burning sensation. So, with Chemo 3, I opted to just deal with the stab. It’s not fun. It hurts. I really hate people messing with my port.

So far, I’ve had no side effects from Herceptin. I’m glad for that. And, I hope keeps doing its job. Herceptin is an immune therapy designed to block HER2 receptors for HER2 positive breast cancer. As an immune therapy, it can signal the immune system to attack the cells as well. Throughout my treatment, I’ve been on two immune therapies: Herceptin and Perjeta. At this point, I’m (hopefully) done with Perjeta. Obviously, there are still some unanswered questions that can only be answered by surgery. A and I are choosing to be positive right now and believe what Dr. O told us on Friday: She cannot feel anything in the left breast. She believes there’s been a complete response, and if there is, she’s very confident in my chances for survival. We asked her to explain to us what would happen if surgery reveals the cancer spread or hasn’t completely responded, and she said she would talk to us about that if we come to it. She emphasized she expects the surgery to be successful. I really want to believe her. But, I know everything depends on surgery and the pathology report.

On the subject of surgery, I’m seeing a plastic surgeon later this week. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that surgery is here. It’s going to be soon. It has to be. The plan we discussed earlier with Dr. H is to do a skin sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I wish I could say I understand exactly what all that means. I do, to an extent, but it’s all what I’ve research on the Internet. I know what a skin sparing mastectomy entails, if I’m a candidate. That’s something we have to discuss with Dr. H when I see her again next week. I know reconstruction will be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or at least that’s the plan. What I’m unclear on is how the process of reconstruction works. Dr. O told me they would place expanders, but I’m not sure if I’m going to do implant reconstruction or tissue reconstruction or a combination of both. The plastic surgeon I’m seeing has an online gallery of his work, and I’ve looked at what he can do. As much as I’d like to say I’ll be happy with anything, I know that’s not true. I want to come out of plastic surgery looking something like me. I don’t want to be embarrassed by what I look like afterwards. That’s a real fear of mine right now.

Another fear of mine is the side effects I might be hit with after this treatment. Over the weekend, I had a massive headache, and the headache continued through today. I went to work today because it’s really important to me to be at work as much as I can manage. I’ve only missed one day of work due to side effects. Round 3 was incredibly hard for me, and I ended up missing a day of work because I couldn’t cope with the skin side effects (very painful skin pustules), and I completely lost my voice. I’m worried about this round being difficult. Rounds 4 and 5 were fairly easy on me, and A is convinced those rounds were easier because I was off from work during each one of them. Round 4 was during Thanksgiving, and Round 5 was at the beginning of Winter Break. I had plenty of time to recuperate. I’m trying not to push myself, but my life cannot stop because I had treatment.

It’s a hard balance, and it’s one I still haven’t mastered. I’ve been through six rounds of chemo over the last eighteen weeks. Four and a half months of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta. Four and a half months of side effects…of scheduling my life around treatment. It’s a balance I still haven’t learned. How do I balance my life and who I want to be as a wife, a mother, a friend, and a teacher with who I am as a breast cancer patient? I don’t know the answer to that question, and somedays, I don’t think I ever will.

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