This Life

My HER2+ Breast Cancer Journey

Recently diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2021, I'm writing about my experiences as a cathartic release and to remember my journey.

Round 3 The Halfway Mark

The day before Round 3. I actually felt happy!

Sep 16, 2021

I have reached Round 3 the halfway mark of my chemotherapy treatments. Sounds like an amazing feat until you are faced with all the other steps required to completely finish one whole year of treatment. Time flew pretty quickly in between cycles two and three thanks to my trip to Maine. I got back, rested a bit, and cooked a bunch to prep for the week so my boys would have meals. I was trying to be productive and occupy my mind as well. I’m not working as much because work can be physically and mentally draining and my body needs rest to heal. I noticed an email that said results had been uploaded to my chart but didn’t want to look at it. I decided to wait until we went into my third cycle. If there was news to be had I wouldn’t be alone.

When Dr. Le walked in and we chatted for a bit before she walked out and returned with the PET scan results. Before she could say anything I told her I didn’t want to hear any bad news. She replied, “There’s no bad news,” and proceeded with the results. First, the scan showed my breast has responded very well to treatment already with just two rounds of TCHP. Second, the liver showed no evidence of cancer in the scan so we are proceeding as though we are dealing with Stage 3b. This could mean that if anything were in the liver it was so small it already responded to treatment; it could also mean that there was nothing there from the beginning. I asked the question as to whether or not one sees the same information in a PET scan versus an MRI scan and was told no. So, it is possible if we do another MRI scan that whatever was noted initially by MDA radiologists is still there. She told me we could do another scan later on after treatment. Chatting finished, off we went to get treatment.

The IV in my port just before premeds are administered.

My body is responding well to the four-drug regimen, so this time, they infused the Taxotere even faster. I decided to skip the Ativan (anxiety medication for the cold capping) because I didn’t want to sleep the entire day. My husband put the first cap on my head during the pre-meds and it wasn’t too bad. The second cap burned liked hell. I asked what the temperature was and he said -40°C. It was a terribly uncomfortable burn on my head. -28°C to -35°C is where the caps should be in temperature. I’m not sure 5 degrees is that big of a deal, but I couldn’t take it and started ripping off the velcro to get the cap off my head. After a couple of minutes, I put it back on again and sat there and cried through the burn until it subsided. It was awful. I actually thought about Wimm Hoff, the guy who practices cold therapy. After getting through 20 minutes and ready for the next cap, the nurse saw my struggle and came by to offer me half the Ativan dose. I hemmed and hawed but noticed the Benedryl was making me sleepy anyway and decided to take it. From then on the rest of the day went as usual.

As mentioned before, it’s a great deal of work to be someone’s cold capper. The caps need to be cooled and replaced every 25 minutes for 8 hours. I’ve had great success thus far with no big shed 32 days into treatment. The office has a Paxman system where you just put a gell cap on and the machine does all the work cooling the cap. This would have been ideal to start with except I am having such great success with the Penguin Cold Caps I don’t want to take a chance by switching systems. I’m very appreciative of the effort that Jason is putting into doing this work for me to help me save my hair. At this point, my oncologist thinks if I haven’t lost it by now, I’m not going to lose it; however, I have seen many women reporting in my online community that they have lost all their hair just weeks post final chemo, so I’ll just have to see what the future holds for my hair.

After 4 hours of infusions. Taking the IV out of the chemo port. It doesn’t feel good going in or coming out.

So, it’s currently two days after treatment, and my stomach is mildly upset, I didn’t have a terrible migraine this time after my white blood cell shot, and I’m feeling good physically. Maybe my body is getting used to it all. My mental situation is another story. Today it’s isolation,  loneliness, sadness and a bit overwhelmed by the daunting tasks and tough decisions that are coming toward me. I’m not sleeping at all, maybe 30 minutes here and there at night between the uncomfortable hot flashes that break me into dripping sweat each night. Life moves forward for everyone else, but today I am left feeling like I just don’t want to participate in any of it. Quite a difference from the happy I felt just 3 days ago. It is what it is…

 

 

 

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