Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Confusion is a state of grace

according to a friend. My visit to the oncologist was not on Monday but rather today. The end result was the same however, no more chemotherapy. I almost felt guilty as I sat in the waiting room, watching the poor souls who would receive chemo today as I went skipping out the door. But not guilty enough to stay.

My oncologist told me that she firmly believed that 'someone is trying to tell us something' with regards to continuing treatment. With the reactions I'd already had the risk was now far outweighing the benefit of further treatment and basically I should quit while I was ahead. Seemed good enough to me.

So now on to radiation oncology next week to formulate a plan. And then back to work. Starting the week of 3/8 I will be back at the desk on the med/surg unit, a place I never thought I would miss so much. I have so very much to be grateful for as I could see in the eyes of the waiting room patients this morning.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow

you always a day away!

So tomorrow is my appointment with the oncologist, the day I tell her that chemo is finished and that it's time to come up with Plan B. At my appointment with the NP last week there seemed to be great confusion about what was happening and when. Hopefully those issues will be resolved tomorrow so that I can plan the rest of treatment. Some friends are encouraging me to go back to work during the down time between chemo and radiation, others are saying to take the time to relax. Another dilemna to consider.

And that is why I shall wait until tomorrow!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Birthday Eve

Tomorrow is my birthday. Usually the day goes by with a few phone calls, some cards and little else. I take the day off from work and enjoy my time at home. This year I am home because of my breast cancer diagnosis. I'm recovering from chemo therapy and some time soon will begin radiation. Yes, somehow my birthday celebration has taken on a new meaning. I want to scream, Carol 2, Cancer 0. I beat cancer to the punch two times. And it feels good.

Reflecting on the year just passed I know the highs have far surpassed the lows. I've been able to continue work in my little cottage, making a great room out of three little rooms, new siding, new windows, lots of new plants, flowers and a white birch tree. I even have new window boxes handmade by my brother. I look around and am happy with what I see.

Work has been busy which I always count as job security. I have a new boss with whom I enjoy working. The hospital is dedicating this year's ACS Relay For Life to me, an honour I wish I didn't qualify for, yet an honour nonetheless. My knitting friends have deluged me with chemo caps, hand knit with love and soft yarns, each reflecting the personality of it's knitter. The caps are a treasure I will never part with. My friends and family have rallied around me offering their love and support. It has been an amazingly humbling feeling.

Now as I look out onto my 60th year I wonder what the year will bring. A cure for cancer. World peace. A more stable economic environment. Or perhaps, good health. Perhaps that should be my sole wish ... good health. Good bye 58 and look out 59! I'm coming your way.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Experts

Today was the day to confront those who have up until now only confounded me. A week ago today I had my second round of chemotherapy. I literally put my life in the hands of a medical team for which I had the greatest respect. Note I said had. After today's visit I am just plain sad. Sad that I deferred to the experts on my care. Yet at the same time learned. Because it will never, ever happen to me again.

Suppose one day you, the medical professional, discover a lump in your breast. First thing you do is call your surgeon friend. She rises to the challenge, takes you lovingly under her wing and guides you through a very difficult time. For her you have the greatest amount of love and respect. You are grateful to call her friend.

Surgeon friend makes a recommendation regarding follow-up with an oncologist. You consider her advice and although her choice may be "a true genius" your personalities clash. Instead you choose a highly recommended oncologist with whom you have an established rapport and who enjoys an excellent reputation. However know this, it might not be quite that easy. You might want to look beyond the smoke and mirrors to see just who it is holding up the magic curtain. The wizard is only as good as his/her handlers. Over the past two weeks I have learned this lesson the hard way. Hopefully sharing my experience will keep you from making the same errors.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gosh I wish I hadn't gone and done that!

Simple message today.

If the oncologist wants to stop one med and start another in the same day pull a Nancy Reagan on her and just say no.

If the new drug causes worse side effects than the one you were already taking, and that one was not so good to you, just say no.

If you wake up in the morning and feel rather well and think "why in hell would I need those anti-nausea meds", don't fight city hall. Don't argue with yourself. Just take them.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Decision Has Been Made

I'm not sure why the big decisions in life are left to those who can not think straight at the time. After having two serious reactions to one of the chemo agents on Monday my oncologist presented me with treatment options, none of which I could fully wrap my arms around. The numbers, the percentages, the what-ifs and why-nots, all too much to think about at the time.

Now as the days have gone by and I've had time to reflect I realize that I am truly lucky. I am not fighting for my life but rather for the decreased risk of having another cancer sometime in the future. And I do believe my body is trying to tell me something ... something along the lines of ......


So when I see the oncologist on next Monday I am going to bail. She had previously assured me that the increased risk of cancer was all but nil if I stopped the chemo after these two treatments and by gum I'm going to believe her. I'll take a few weeks off, start radiation and move on. No surgery for a port a cath, no nuclear cardiac function tests, nothing but rest and taking care of me. My most important patient. I think I might have been afraid that not going forward would indicate a lack of strength and conviction. Now I know it just makes sense.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yesterday, not so much

Another day, another round of chemo.

Yesterday was round two of chemo. As I'd had a reaction to the taxotere the first time the oncologist decided that I'd do well with a double dose of decadron before I started the meds. She'd only seen one other reaction to taxotere and that premedication had served the patient well. So we tried. And failed. Miserably. Without belaboring the point I suffered from a very severe reaction to the med and it was decided that I must indeed have an allergy. So what now?

The doctor pointed out that I'd had two of the four rounds of chemo and maybe I would just want to quit now and go straight to radiation. After all with radiation the chance of recurrance was reduced to 7%, with the taxotere 3% but if I were to continue the new med, adriamycin would only reduce the rate of recurrance to 4 - 5% and was that worth the side effects. That's a lot of numbers and a lot of questions for someone with a foggy brain. With input from my sister I decided to carry on. I have only added one more appointment to my regimen, I was already bald, I had good insurance now and could go out of work on Family Leave of Absence (thank you Bill Clinton) and if I stopped now I could never change my mind and go back. However if I went forward and decided that the side effects were not worth the extra 2 % decline in my recurrance rate I could quit.

I came out of the office feeling confident in my decision. I explained the situation to friends and family and all agreed that it made sense. Until my life long friend came by to visit today and said she thought I should stop. After all the breast cancer was gone. Surgically removed. The treatments now were to give me the best possible shot at not having a metastasis within the next ten years. How could we know what would happen? She strongly felt that the risk/benefit ratio was not in my favor. Her mother had not had chemo post lumpectomy and had done fine. Others had also. Now my mind was in a tail spin. Was I going through all of this for the drama or for the peace of mind?

Late this afternoon I spoke with another friend and came to realize I could never live with myself if I stopped now and something happened. That every time something happened, anything happened I would be wondering if only ...

So I carry on...