Port Removal

I’m happy to report that I had my port removed on July 25th. It was an annoying little thing but it saved my veins. Sadly, without a port, the chemotherapy would have ruined many of my veins. I’m glad that I made the decision to have the port “installed” but I’m also happy to have chemo completed and to have the port removed. For me, the port stuck out a bit from my chest and caused a little sore on my collar bone where the tube passed to my neck. The sore took weeks to heal due to my weakened immune system. It was  also under my skin, closer to the tube so a Band-Aid or topical ointment wouldn’t have helped.

My seat belt always put pressure on the port causing a little pain at first and then a minor annoyance. Probably the most painful would be anytime my little guy, Ethan, was sitting on my lap and he pressed his head back against me. That would actually cause me to scream out in pain. Suffice it to say, I had a love/hate relationship with my port.

I’ll get to the point – On the 25th, in the early afternoon, I went to the hospital to have the port removed. It’s considered a very minor surgery (I’m not sure if I need to include it in my list of surgeries, that’s how minor it is) so, I had to fill out the paperwork again. I got a little bit annoyed with this and in a couple of sections that I knew hadn’t changed, I just put “please see previous paperwork”. I was still filling out paperwork when they took me back to the prep room. The people seemed to be in a rush to prep me…and then I waited about an hour before I was taken back to the surgery room. But, I did get to watch most of an episode of Friends while I waited. I’d forgotten how funny that show is. 🙂

They wheeled me back to the surgery room, asked me what kind of music I liked and I had a better answer this time. I asked for some Maroon 5. They stream Pandora so I figured I would get other artists with the same type of music. I love the song “Moves Like Jagger”. No blood pressure cuff this time. But, they did have a humongous drape for me. I couldn’t see what was going on once they put that over me. While the physician assistant numbed the area with lidocaine, I said “ouch” once and then made faces behind the drape. The nurse peaked around the drape to make sure I was ok and saw me making faces. Hahaha. Yes, it hurt but I was being a little melodramatic. I told him I was fine.

I felt pressure as they cut my skin and tugged out the port. Then the nurse had to put pressure on my neck while the tube was removed as well. They added more lidocaine a bit deeper, behind where the port was. I’m not sure how they cauterized that but soon they were sewing me up which I felt, not in a painful way, just in a “I now know how fabric feels” kind of way. Hopefully that makes sense.   

Finally, they added the surgical glue and rolled me back to my prep room. All-in-all, the appointment took about three hours. I was starving and craving Wendy’s. I saw a Wendy’s commercial while I was watching Friends. The advertising totally worked on me. Yes, it was a delicious celebratory dinner and yes, I did have a Diet Coke. Yum!!

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The Light at the End of the Chemo Tunnel

It’s here!! Just two days away!! I can finally see it!! My final chemo transfusion. Only one more bout of pain. Yippy!! So excited. This journey began in February and it’s been a long five months. But, it’s not over yet. Radiation starts in August.

What a journey it’s been so far. I’ve learned so much about myself and my family. I’ve learned tons about cancer and cancer treatments. I’ve learned how much sickness, pain and weariness I can tolerate. I’ve learned how to be more patient…at least I think I have. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to my final chemo on Friday and, if all goes as anticipated, looking forward to the Friday after that which is when I will start to feel good again. Silver linings.

Another silver lining – My doctor and I have discussed having my port taken out. Yippy!! It’s been a good run, but I’m really ready to have it out.

Summary of next steps: last chemo then four weeks off to recover, have port removed, prep for radiation and follow up appointments with chemo oncologist. Hmmm…that doesn’t really sound like four weeks off, does it?

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Round 7 Recovery

So, I’m recovering from round 7. I know I’ve briefly explained the side effects of Taxol but I thought I would elaborate a little more since I’m in the midst of it.

After the treatment, I am very weary, not just tired but weary. My arms and legs are itchy. My goal is not to scratch them because that just makes it worse. Plus I don’t want to get a rash (which I did the first time I received Taxol). My arms and legs continue to feel itchy when the muscle and bone pain begins which is about 48 hours after treatment. I literally think, “and there it is” when the pain begins. I feel the pain throughout my body – fingertips, pelvis, calves, everywhere. I usually get a headache within hours of the pain starting. I usually take Benedryl to help me sleep but it has its own side effects. Ibuprofen helps bring down the pain a notch. Claritin helps with the pain a bit too. The pain was bad enough last night that it nearly brought me to tears.

With all that said, I would still take the side effects of Taxol over the Adriamycin and Citoxin side effects. For one thing, I don’t feel like I’m in a chemo fog anymore which is nice, but I’m definitely more emotional. I don’t like that.

My eyebrows and eyelashes have almost made it through all of this. They are sparse, but I can still apply make up to them. I’m hoping they make it. I have no idea how to put on fake eyelashes or how to draw eyebrows on.

I’m still looking forward to finishing chemo and moving on to radiation.

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Happy Happy Happy

What am I so happy about? It’s July!! July represents my fourth and last month of chemo. So excited to complete this phase. Yay for July!!

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Round 6

Tomorrow is round 6. I feel like I’ve been on this journey for forever. Taxol hasn’t been nearly as bad as the AC rounds…so far anyway. I spoke to my breast cancer bestie who just finished her treatments last week and it seems her side effects got worse each time. Her last round was terrible and I felt empathy for her trial. She was on Cytoxan and Taxotere (Taxotere and Taxol are in the same medicinal family and have similar side effects).

The side effects I’ve had with Taxol have been fatigue, joint pain, dry peeling skin, back pain and stomach pain. Headaches seem to come easily as well. My hands hurt a bit the first weekend too which means I didn’t ice them enough during the treatment. Icing means to put ice packs on the hands and feet to keep them cold preventing the chemo from going to your toes and fingers. This prevents neuropathy. Janet helps me rotate the ice packs throughout the treatment. I kept her on her toes during round 5 running back and forth to and from the hospital freezer. 🙂 And then I decided I wanted Runts (which I haven’t had since I was probably in high school) and she went and bought a plethora of them. She’s awesome.

I’m keeping this post short but wanted to give a quick update to let all of you know that I’m feeling better than I have in quite some time and I’m looking forward to my last treatment on July 18th.

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Round 5 – Coming Up

I’m not going to sugar coat it. The first four rounds of chemo have been rough. The side effects have been similar to the ones I experienced while pregnant…only about 10 times worse and I actually lost weight. 10 pounds to be exact. I’m back down to my pre-baby weight. But because they (the doctors) don’t want me to lose more than five pounds during this process, I’ve been trying to gain weight this week.

The side effects I’ve experienced with the adriamycin/citoxin therapy (even the thought right now makes me want to hurl): Nausea, vomiting, weary, chemo brain (foggy thoughts and memory), terrible depth perception, no appetite, etc. It’s truly a terrible experience. Adriamycin is nicknamed the “red devil”. I HATE IT!! It only takes about 10-15 minutes for the nurses to push it into the port but THAT is the one that makes me miserable. The nausea is bad enough that they give me three anti-nausea medicines before the chemo’s administered plus I have four different anti-nausea medications I can take at home. One of which, I don’t like at all. Whenever I take it, I sleep for hours and feel funky when I wake up. Lorazapam is preferred. It makes me drowsy, I sleep for a little while and wake up feeling half-way normal. The new normal, that is. The other two anti-nausea medications do not make me sleepy. I asked for these in an effort to avoid suffering through the nausea while trying to work.

One of the medications they were giving me after the chemo’s was one that is supposed prevent blood counts from going too low. This causes bone pain. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful neighbor who has gone through this before and helped me recognize that, for me, the bone pain was in my skull. These headaches were awful as well. But, once I had this hint, I was able to take some Claritin which took the pain away. Yay!!

One of the things they have you do after each treatment is drink TONS of water. Two to three quarts every 24 hours. My experience has been that I feel like I’m drying up from the inside out. I would drink water and then my mouth would instantly dry up. So, I would drink more water and more and more. Just keeping up with the water intake seemed exhausting at times.

Due to low blood counts, I managed to catch between the third and the fourth rounds. Talk about misery. Again – awful. Not only that, my body couldn’t fight it. I finally had to go to the Instacare to get some prescription cold medicine and an antibiotic to help.

Prior to my most recent, and last, A/C treatment, I began experiencing nausea the morning of the appointment. I asked the mid-level about it and she said that it’s called Anticipatory Nausea. It basically means that I was dreading going to the appointment enough that I began psychologically experiencing the side effects. Apparently, it’s normal.

Am I whining enough yet? 🙂

Tomorrow is round 5. The drug I will be given is Taxol. Some of the side effects are the same and some are different.

  • Low blood counts
  • Hair loss (no worries – it’s already gone)
  • Pain in muscles and joints (new)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy (new – this is numbness of fingers and toes)
  • Nausea
  • Other side effects not mentioned above and not mentioned here either (not new)
  • Mouth sores (not new)
  • Reaction that is similar to an allergic reaction

This is what I have to look forward to this weekend. Wish me luck!!

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Gratitude

When I think of all the things people have done for me and my family since my diagnosis, tears well up in my eyes. We have been very blessed. My mom, siblings, aunts and cousins have been so supportive. My sister has come to every round of chemo. My friends are always checking on me to make sure I’m ok. My neighbors and ward members (and friends) have brought us meals and checked on me and the kids in the evenings. One neighbor, who beat breast cancer years ago, brought me a chemo entertainment bag that included bandana’s (I’m wearing one right now) and Popsicles (love!). She’s so thoughtful. The Relief Society brought over a beautiful quilt that I’m enjoying. My colleagues who have offered to help with my work.

It’s amazing to me that my mom has taken so much time from her normal life to come stay with us and help me in the evenings with the kids. The week after chemo is rough, so weary, so nauseous. Her help has been invaluable.

My husband has been awesome. He even loves my bald head (giggle). He has been truly amazing and I love him so much.

I don’t know what I would do without everyone’s help. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to tell anyone. But, I’m so glad that I did. You’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child…it also takes a village to help a family get through cancer treatments. I think this is true for any major life changing illness.

I didn’t mean for this to sound like a weird academy award type of speech…I just wanted to let everyone know that I appreciate everything they’re doing for me and my family. Sometimes just saying “thank you” doesn’t feel like enough.

Thank you to my village!! You are awesome!!

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