Off to Chemo #8

October 25, 2007

I am stronger every day.  I know I’ve said that before, but I really do believe it.  Excepting the fact that I’m up today writing at 4 a.m. (hi, Robin!), I’ve felt great and slept deeply all week.  My aches and bone pain have been (mostly) bearable, and the nausea wasn’t too bad this time around.  I think the weekly chemo is more do-able than the once-every-three weeks protocol, but it may also be that this drug (Taxol) is much less severe than the first (AC).  In fact, I know it is.

As proof, we spent the last two days visiting Williamsburg, VA, and having grand adventures.  Well, WhyDaddy was at a meeting.  But I had grand adventures, driving up the river to a peaceful retreat near a tiny beach at Yorktown, shopping at Prime Outlets sans kids, reading The Other Mother for DC Moms Book Club, and resting my achy body in the hotel pool.  We had an intimate dinner at the most fabulous Italian restaurant , Maurizio’s, and we talked all the way there and back.  I had not planned to go along with WhyDaddy on this trip, but at the last minute we decided to try it, to give me some time away from these four walls and hopefully all the thoughts of cancer and responsibility that surround me here.  It was dreadful leaving the children for an overnight, but they were very happy with Grammy and Grampa, and we all were thrilled to see each other when we came home.

I love those kids.

In other news, I was, um, on the news last night.  Here are the clips of the pieces that Fox 5 ran on inflammatory breast cancer yesterday: Video Clip 1, Video Clip 2, and Video Clip 3 (this one features Team WhyMommy and our attempt to spread the word about IBC through blogging!).  The first two ran in the morning news hour, and the third one (which you and I were on) was part of the evening news.  I also went down to the studios to do a Live WebChat on Fox 5’s website.  We had at least 27 people sign in during the news program, and we don’t know how many more viewed the chat but didn’t sign in to talk.  The producer was really happy with this number, and invited me to start a blog over there to continue the discussion.  I’d love to do that, but

I have to go to chemo in two hours.

And so I’m having trouble sleeping.  I know that chemo is saving my life.  I know that it’s a miracle, and I am ever so grateful for it. I am, 100% of the time.  But it also temporarily dulls my senses and makes it difficult to write.  Last week, I spent much of Saturday night writing — emails, web posts, book reviews — anything, to resharpen my mind and make the words flow again.  It’s a weekly challenge, forcing my brain to remember how to string the words together and share an experience cogently and with care.  I can do it, don’t get me wrong, but it takes a couple days to regain what chemo steals from me as it simultaneously gives me new life.

So every week I ride this roller coaster and wait for the tumor to shrink enough for surgery.

Chemo #6

October 12, 2007

Chemo went really well yesterday.  Well, it went well after a little mix-up down at the laboratory, in which we waited over an hour for my blood work orders to be magically delivered from nowhere, and after we politely asked the receptionist if we couldn’t just go up to the chemo ward and talk to them, since surely they could draw blood through my IV upstairs just as well as the technicians downstairs, and after the receptionist lashed out at us for no good reason said no, and after we went upstairs anyway. 

Then the fabulous chemo nurses took me by the hand, wrapped an arm around me, walked me into the chemo ward and gave me my choice of chairs, settled hot towels on my forearm, and started the IV, tut-tutting, and you-poor-dear-ing me the whole while.

It took a little longer for the blood test results to come back and the procedures to start, but all in all, it went well.

I’m on my second treatment of Taxol, which my chemo twin LawMom has discussed recently, but I’ll outline quickly here.  After the blood draw, it takes 30 minutes for the blood test results to come back.  If the white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, platelets, and everything else are within acceptable ranges (i.e. it’s not dangerous to give me chemo that day), then they send the orders to the lab and mix the chemo cocktail of the day.  This takes 90 minutes, as they don’t start mixing until the lab reports come back.  In the meantime, the nurse starts an IV, infuses saline for hydration if necessary, adds antinausea steroids, and then a heapin’ helpin’ of Benedryl.  This last pre-med, as I’ve mentioned, does a number on my system, but it basically just makes me groggy and uncoordinated.  Also, people have a hard time understanding me, but that’s okay, as I don’t have much to say when I’m so groggy anyway.

Then comes the Taxol.  I don’t really feel any different when it’s dripping into me (thank goodness); the hard part is the Benedryl.  (Oh, and near the end of the Benedryl drip, something always happens and my elbow cramps up in pain like crazy.  Weird.)

The aftereffects so far this time are minimal.  I was pretty whupped yesterday afternoon and last night, but I powered through today (all the way to nap) and still feel pretty decent tonight.  Good.  If this is the way I have to spend my Fall and Winter, I’m relieved that it won’t be nearly as bad as the first four cycles, when I got a different drug (AC).

I still have a wonderful story to tell you about my MOMS Club, but I’m exhausted and will end here for tonight.

Anyone Walking With WhyMommy on Sunday is welcome to meet me at the team meeting location before the race.  There will be thousands and thousands of us there, but probably only one bald chick with a toddler and a big sign that says “IBC: Breast Cancer Without a Lump.”  Come up and say hi — I can’t wait to meet you! 

Off to chemo … again.

October 10, 2007

So tomorrow I go off to chemo … again.  The endless (?) cycle of needlestick, blood test, IV stick, steroid that hypes me up and makes me jittery, benadryl that brings me back down and makes me so sluggish I can hardly put one foot in front of the other, saline to hydrate and make me drag my IV unceremoniously to the toilet, and then an hour of the Taxol, the drug that is taking away my coordination, making the tips of my fingers tingle, confusing my words, and making my muscles ache and my bones hurt, but may yet save my life.

I am grateful for the chance that it is giving me, and the months or years with my children that I will have as a result.  Tonight I was able to give both my children a bath (with help) and then put them to bed.  I rocked the little one as I sang him his own special song, and lifted him, sleeping, into the crib (hooray!).  Then I read my preschooler a Richard Scarrey book and some (carefully edited) chapters from Swiss Family Robinson, and hugged him goodnight.  Hopefully, he will be asleep soon. 

It is these moments for which I am particularly grateful.  I missed putting them to sleep too many nights this summer because of badly bruised forearms, weak shoulders, and pain in my upper chest that prevented me from holding the heavy storybook treasury upright, or lifting the baby into his crib.  I say this not to complain, but to record how incredibly satisfying these little moments are, now that I am more healed (and on better pain medication).  After a week of frustration, anger, and tears, tonight I can be nothing but grateful for this special time with my babies.

Another special time that I always treasured with my little babies was nursing them.  When they were little, I was always there to nurse them:  when they woke up, when they went to sleep, and any time they needed it during the day.  Head on over to the League of Maternal Justice to view an amazing set of … links to moms breastfeeding their babies or waxing nostalgic.  Here’s my bit of nostalgia, a post I wrote when I realized that I had just nursed my little boy for the last time.  I called it I Didn’t Know.

Chemo #5

October 5, 2007

I’m still here … just trying to process yesterday.  I’ll share the facts now and get to how I feel about them soon.

* The cancer’s appearance is improving, but the tumor is still inoperable.  In fact, every time I get chemo, it seems that the tumor shrinks for the first two weeks, but grows back in the third.  That’s why

* My treatment regimen has been upped to every week.  That’s right; I have to go down and sit in the chair and get chemotherapy dripped into my arm every week from now until Christmas.  But

* The dose won’t be as high as on the every-three-week cycle, so perhaps it won’t knock me on my tush as hard.  I hope not, at least.  The last three weeks have taken me 8 days to feel decent again.  And now I go every 7 days.  At least

* I don’t have to go out to the local blood draw and testing facility to get my blood drawn on the alternate weeks anymore.  Their needlesticks invariably hurt and left bruises.  However

* I’ll still need a needle stick downstairs and my IV upstairs at the hospital.  Oh well.  At least

* WhyDaddy is still going to be able to come with me to chemo.  There’s only one that he’ll have to miss, for work.  He and

* My mother and father were with me this week, keeping me company, and it really helped.  Also

* The news crew came along too, filming everything from check-in to needle-stick, and a bit of the drip.  Lovely.  But

* It’s more awareness for IBC.  The segment(s) will air the last week of October, on Fox, channel 5/25 here in D.C. and surrounding areas.  It looks like it will be on the web too, so I’ll link up when it comes out.  I’m the one in the pink converse tennies and the hat.  I’m wearing a soft new chemo cap now, from

* My amazing Moms Club, the local Team WhyMommy, who showers me with a pink bag of encouragement and fun items to help me through each chemo cycle.  AC was really hard for me, and it’s been amazing to have their help and support all the way through this.  I certainly don’t expect them to do this for every chemo treatment now!  An email or a note would be enough, since it’s weekly.  (Although I will miss the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies, and the veggie breads.)  I’ll have to email them and let them know that instead of three more treatments, I now have

* Eleven.