Friday, August 12, 2011

Chemo update and other tidbits

Met with the oncologist yesterday.  Results of the FISH and Oncotype DX testing came back confirming the HER2/neu positive results.  10 Year prognosis without chemo: 40-60% recurrance.  With chemo, 10-15% percent.  Not sure I love those odds even with chemo, but the choice to go ahead with doing a few rounds of chemo makes sense to me. I really don't feel like going through this again at 50!

1st Round: 4 treatments, 1 every 3 weeks.  Adriamycin and Cytoxan.  These are standard chemos and should make my hair fall out.  In process of scheduling my hair appointment so I can do the whole top part hot pink (to go with our Pink Arrow Pride football fundraiser on Sept 9th) The shirts are dark pink this year.

2nd Round: 4 treatments, 1 every 3 weeks. Taxotere and Herceptin. Taxotere is another standard chemo drug like the other 2 above, stops the growth of cancer cells, causing them to die.  May also contribute to my ongoing bald state.  Just in time for Halloween....Avatar, the last airbender..Ang costume is in the planning stages!! :)

After the 4 treatments of Taxotere and Herceptin, I will continue the Herceptin every 3 weeks for a year.  Herceptin treats the HER2 antigens, that I think of as my cancer 'instigators' and encourage misbehavior and mob mentality of those darn cancer troublemakers.  It's not a standard chemo drug, it's a biologic response modifier that will work with my existing immune system to team up with those HER2 receptors and kill any new cancer cells instead of encouraging them to grow.  This sounds a lot to me like how Enbrel worked for me when I was using it to fight my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  

Enbrel is an immune suppressant medications, and as soon a I found out about the cancer, they told me to stop using it.  Luckily, I've experimented in the past and found that I can go quite a long while off Enbrel, just managing the RA with another drug called plaquenil.  So, even though I haven't had any noticible swelling or inflammation, I do feel a little more stiff and sore in my hands and other joints in the morning when I wake up.  The chemo drugs work in a similar way by impairing the immune system, so going through chemo may very well help me feel better in the joint department as well.  Also, once I'm all done with chemo, I can resume taking the Enbrel if I choose.  Hubby is a little concerned because there are some studies out there in the ether that link Enbrel with developing certain types of cancer, but nothing conclusive at this point that links my Enbrel use with my breast cancer, so we'll have to take a closer look when it's time to look at resuming that into my personal pharmacy supplies.

Because the chemo is pretty harsh on the veins, and I've lost the use of my left arm for blood pressure, and blood letting, they are going to put a port in for my IV so I can just "plug in" when it's time for my Chemo sessions.  They should last about 3-4 hours for the first 8 treatments, and then after, the Herceptin wil only be around 1 to 1-1/2 hours long.

Haha, I have found a good picture on another blog that shows how I feel!!  
The Borg Port

Luckily, my friends keep having babies, so I will have lots of knitting projects to keep me busy during my down times....stuff like this hat I knit for my girl A in Lansing for her cute baby....
Cute Baby Alert!
After that, I will do a round with Tamoxifen, since I tested ER+ in the tumor.  I think standard is 5 years, but I haven't really asked too many details about this just yet.  I figure I have some time to worry about the details of that drug down the road a bit!
Cytoxen and Herceptin can damage the heart, one reason why I'm doing the chemo in two rounds.  I will need to do a MUGA test, similar to an ultrasound, to make sure my heart valves aren't being damaged during the chemo.  I have my baseline test this coming Monday Aug 15th, and I'll get my port inserted the day after, Tuesday the 16th.  It's a 4 hour outpatient surgery so that will keep me busy that day!
Wednesday I have my Mastectomy surgical follow up with Dr. Beane, my surgeon, and then Thursday I go to see my plastic surgeon to check out the football in my chest, I mean,  my tissue expander.  It's finally starting to be a little more bearable, though still painful and uncomfortable!  plus I think the nerves from my sentinel node biopsy are starting to come back, because the skin on the back of my left arm and the skin on my back have been really sensitive to touch these past couple of days.  I'm taking that as a good positive sign of healing, and just using OTC's, heating pads and ice packs to help with the discomfort. 
One thing I've been itching to get back to is my regular yoga practice, one reason I think I'm so achy is because I've had to give up my morning practice and I get stiff and sore, even without all the extra stuff I've been doing lately.  I've been trying to be consistent at night before bed to practice a little...I do a modified 'legs up the wall' posture, using my daughter's bed- it's the perfect height for me to bend my knees and also, their room still has carpet in it, while the rest of the rooms in the house are wood floor.  That is a good restorative posture because it helps with lymphatic fluid circulation through the body, very important because of the removal of some of those lymph nodes under my arm.  I also try to alternate some 'happy baby' pose to stretch out my lower back, and my hips, and then do a modified cobbler's pose, against the side of the bed.  Then I finish with some sitting leg stretches and hip openers and a couple of gentle spinal twists to make sure my organs are 'wrung out' and fresh blood is circulating through my body.  If I were REALLY good, I would do this in the am and pm, but most mornings have not been super great for me, so that is a challenge for me to work on incorporating more yoga into my day.  This tissue expander has made inverted positions, the ones I love, like down dog and standing forward bend pretty uncomfortable, but I hope to get back to them soon- I can tell that they will be good for my left arm rehabilitation and to work on getting those nerves and muscles stretched back out.
so... that is my update, I have to run, the new puppy is out next door, and I have to get some puppy love therapy!!!
(this is not the puppy, but a dead ringer for him)

oh...I found an actual picture of Koda.  He has more black in him then I remembered.    He is 8 weeks old and about 7 or 8 pounds...smaller than MY demon cat for sure right now...and ooooh so smooshie.  love to kiss his little saggy face!


  1. Kasi,
    Good Sunday Morning. Just found your blog and find your entries "fascinating" for lack of a better word. Very intrigued by the yoga and what you are explaining makes a lot of sense in helping encourage healing.

    I know it all a huge bitch, but you are going to come out the other side.

  2. Hi Marie,
    Yes, I believe Yoga is my saving grace through out this whole thing. Not just the physical posture but the breath, the mindset...I've used those even when I couldn't move because of the pain or whatever. I think I need to explore that connection further, for sure!
    thanks for posting!

  3. This was my protocol also. I've just had round two of paclitaxol and Herceptin yesterday and am finding it much easier to handle the the A/C which knocked me out good! I notice you aren't getting radiation. Is this because you had a masectomy? I had only a lumpectomy and 1 positive node and they really want me to do it. I just don't know what real difference it'll make in the long run and it seems like so much risk. Errr - cancer.

  4. Hi Heidi! thanks for visiting. I didn't have to do radiation because my nodes came back negative and I had a mastectomy. The tumor was just too close to all margins for a lumpectomy to give good cosmetic results. My surgeon told me we could try lumpectomy/radiation, and if that didn't work then do the mastectomy, but I didn't really want to go through all that, so I just chose option b. After A/C will come another 4 rounds of Taxitere with Herceptin, then tamoxifen orally after that. Good luck with your treatment whatever you decide!


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