Friday, September 6, 2013

The new me sucks!

My First Infusion
May 6, 2013
Greg and I began our two hour commute to Chapel Hill very early in the morning.  By the time we reached the Raleigh area the traffic was heavy and moving very slowly.  Because of this, we were going to be late for my first infusion.  I called Ms. B, to let her know.

I had slept maybe 2 hours the night before.  In the beginning of the night, my son was pacing the floor.  That did not help my already active mind.  He was stressing about his math exam that he would be taking in the morning.  The other reason was pretty obvious.  I was feeling anxious about my treatment.  It was so important to me that the drugs stop the cancer.

My first line of treatment would be Herceptin (trastuzumab), Perjeta (pertuzumab-new drug available since June of 2012) and Taxotere (docetaxel).  These drugs will cause me to lose my hair, leave little white lines on my fingernails, have diarrhea, be nauseous, feel tired, have mouth sores, have muscle and joint pain, and have a low white blood cell count.  When I went through chemotherapy three years ago I experienced all of those side effects so I imagine I will have them again.  I could also experience tingling and numbness in my hands and feet, fluid retention with weight gain in the ankles or abdominal area, a change in the way food tastes, and heart problems.

There will be no end to these treatments as long as the drugs are winning the battle.  Breast cancer somehow always finds a way to overcome each new drug.   Once it begins growing, a different combination of drugs will be given.  This will continue until there are no more drugs to try.  This is such a vicious disease.        
On this day, I didn’t see Dr. R.  Instead I saw a nurse practitoner, N.P. for short.  I asked a lot of questions, and she was very agreeable to answer each.  The N.P. and the nurse navigator both felt positive I would have a good result from this combination of drugs.   They believed I would be able to tell if the drugs were working by the lymph node at the front my neck becoming smaller.   I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but this N.P. had given me such a good feeling for a positive outcome.  Boy, did I need that. 

The N.P. listened to my lungs.  They sounded clear.  The blood test result showed an elevated white blood cell count.  I learned that was temporary and it was caused by steroids.  The steroids came in little green pills.  I had taken two in the morning and two in the evening the day before in order to prepare for chemotherapy.  I will take the same amount the day after.  Today I will take additional steroids before the infusion.  The steroids are to help prevent an allergic reaction to the chemo drugs.  It also helps lessen nausea.  Not a drug I would want to skip.

Kill the Cancer, Kill the Cancer!
As the nurse inserts the catheter into my vein I think to myself, I don’t want to be sick.  It is just not my style.  Kill the cancer!  The drugs must kill the cancer!  That is what must happen.  If I keep saying this to myself, maybe it will.

The Drugs Begin 
My first treatment began with my taking two Ondansetron (Zofran) to prevent nausea, one Benadryl to help prevent an allergic reaction, five Dexamethasone (Decadron) steroid pills to help with nausea and to stop any possible allergic reaction to the drugs and two Tylenol pills.  I am a one-at-a-time pill taker. No way could I ever just toss them all to the back of my throat and swallow with one gulp of water like some people can. I fear choking too much.   

Famotidine (Pepcid) was next given in liquid form not to help lessen acid in my stomach, but to block pathways that the drug Taxotere could take.  My body could react with an allergic reaction so this is given to prevent it.  Next, a saline solution entered my IV to hydrate my body.  In 30 minutes time, the main drugs arrive from the pharmacy.  As the drugs, one at a time, slowly drip into my vein, I began to feel really tired after the first hour.  With a combination of little sleep and from the little pills I swallowed before the treatment began I needed an energy booster.  I called my husband and asked him to bring me a coffee and some food when he came to sit with me and wait for my treatment to end.  He did and it helped.    

The new me, sucks!
This new lifestyle, this new me that I am being forced to embrace doesn’t mean I am strong.  It is just something that I must do. 


  1. I start my chemo on November 1st and it looks like I'm taking the same drugs as you. Except I'm also taking Pochlorperazine Maleate, it states on the prescription that this is for nauseau and vomiting. I had breast cancer twice with 2 mastectomies 22 years ago and the cancer has now returned to both of my lungs. I found you through a mutual friend and have just started following your blog.

  2. Hi Susan, I will be following you as well and hoping we both see long-term benefits from the drugs we are taking. This is not fun, as you know, but I find connecting with other people helps.