Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Port, The Wig, and Learning to Cope

Chemo #3
June 17, 2013
I saw Dr. R. today in the UNC Cancer Hospital.  I asked her about my voice which seemed worse than usual.  She said my increased hoarseness should not concern me.  It is not an indicator that my tumor is growing.  The voice nerve that is being compressed by the tumor is fragile so even if it did shrink, it may be permanently damaged therefore my normal voice may not return.  That stinks because it would be nice to belt out a song again while driving in my car even it I couldn’t win American Idol.  Oh yeah, I guess that would be the Voice cause I am too old for American Idol.  Dr. R. told me I could go back to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor to see if there was anything he could do.  I remember talking to the Ear Nose and Throat specialist about possible injections into the vocal cord that could help.  For now, I will just deal with it.  I am so grateful that the vocal cord at least became paralyzed in a position that actually produced sound.  It could have occurred differently, and I would have no sound.  That would have been so frustrating for me not to be able to talk.

Since I was worried about cancer cells finding their way to my brain, I asked the oncologist about adding Tykerb to my treatment because that drug has smaller molecules allowing it to pass the blood brain barrier.  She said this treatment would be too toxic in combination with the drugs I am currently on.  Those are Taxatere, Herceptin, and Perjeta.  Woman in trials tried this and could only withstand the side-effects for 12 weeks.  We will continue the course I am on until we see that it is not working anymore.  I could get rid of Taxotere if I have stable tumors (not growing) or reduction for over 6 months.  So hopefully Taxotere and baldness will soon be gone and herceptin and perjeta will be the drugs that keep me here for a long time. 

My Port-O-Catheter
My port was placed last Friday.  The port is an access to a vein going to my heart where my treatments will enter.  The last two treatments were done through a vein in my arm.  The drugs are quite harsh on little veins so if treatments are going to continue for some time, as mine are, a port is the best method for treatment.  My mother-in-law drove me to this appointment at the Meadowmont Village in Chapel Hill.  The next day was pretty painful.  Tylenol was there to rescue me.  Today it feels so much better.  I am hoping it doesn’t hurt on and off as my other side did when I had it in the right side.  That one was implanted for a year because after the main chemo treatment which was for three months, I continued Herceptin for the rest of the 12 month period.  I decided to put it on the left side this time in hopes I wouldn’t have the same problem with the on and off pain.  I do not remember the catheter line that extends from the port being visible under the skin as it loops over my clavicle bone with my last port.  This time I can really see it.  And my shirts won’t always cover it.  I am pretty bummed about that. 

The Wig
I was able to get a free wig today.  Well it is on loan.  It kind of lifted my spirits.  I hate being bald.  It is so hard to make an average aging face look a little less average or even a below average looking face look like anything other than ugly without some hair to distract from so much face.

The beginnings of learning to cope
I am not crying as much, mostly once a day.  I believe I did not cry once yesterday, so that means I have had two whole days with no crying since April 1st . 

CAT scans
4th chemo treatment will be in 3 weeks.  Close to the next treatment or the 5th treatment, I will have scans of the neck, chest and abdomen to see what the cancer is doing.   The last scan didn’t show anything in the neck.  I asked my oncologist when I saw her why.  She said if those lymph nodes are cancerous it probably wasn’t visible on the scan because they are so close to the skin.  I also asked if there were other tumors that were seen on the scans but not noted on the report.  I was interested to find out if there were more than the four tumors in my right lung and more than the one noted in my left lung.  It was a bit unnerving to hear that the small ones (smaller than .5 mm) will not always show up and the ones that showed up this time may not show up next time because of the nature of the CAT scan.  So we won’t know if those are gone or just didn’t show up.  So the doctors will keep an eye on the ones that are 7 or 8 mm and above.  If those tumors show shrinkage or are remaining stable then that will be the indication to continue the drugs that I am currently on.  There is so much uncertainty.    

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