I call myself a spiritualist, not conforming to any religion as such. I am often approached by the most unlikely people to give me the most meaningful messages about faith, God and prayer. I often think about these messages that are given to me for a reason and I always stop to listen to what these people have to say. Usually car guards funny enough. All messages of having faith in Jesus or my pastor, to keep praying for total healing and that I will get through this.
I was even asked one day (by a car guard) if I was Jewish as I had a scarf on my head. When I said no I have cancer the guy practically held my hand all the way to my car giving me encouragement that Jesus and the Lord will make me better. I find this inspiring.
I wasn’t able to drive for 2 weeks after my op which was a bit of a challenge. I am so independent and so there was a wee lesson in this for me.
We went to have our follow-up appointment with Dr Reddy. He was very happy with the way I was healing and that no haematoma had developed. Haematoma is a collection of blood under the skin. If not monitored could get infected. He removed the stitches both under my arm and on the breast and removed the massive plasters and put on smaller ones.
When going through all of this it is immensely encouraging to get positive feed back from your doctors who become almost like god’s as you entrust them with your life and well-being. A little boost to move forward with the treatment.
The results came back from the lab regarding my tumour. Like I said 21 lymph nodes were removed out of 36 and 5 were found to be fybrotic which means the little red devils kick the diseases butt. My tumour was found to be DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ) which meant the little red devil worked its magic on the tumour itself as originally it was Invasive Ductal carcinoma. All very positive results. It still showed that I was ER+ and PR+ but the one little thing that had changed was HER2 – results I had received from my original biopsy was now HER2+.
HER2 is a growth promoting protein which is not great as it assists in cell growth which is not what we want when we have cancer cells growing in our bodies. It makes the cancer more aggressive. On the plus side there is a great targeted therapy that has been developed call Herceptin which is given once every 3 weeks for approximately a year. It is also administered through the port so I guess I will still be bionic woman for a little while longer.
I felt ok about this information in the doctors rooms but as my very imaginative brain got working I started to feel like I had been hit by a freight train. I felt very sorry for myself and was overwhelmed by the fact I would be visiting the oncology rooms for another year after all my chemo. Why did I have to go through this, why could I just not be told what I was originally told. I wanted to be finished with chemo, onco rooms, ports, needles and all of that when I had my last treatment. I had a good old cry.
I know that when I falter it has such an effect on my family. I watch how my children are affected, how my husband struggles and how it puts my sister into a spin. It’s really difficult to keep things under wraps, keep all the emotions at bay all the time and to constantly say “I’m doing ok” when in actual fact I’m not having a good day. This HER2+ thing had put me in a dark place and the looming cancer cloud had once again found residence over my life. I would need to discuss this further with Dr Narsai my oncologist to get more information regarding it.
I always feel uplifted and motivated after seeing Dr Narsai. He really has a wonderful bedside manner and really knows how to discuss things with me. He said he would need to motivate for the HER2+ treatment – Herceptin as each round costs………. wait for it, hope you are sitting down………. R24 000 a shot. Yup that’s correct R24 000 x 12 = R288 000.
So for this reason the medical aids (not my friends at the moment) are very reluctant to pay for it. What they require is more testing to be done on the tumour. I was quite shocked that they still had my tumour. I found out that they have a whole “storage” place where they keep everyone’s specimen’s. Can you actually believe it and its for this exact reason. So if further testing needs to be done they can do it. This takes 2 weeks for them to grow the cultures.
Dr Narsai then went on to say that we have had the best possible results we could have hoped for from the treatment I have had. I was over the moon to hear such wonderful news. Such encouragement to forge onward. There is a 4 week break between the op and the next chemo round which frustrated me a little but it was important in order to let me heal properly after my op.
Next round of chemo – Taxol is booked for the 20th April. I will be having 12 of those, 1 a week. 3 months of chemo oh my word. I really needed to get my head wrapped around that.
In true style we celebrated the forth coming chemo and results of my op with a little delicious golden bubbles with my wonderful friends.
My hair had grown back beautifully with the 2 month break between the little red devils and taxol. It was so nice to finally have a little mop on my head. I packed away my scarves and gave back the wig my friend Clair had so kindly loaned to me and was ready to rock this new treatment.
The 4 weeks went by in a flash and I was sitting in the chair again getting the run down of side effects. Possible hair loss or thinning :(, possible nausea, fatigue, peripheral neuropathy (which is damage to the nerves causing weakness, numbness and pain) oh joy.
I was hooked up and ready to go for my first round. They also said that some people have a reaction to the drug so they would need to keep a close eye on me and run the drip slowly. I was given an antihistamine injection before hand and they give me steroids and anti nausea in the drips before the chemo.
I don’t often get chatting to people in the chemo suite. Most people keep to themselves but I got chatting to an elderly couple. The husband George was having chemo and his wife was his chemo buddy. And ever since then he comes every second week, we keep each other entertained for the time we are there. I have also made friends with 2 elderly ladies, the one lady comes for chemo and her friend brings her along. They are a hoot and always keep me giggling. They too come every second week. It’s nice to see familiar faces when you go for treatment and special bonds are formed in these situations. There is a deeper understanding between the cancer fighters and the supporters. We kinda just get it, get the emotional upheaval, get the pain and suffering, get this very hard road we are walking.
I came across this website of a woman who had designed cards for cancer fighters. It really made me laugh as they are so true.
Got a little side tracked there ha ha sorry. They say you get something called chemo brain which I didn’t believe was real. Well it is I promise you my brain does not function like it used to. Hey just another thing to add to the list of this delightful journey 🙂
So back to round 1 of my Taxol. The chemo bag was hung and started at a very low rate. I was chatting away to George’s wife when I suddenly I felt my heart starting to race and my face get hot. I called the chemo nurse who quickly gave me steroids into my drip. The doc came to check my chest and pulse but all seemed to have settled down quickly. It was actually quite a scary experience. It felt like I was having a heart attack not that I even know what that feels like but assumed would be like.
Oh great now I’m flipping allergic to the damn meds 😦 what now……..
I had to wait half an hour before I could continue with the chemo but when it started again everything seemed to be fine thank goodness. My first round of Taxol was complete and I was ready to go home.
I was told the side effects are more tolerable with this chemo but I had nothing to go on but what I experienced from the red devil so I was quite nervous about what was to come. What was fantastic is the antihistamines I was injected with made me so sleepy that I managed to have a 2 hour nap once I was home.
Now I can start ticking off these chemos and look forward to the end of this whole treatment. It seemed like a mountain I still had to climb but I was soldiering on.