Thankful for choices

My dad visited from Florida this weekend.

And I decided to go ahead with radiation treatment at Emory with Dr. Torres.

But if you’re looking for a radiation oncologist in Atlanta, consider Dr. Adam Nowlan.  Joey and I are so grateful to have his thoughtful, thorough second opinion.  He talked to my breast surgeon, pulled the relevant research and spent an hour with us on short notice.  And he emailed us this weekend with new data, the day it was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In short, radiation now seems like a no-brainer.  It attacks microscopic cancer cells left by chemo and surgery (and undetectable on scans) and reduces the chance of recurrence by 2/3.  No one knows exactly what my chance of recurrence is, but given that I had residual cancer at the time of surgery, after neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, it’s certainly higher than we’d like it to be.

Radiation can have quite a negative impact on reconstruction.  Oh, well.  As you can imagine, I’m pretty much over breasts, anyway.

This Wednesday, I’ll spend a few hours at Emory for a planning session.  Dr. Torres and her team will mark the areas that will receive radiation – my chest wall, the skin covering the tissue expanders (now deflated) and the remaining lymph nodes.  She suggested scarves or turtlenecks if I want to cover the markings (Sharpie marker and tape?).  I start radiation November 26.

Also on Wednesday, my cousin Kurt tackles a far more difficult treatment for melanoma.  I wish he had even half of the options I do – we are thinking of him and his family.

Nicole

10 Days Post-Op

I am drain-free!

I also have quite a bit more feeling in one side than I did a week ago, so when Dr. Woods pulled the drain out on the right, I cursed like a sailor.

Before that fun was my first expansion.  My male doctor inserted a huge syringe into the middle of each of my boobs and pumped saltwater into them to make them bigger.  While my husband watched.

What?!

Yes.  It’s like medieval torture.  For feminists.

Then there’s my new eyebrow stubble.  If I have a uni-brow in a month, it’s because I can’t bring myself to wax away the new hairs.

In the meantime, I’m taking walks, trying to keep my upper body still and learning to live without Hydrocodone.

Thank you for checking in!

Nicole

24 Monkeys and a Pirate

These weeks since my last chemo and before surgery are precious.  The four of us need the normalcy.

For me, normalcy is volunteering at our kids’ school.  I led an art lesson Wednesday in our son’s class as part of the school’s Art Parent program.  Helping 6-year-olds draw sock monkeys beats the heck out of being in a doctor’s office!

I wore a scarf, but within 5 minutes Sam had called out, “My mom is bald!”

We call it his “Cancer Tourette’s.”

Never shy, he’s made loud, random proclamations about my disease for months now.  Usually in large groups of people.  Sometimes to no one in particular.

For awhile it was “My mom has The Chemo!”  He got cancer and chemo mixed up, at first.

This summer, he raised his hand in a camp assembly to announce to the 100+ campers and staff that my hair was falling out and I’d just bought a wig.  His sister, sitting nearby, was mortified.

At breakfast a few weeks after we’d shaved my head, he mused, between bites of Eggo waffle, “Well, at least you won’t get lice.”

We should all learn from him – rather than hold it in and be worried, he just lets it rip!  Therapeutic for him.  Comic relief for us.

After Sam’s outburst in class, and after a little girl asked the other parent volunteer why I was wearing a bandana, I briefly told the kids that medicine I’d taken had made my hair fall out.  But that it would grow back.  And the scarf keeps my head from getting cold (not really).

A few kids decided that I’m a pirate.  And then everyone went back to their monkeys.

That’s our new normal.

Arrr!
Nicole

The Tumor Board

We found out from Dr. Barber yesterday that there’s something called a “tumor board.”

Emory and Piedmont Hospital both have one – professionals from the different disciplines involved in cancer care (medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, genetic counseling, etc) get together to discuss cases.

Joey and I both thought of the scenes in Grey’s Anatomy where the residents gather in an auditorium to hear about patients, but most of them are thinking about who they slept with the night before.

We’ll assume that the Emory tumor board, to whom my case was presented, gave me their full attention!

Anyway, according to Dr. Barber, the board recommended extra protection regarding my lymph nodes.

Chemo Side Effects, Part 2

All 4 of us have sore throats and coughs.

But, THAT’S IT!  Life is good!

No more chemo and (almost) no more side effects.  Here’s what I experienced on Taxol and Neulasta:

Taxol (Paclitaxel)
Via infusion, once every 2-wks, for 4 cycles (following Cisplatin).  Continued to take Sorafenib.  Click here for side effects from those drugs.

  • Hot, red face the day after infusion
  • Mild nausea.  I took Compazine and Zofran for 2 days after infusion.
  • Hair loss
  • That which Immodium is good for
  • Mild neuropathy, only in my toes
  • Nosebleeds
  • Joint pain, which could be from the Neulasta shot

Neulasta
A shot to increase white blood cell count, given back at Emory 24 hours after each infusion. Duration of symptoms varied from 3-6 days.  Claritin and Advil helped most.

  • Flu-like symptoms, low-grade fever
  • Bone and joint pain, especially in my legs

And that, my friends, is the last I’ll write about chemo side effects!

MRI, mammogram and ultrasound tomorrow, 8/29.  PET scan Friday, 8/31.

Nicole