I couldn’t come up with an award winning analogy, but I’ve gotten about 6 hours of sleep in the last 36 and though my mind is buzzing buzzing from the effects of my chemo cocktail today (which included steroids and no benadryl) … I have some options. As different as cafe mochas. As different as rocks. As different as colds.
I didn’t say I had good ideas.
I sat next to a white haired man today waiting for my chemo. He has lung cancer and is on a different chemo cocktail. But, he had an allergic reaction to taxol (my current chemo) and ended up in the hospital. Davis was appalled – how could he frighten you? What a thing to say to a stranger? I actually thought it was cathartic. I didn’t have an allergic reaction so another silver lining. But, he was giving me a hard time about my hair when I showed it off – I have more than him. So we showed our before an after pics on our phones and realized that I probably deserve to have it start growing back because I gave away more.
Did you know that even with the standard type of cancer, each is treated completely differently. I am ashamed that I am still learning. But I find myself uninterested in reading more about this – instead knowing only enough to be dangerous (or to deal with the immediacy of my current situation).
And, each cancer, and even each tumor, is completely different. Breast cancer is one of the better understood types of cancer, partly because of its meteoric rise in prevalence and visibility. But, there are still two major types of breast cancer – inflammatory and invasive. I have invasive (not as aggressive). There are then different combinations of receptors found on the tumors – estrogen, progesterone, and herceptin. Herceptin is a cancer drug developed by Genentech. When I bought their stock at age 18 I did not think I would value their contributions to the planet as much as I do now. I have a hormone positive tumor which means estrogen and progesterone.
From what I can determine, it is the most likely tumor – it responds well to chemo, and with the five years of hormone therapy following all of the chemo and radiation, curable – or remission – or survivorship … whatever you want to say.
My wonderful brave friend with triple negative cancer – or any amazing women in that category – face a different battle. Chemo doesn’t work in the same way. They have to be monitored more closely – more aggressively as their tumor is more aggressive. My dear friend underwent a mastectomy on Monday and will recover – but now has to face questions – which chemo cocktail?
Today I had my greatest scare in some ways since I have started chemo. I got my lab results and my white blood cell count had dropped significantly. For those of you keeping track (and yes, I will graph this for you later) I had a 2.4 … normal counts range from 4.5-12.6. I have been as high as 8. The way this chemo thing works is that you go to the room and get blood drawn. Then you have to wait for the results. I have never really worried, but when my report came back, the numbers were so low that I was concerned. And, so were the nurses – they had to secure permission from my doctor to proceed with treatment.
The white blood cell count is a measure of how active your body is fighting off infection … or toxins. I am told that I could have a bug in my system. Or, it could be an accumulation of the fact that I am reaching the four month mark on this chemo journey – the body can only take so much.
What was interesting to me today was that as much as I know the chemo is toxic, and I have crazy reactions, it was scarier to me NOT to get treatment. I hoped and prayed that I could proceed, because to delay is more of my timeline adjusted and gone.
How crazy is it that I now want chemo more than I don’t want it?
In other news, Henry does not appear scarred by my revelations. He is curious about how my doctor will make nipples for me. I made light of all that – saying the important thing was that I would have all the cancer bugs gone and be able to ski next Spring Break. What other fun trips should we plan to celebrate life after this void?
And in the meantime, I am going to have a glass of wine and hopefully by writing this blog, get some of the moneys out of my head.