Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer Blog

From breastfeeding to being diagnosed with breast cancer and then back to breastfeeding. This is an account of my experiences.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Finishing Herceptin and Cancer Treatment

The new normal:  what life following a cancer diagnosis is often considered.

My life which used to be filled with toddler music class, story time at the library, shuttling to karate classes, visits with friends, the zoo, and the children's museum had been replaced almost entirely with doctor visits, IVs, fatigue, and a general sense of being distracted.  I read cancer magazines, books about cancer, and participate on a message forum for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.  I have scars and lots of doctors.

As my appointments began to space out and I neared my final Herceptin, I read about how patients often feel happiness mixed with some sadness.  The cancer experience is a busy one mixed with not feeling great.  Not much else goes on, even in one's mind. The patient is the center of attention at each appointment.

For me, I was ready to be done and have my days back, though it felt a little strange knowing I would have no plans to go back and get more IVs.  It had become such a normal activity for me.  I looked forward to feeling myself again and losing the gained weight.

It really wasn't until I was feeling rested and done with treatment that I realized how fatigued I had been. I hadn't stopped all our activities at once, they were slowly dropped. I had to try to remember what we had done with our days.  I was ready to sign up for activities again and find our friends we hadn't seen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Golden Token

So much like a quarter, similar in size and weight, I even keep it in my wallet. Its presence carries hidden meaning. This unique token is for the “special” parking lot at the cancer center. It grants me entrance to a small lot near the cancer center, a branch of the hospital. After my first visit, the receptionist asked if I’d ever be back. I answered yes, I’d be back and she gave me my first token. Since then, I’ve always had at least one golden token in my wallet waiting to gain access to the special parking lot. Sometimes when looking for change, I spot the golden token and remember when I’ll need to use it again. I don’t know when I’ll be done having golden tokens in my wallet. I’ll need them for my follow ups with my oncologist pretty regularly for at least two years. I imagine I’ll see her at least annually for a long, long time. It’s amazing how something as ordinary as a coin can hold such meaning for me. It signifies cancer and how it is now a part of my life.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Follow-ups, Follow-ups

My first reaction at the mention of cancer was sadness that I would need to go to more doctor appointments.  I don't think I could have imagined how many appointments I would actually need to attend.

Before even starting chemo, I needed to have an Echocardiogram to check on my heart.  I was to receive Herceptin which can sometimes cause cardiotoxicity and effect the ejection fraction of the heart.  After this initial check, I would continue to have checks every three months during the year of Herceptin treatment and a final follow up.

In making the many decisions for chemo treatment, surgery, radiation, and plastic surgery, I found it helpful to be as educated as possible.  Part of my education came from seeking multiple doctor opinions.  Not only did they present different opinions sometimes, they also talked about treatments in different ways.  I really appreciated having the opportunity to meet with so many talented doctors.

Once I was locked into a treatment, I would have regular appointments at predetermined intervals.  Pre-Ops and Post Ops, then every three months, every six months, finally annually.  These regular appointments were with the breast surgeon, the plastic surgeon, the medical oncologist, and the radiologist at the breast imagine center.

For chemo, I had twelve weekly treatments of Taxol and Herceptin.  Before each treatment, I would need to have a blood draw.  Often patients are scheduled to have a blood draw and then wait an hour, then receive treatment.  Because I wanted to minimize my time away from my toddler, I opted to have a blood draw in the morning with my toddler in tow, and return later to have my chemo.  After completing the twelve weeks, I continued receiving Herceptin regularly for another nine months.  Initially, I received it every week, then I switched to every three weeks of a higher dose.