They say the effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, each round dragging you down and making you slower, each rebound regaining less of your strength. They did not lie. Today’s chemo marathon was long, but the five hour infusion was made more tolerable by today’s roommate: a spritely spitfire of a 76 year old woman battling stage 2 ovarian cancer. Her prognosis is fairly good, but like me, she is struggling through treatment. I was also visited by the chaplain I met at Monday’s Lifesprings meeting. These encounters, added to visits from some of my favorite nurses, made the five hours of IV infusion pass fairly quickly. We are safely at home now. I am in bed and Jason is bringing in groceries.
My treatment protocol is targeted at my specific kind of cancer. My stage IV breast cancer is HER 2 positive, and I get infusions of Perjeta and Herceptin that target and stop this specific kind of cancer. They function by turning off these tumors tendencies to grow. I will be on Perjeta for a year and it takes about 30 minutes to infuse. As of right now, studies have not been done to see if this drug is effective after one year. I will be on Herceptin for the rest of my life or until that drug stops working for me. This infusion also takes about a half an hour but it can not be given within 30 minutes of Perjeta. There are some impressive success stories associated with Herceptin, and there are fewer side effects from it than traditional chemotherapy. The traditional chemotherapy drug that I have is Taxotere. It takes about an hour to infuse, but it also requires a dose of anti nausea meds and a dose of steroids before it can begin, which adds about an hour to the infusion time. This drug attacks all quick growing cells and it is responsible for the weird tastes and hair loss and sensitive skin and weakness. I try hard not to complain too much about all of this, especially if it’s working, but this drug is a tough one to live with. Right now, it’s impossible for me to live without it. I don’t know how long I will take Taxotere yet. I will have a pet scan next month and new plans will be made for my treatment after that. The trajectory of my entire life depends upon that scan, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.
Fighting cancer is tough. The goal of my treatment is a bit unusual too. Our goal is not to necessarily make me cancer free. With a stage IV diagnosis, that may not be entirely possible, though it is the dream. Our goal is to stop the disease from growing or spreading and if we can get the tumors to shrink and disappear, then great!! Our goal is to let me live with as much quality and quantity as possible. Our hope is to keep me alive until scientists and doctors and researchers come up with a way to eradicate this horrible disease. I probably won’t get to be cancer free again, but the goal is to make it possible for me to live with cancer. But enough of that. Talking about treatment and goals is stressful and worrying.
We braved a quick trip to Meijer after treatment. By the end of our quick run through the store, I was leaning heavily on our cart and stopping frequently to rest. I was asleep in the passenger seat by the time we got off the bypass. I am preferring Kroger’s click list for a few reasons at this time. 1. I don’t have to walk through the store and expend energy. 2. We do not impulse buy with click list so we save tons of money. 3. People stare at the very slow bald lady who looks like death warmed over. I know I’m not at my best, but the stares do get to me. Still, Meijer has an excellent selection and I have missed the normalcy of doing my own shopping.
Like I said, I’m at home and in bed now and I’ll likely remain here for the next several days. Life will continue out there without me for a while but I’ll be back on my slow moving feet soon enough. Until then, go and do something summery for me.
Taxotere is hung on the IV pole. This is the drug giving me all of the classic cancer treatment symptoms. I’m calling it a necessary evil.