I wasn't able to ride my bike over this time because we will have to run some errands and pick up Maia after we are done here today. Thanks so much to the families that took both kids overnight last night and for the day today, so that they wouldn't be so bored.
I decided to bookend my 6 chemo treatments by wearing the same t-shirt today as I wore to my first one:
They say I will start to regrow hair in about 3 months, so I am excited to also get my 3rd wig hopefully today around 1:00, if it comes via UPS. I'm going with a long brown one like my hair was when I started this whole thing:
Only the wig will be way lower maintenance, and will look nice every time. And I never have to color it. I don't know, this wig thing is pretty sweet. Except for not really being able to swim at the pool, and having to grill and bake with no hair because the heat will melt the synthetic material. I like traveling in cognito, and surprising folks with my different look each day.
What's to come:
While this is my last "Big Chemo," I will still have to do one of the chemo drugs, Herceptin, every 3 weeks for the rest of the year. I'm assuming that means until the anniversary of when I started- April 11. Herceptin does not have the brutal side-effects of the Cytoxin and Taxotere that are the other 2/3 of my Big Chemo infusions. The only side effect of Herceptin- which is the chemotherapy that is targeted directly at the HER-2 receptor on my cancer cells, is there is potential for heart damage. I had a baseline EKG before I started in April, and I will have a follow-up test in September.
I have surgery scheduled on August 21. Two days after the kids start back to school. It also happens to be our first parent commitment day at All City Elementary, where Maia goes to school. We have great families there, so it won't be a problem to get someone to switch with us, it's just inconvenient because it's the first week, and there's training involved. AND we have a brand new teacher to the school in Maia's classroom this year. Way to make a good impression!
The surgery will be a double mastectomy with reconstruction and implants. "Why so invasive if your tumor is only the size of a grain of sand now?" you may ask. My reasons are a.) There is only a 5%-11% chance of recurrence with this surgery as opposed to a lumpectomy. My general surgeon says that I will probably be at the lower end of that range. b.) no radiation. c.) I never have to have a mammogram again! d.) uh... new boobs. For a naturally rather under-endowed girl, this is pretty exciting! I will finally get to be the size I've always pretended to be, or maybe even bigger! (Photos above? My most padded push-up bra.)
The reconstruction with implants will be quite the process, and no one who has had it says it is fun. They will insert expanders behind the pectoral muscles in my chest wall with these little water balloons in them. They each have a port that the plastic surgeon will access and insert a few cc's at a time over the course of about 3 months until I am about the size I want to be. Then they go one size larger, and do a second surgery to remove the expanders and insert the actual implants, which will give a more natural look and feel. THEN a few months later, they will make fake nipples, and once I'm healed from that, I can go to a tattoo artist (affiliated with the medical center) and have the aureolas tattooed on. Sorry about that. It was graphic. Should have warned you. I promise not to post pictures of any of those steps. Maybe just the change in size through my clothes.
This first surgery will involve significant recovery time. I will have to take 4-6 weeks off from work, which means I can't go back to my regular teaching duties at USF until the first week in October. I have taken the whole summer off, so I am kind of chomping at the bit to get back at it, but what are you going to do?! I will reduce the number of students I take this semester, and teach 8-45 minute lessons instead of 12-30 minute ones. It will all work out just fine.
During my surgery recovery, I will continue to receive Herceptin every 3 weeks, and I will also start hormone replacement therapy. They will keep me on a daily drug called Tamoxifen for either 5 or 10 years which will keep me in early menopause probably until I go into real menopause. Bleh.
My latest side effect is that my fingernails are turning white and the nail beds feel bruised. I posted on Facebook the other day that they feel like they've been gently smashed with a hammer. I never felt the impact, but I feel the after-effects. My oncologist is concerned about that because it means that the nails are detaching from the nail beds. I am to keep them very short, keep my hands out of water, avoid traumas (don't actually smash them with a hammer), and stay away from dirty projects (garden digging, litter box cleaning, etc.). If they start to ooze, I am to call in for an antibiotic right away.
Obviously, this will impede my piano playing (and thus, my teaching style) pretty significantly. So I ask you to join me in praying that my nails get healthier and don't try to abandon me. So far, my toes are unaffected, so we can also pray that they stay that way.
I will be having a follow-up EKG (mentioned above) on Sept. 13. Praying for no cardiac damage from the chemotherapy. I am definitely slowing down. I can tell that I run out of breath faster, and my muscles don't handle the exercise as well as normal. Could be because I don't exercise nearly enough, so I will be gently ramping that back up before surgery to help with my recovery.
We can keep praying for my platelets, as they need to be right about where they are now or a little higher for surgery. I will have labs drawn a couple of weeks before surgery to check them. Low platelets during such an invasive surgery can lead to big problems, so I need my body to be working the best it can.
And of course, recovery from surgery. There is a 2-night hospital stay, and the aforementioned 4-6 weeks off of work. I am not a physically strong person, so this physical recovery concerns me a bit. Also, it will slow me down, which makes me crazy. And I will finally have to actually rely on others to really help out. This has been a rather long, drawn out process, so I'm afraid people's motivation to help out at one of those really busy times of the year might be a little low. Everyone was very willing to help at the time of diagnosis, but here's where we will actually need it.
They will inspect every millimeter of my remaining breast tissue at the time of surgery, to make sure there is no sign of any remaining disease. If I do not pass that little test, I will have to undergo further treatment in the form of a medical study called the Carolyn Study. Dr. Krie wouldn't explain that to me today, "We'll cross that bridge if we come to it." So, we're praying that there is no more evidence of cancer at the time of surgery and I can be declared cancer free.
So today is a day of celebration! Even though, I anticipate that I will crash pretty hard this afternoon and evening from that Neulasta shot, tomorrow won't be too bad. Then I'll go through a bit of a slump, but I should be feeling well enough by Sunday to enjoy our annual outdoor service at McKennan park.
Hooray! Thanks for checking in. Your support means the world to me!