Friday, August 3, 2007

Once upon a time continued...

Sorry, Folks. I took yesterday off to work. It's a little thing I do every now and again to pay the bills. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. I had just been diagnosed with IBC 3 days before Christmas 2005. By this time my right breast was very large (my girls are/were no slouches to begin with), tho not red or discolored in the least. My nipple was beginning to retract a bit, however. At this point I still had not seen an oncologist, only a surgeon. I encourage any woman diagnosed with breast cancer - no matter how small the lump/mass/spot/dot/shadow - to see an oncologist. Even if a surgeon says a lumpectomy will do the trick it never, ever hurts to get a second opinion from an actual doctor who specializes in all that cancer stuff. Anyway... back to our story...

Mommy and Daddy-O decided to keep their new reality to themselves through the holidays. It's not exactly tidings of comfort and joy, now is it? So no one knew but Mommy's co-workers (because that's where she got the call) until after New Year's Day. On January 3rd, 2006, Mommy officially became a cancer patient - two weeks after diagnosis, 3 months after discovering a hardened area in her breast and 4 months after D rejected Right Booby for the first time. Right Booby was rock hard, half again as big as Left Booby and Mommy's tumor was over 10 cm in width.

Something you should probably know about Mommy is that she is a "planner". This is how all the people who love her refer to Mommy's tendency to obsessively research and map out every minute detail of her life and sometimes those around her. People who don't love Mommy probably call it something much less flattering. Keeping this in mind, when Mommy started chemo treatments, control was the hardest thing she had to give up. Mommy sometimes wondered if this was maybe why God might have given her that particular trial to overcome.

Mommy's first chemo treatment was pretty scary for her but she hid it inside because that's what she does. She buried it in humor and sparkling personality... because that is also what she does. A very sweet nurse tech came to administer Mommy's IV meds, her name was Fia. This first time Mommy had to have her treatment through her vein and it made her c-o-l-d. She huddled under a blanket and made out thank you cards for Christmas presents. (She had a port-a-cath put in before her next chemo so she never had to use her veins again.) She peed red from the pretty wine-colored cocktail they pushed into her veins. But she felt good and she went home to see what would happen.

The next day Mommy went to work, then went in & had her neulasta shot. Mommy does not like neulasta. Neulasta may keep your white counts up so you don't get sick... but it is NOT a nice shot. She wants everyone to know that growing bone marrow is painful work. Mommy took one day off work that 1st round of chemo (plus the time for treatments and drs visits) but felt pretty good all in all. The second round went much the same with an extra dose of bone pain compliments of neulasta and two days off post chemo for nausea and pure exhaustion. A note here... By round two Mommy's hair had begun to come out. At first it wasn't too bad. It came out if she pulled at it which is suprisingly hard not to do. But by the day after chemo Mommy felt like she was showering with spider webs. Her hair just kept coming out and coming out and coming out. The water didn't wash the hairs off. It was like the water coming from the showerhead was really hair and the more Mommy rinsed the more hair there was. Mommy cried that day like she had never cried before - except the day she found out D would never see. Mommy realized that losing one's hair is much easier in theory than it is in reality. So that night, when Daddy-O came home from work, Mommy had him shave her head. Daddy-O was a bit on the freaked out side but Mommy felt liberated and, most importantly, in control again.

The 3rd round of chemo was the turning point for Mommy. As soon as she got her neulasta shot she felt weak and nauseous. She spent 4 days in bed and didn't go back to work for the next 13 months. There were alot of good days, and some bad. And alot of blessings that can't even be ennumerated here.

By April 14, 2006 when Mommy finished her 8th round of chemo, her face was bloated up like a puffer fish from the steroids, she was bald and very tan. Did you know that chemo makes you photo sensative? Neither did Mommy. Also, Mommy had hot flashes that could power her whole neighborhood. Chemotherapy also does not like ovaries and kills their cells with wild abandon. Mommy's bloated round head would burst into bloom with little beads of sweat if she even thought of moving. And poor Daddy-O had to get up in the middle of the night to change sheets that had been night-sweated upon more times than Mommy could count. He was a trooper and only complained a little. At the end of April, Mommy turned 40 and a week later she and Daddy-O went to Las Vegas on a very, very special trip.

Not only was Mommy celebrating her big 4-0 in Vegas... but she was meeting, for the very first time ever, her bff, Mama C. They had a wonderful time and forgot all about the other C in Mommy's life.

Meanwhile, back in the sewerless small town on the left-hand side of the America, Mommy's oncologist was planning more treatments for her. When Mommy came home she started taking Xeloda for six months. And also radiation for 6 weeks.

Sorry to stop short. I'm leaving to go camping with the family for B's 7th birthday weekend. We are taking 5 of his friends to the waterslides and camping. Hurray! More later.


Whymommy said...

Oh, the hair experience! I felt like you were describing what I've been going through just this week -- and why won't the hair wash off? -- I pulled mine out too, with abandon, until it started hurting so much.

The neurolasta sounds awful. You have survived so much, and you are an inspiration to me. Thank you for telling your story.

Imstell said...

The Hair. The Hair Loss. It's the badge of the Chemo Patient. I don't know why the stuff is so damned STICKY when it's falling out. Perhaps it's just as reluctant to leave as we are to have it go, eh? ;-) A helpful tip. Once I buzzed my head, the hair still comes out you know... so I used the plastic brush/scrubber thing the hospital gives you for craddle cap. I'd rub it all over my head with shampoo and it would catch all the little tiny stubble so I didn't have to rinse the shower out afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I came here from whymommy, your writing is wonderful and thank you for sharing your story.