Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chemo Junkie

Yesterday was a good day.  I had my second Herceptin treatment.  My sister Sara has taken to calling these "Herceptin Wednesdays," since I will get this treatment every week now, at least to start.

I had a friend come with me and we made our way to the reception area where I signed in.  After a few minutes they called me for vitals, where they took my blood pressure, temperature and weight, just like last time.  If they are going to weigh me every week, I really think I should start laying off the brownies!  And even though Dr. Sara said that I can continue to work out normally, the truth is that I haven't been to the gym since my diagnosis.  But those weekly weigh-ins just might get me to start!  (I also don't understand why I always seem to weigh at least 5 pounds more in doctor's offices than I do at home.  I even take my shoes off and everything.)

After vitals they put me in an exam room and this is where it gets real exciting.  Dr. Sara came in with a fellow I hadn't met yet (and by "fellow" I mean a doctor who has completed their residency and is in specialty training; not a "fellow" like some random guy), who Dr. Sara said was familiar with my case.  They did a physical exam (that's 2 boob flashes to add to the count) and... here comes the exciting part... Dr. Sara said that he's ALREADY STARTING TO FEEL A DIFFERENCE!!!!  He can tell from the physical exam that parts of the affected area are "softer" than they were last week, a sign that last week's chemo is doing its job and the tumor is showing signs of shrinking.

I was so excited when he said this that I said, "Alright, I'm ready for more!" and he said I'm going to turn into a "chemo junkie."  Ha!  But my attitude is "bring it on."  Anything to get this cancer out of me.  I would go every day if I had to.

This was the best news I've heard in a long time and I was on a high for the rest of the day.  Now, I know that I still have a long way to go and I am far from in the clear, but after finding out last week that the cancer had spread to my liver and was Stage 4, I started dreaming about the day when we would start to see that the treatment is working.  Dr. Sara had said that we probably wouldn't know much until after the second chemo, so I went to the hospital with no expectations yesterday, which makes it all the more sweet.  And remember, this is the same doctor who told me he would always be honest with me and would never sugarcoat things, so if he didn't really feel something different, he wouldn't have said so.

After the exam, I got a chair in the Infusion Suite (which my friend says sounds like a spa treatment... if only!) and they started up an IV in the side of my wrist this time.  I have never had a needle stick in the side of my wrist and didn't even know there were veins there, but I guess I will see all manner of creative IVs before this is over.

Since Herceptin is not really a typical chemo drug and does not have any side effects (aside from weakening the heart muscle), there was no need for "pre meds" today, i.e. no anti-nausea and no Benedryl.  Hallelulah, no restless leg syndrome today!  After a saline drip, the nurse hooked up the Herceptin and this time it was only a one-hour drip.  The time passed quickly and after more saline to flush my veins, I was good to go to work.

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but the day got even better when Sara emailed me that afternoon.  She had been on Lifetime TV's website looking to find out when the next time Living Proof, the movie about the development of Herceptin, would be on TV.  There is a comments section on the site and one of the comments was from a woman who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2006.  Aside from a large tumor in her breast, she also had multiple spots on her liver and even an inoperable tumor in a precarious place near the major opening for blood vessels to the liver.  Her treatment plan sounds identical to mine - chemo every three weeks and Herceptin every week.  The treatment completely cleared up her liver and greatly reduced the tumor in her breast, and after surgery she has been cancer-free for 2.5 years. (You can see her story by going here and scrolling to the comments section at the bottom of the page; it's the 4th one down, posted by gmkjules.)

This was so powerful to me.  I have been wanting to hear a success story about a case that was similar to (or worse) than mine, and this one was pretty perfect.  It just gave me added confidence and hope that if someone whose case was worse than mine can beat this, so can I!

My parents actually watched the movie last weekend (thanks to a friend with Netflix).  They said it was very good and an interesting story, but I will probably hold off on watching it for awhile, because it shows what breast cancer was like in the late 80's (I guess not pretty) and I don't want any ugly scenes to get into my head, even though I know things are much different now.

But, I will definitely watch it when the time is right, because I am so interested in this drug and how it came to be, especially if it turns out to be the wonder drug for me that it's been for so many others!


  1. That definitely was a good day (I would bold that but I can't figure out how)...and you were definitely overdue for one :-). It also shows that even though the road is long, there will definitely be highs along the way. Cheers to the good days!!!

  2. It was wonderful to hear your good news. Keep it coming!!! Here's to healing!!!!

  3. My friend Malia was in the same position you are - almost identical. She is in exceptional health and spirit as we speak. She is warrior.
    So are you. Coraggio!

  4. What great news! Way to go, Em! - Mara

  5. Emily... great news about your progress. Remember...good things come to good people!! Let's keep on that yellow brick road to a happy outcome.

    Bernie and Elinor Gross

  6. Great News!! My fingers are always crossed for you and my postive thoughts are always being sent north.