Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Down

Last Wednesday was my third chemo session, and I was feeling pretty good leading up to it.  For the past couple of weeks I'd been trying to make more of an effort to eat healthy.  I typically am a pretty healthy eater (I'm a vegetarian and everything), but the funny thing about my cancer diagnosis is that I found myself eating out a lot.  Go figure.  My parents are obviously visiting a lot more often, and it's just easier to go out to eat rather than eat in my tiny (but lovable) apartment, and I've been going out a lot with friends too.  And when I wasn't going out to eat I was being kind of lazy about eating at home, just making something easy but not necessarily healthy.

But finally I decided it was time to get back on track, and I even tried out a new recipe in my Eating Well Through Cancer cookbook (black bean salad - pretty good).  Yes, there is such a thing as a "cancer cookbook," and I now own one.  It was sent to me by a nurse who works as part of a patient services program run by my insurance company.  Really, the recipes are just normal stuff anyone can eat, but they're divided into chapters that address how you may want or need to eat depending on your treatment - for example, if you have neutropenia (low white blood cell count, which can happen on chemo), you are not supposed to eat raw fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood because they can be harbingers of bacteria which you might not be able to fight off.  So the recipes in that chapter are all good things to eat if you have neutropenia, but really can be eaten at any time.

Anyway, I was getting my healthy eating back on track and I even took advantage of the spring weather last weekend and went for a 3+ mile run along my usual route in Hoboken which takes me along the water with beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline.  It was the first time I'd really worked out since my diagnosis, and even though it wasn't the fastest I've ever run, it felt pretty good.

My re-focused effort on being healthy paid off as I was down a pound when they weighed me during vitals.  Woohoo!

Then it was time to see Dr. Sara.  I was looking forward to my appointment because I was hoping I'd get a better idea of how much further I need to go with the chemo.  I've been wondering about this because before treatment started, he said I would need between 4 and 6 treatments, depending on how things were going. On the one hand, I speculated that I might only need 4 since things were going so well, but on the other hand part of me figured that if the tumor was shrinking but not completely gone after 4, he might give me more to try to completely get rid of the tumor since I've been tolerating the chemo so well.

I've been very aware of the fact that I can still feel a denseness in my breast - it is not nearly as big as it was before this whole thing started, but it's still there.  So I've been telling myself that "it's not all gone yet" and I shouldn't get too ahead of myself.  When Dr. Sara examined me, he explained that when the chemo destroys the cancer, it is not normal breast tissue that returns - it gets replaced with scar tissue, which is more dense than normal breast tissue.  So, it's possible that what I am feeling is scar tissue!  (Or at least part of it may be.)  That made me feel good because I was convinced that any denseness meant the cancer is still there, and that might not necessarily be the case.

We won't know for sure until I have a bunch of tests after my next chemo.  My next treatment is scheduled for April 14th.  Two weeks after that - April 28th - I am scheduled for a breast MRI and PET/CT scans, which will tell not only how much - if any - cancer remains in my breast, but also in my liver.  About a week after my tests I will go back to Dr. Sara for the results, and that is when I will find out if I need more chemo or if I'm ready for surgery.  Let me tell you, I will have that day circled in red on my calendar!

After my exam, I settled into the infusion suite.  There were some technical difficulties in getting my IV started - as per usual, the nurse first put it in the side of my wrist, but for some reason no blood was coming out (my Mom joked that I must have left all my blood at home).  So the nurse had to take out the IV and put in a new one in the back of my hand.  Really, I think it was just a desperate attempt by the needle stick gods to try to up their count - they must have noticed that boob flashes are really starting to run away with the lead so they were trying to do anything they could to keep it a tight race.  A futile attempt though, as there were three boob flashes that same day!  Needle sticks just can't seem to gain any ground, I guess.

Once the IV was up and running, Quincy came over for a visit.  Turns out he has his own card - like a baseball card, but for a dog!  Check it out:

Isn't he cute?

After my visit with Quincy, Bernardo came over for my music therapy session.  Since I am part of the study they are doing, I had to answer a few questions before and after the session, but they weren't nearly as extensive as the first time (I guess the first time they ask a lot of questions to assess your personality and things like that).

Bernardo handed the ocean drum to my Mom and the gatobox to my Dad, but I was off the hook this time in playing an instrument.  He also brought out some sheet music but he told me not to look at it because it was a surprise!

Then Bernardo started playing and I recognized the song immediately... it was "Munich" by one of my favorite bands, the Editors.   During my last chemo, Bernardo had asked me what my favorite song was, which is a very difficult question for someone who likes music as much as I do (a lot)!  But I named an Editors song, and I even happened to be wearing an Editors t-shirt that day (I had recently gone to their concert in NYC) so he could tell they really were one of my favorites.

The next song he played was another Editors song, "No Sound But The Wind," which is the song I'd named as my favorite last time.  This is a very beautiful song (well, I think so at least) and Bernardo's version was truly lovely.  Even my Dad liked it and he is not usually a huge fan of my kind of music, and he even refrained from playing his gatobox because he didn't want to ruin the beautiful song.

This song was actually inspired by the book "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy (which I have not read), which follows a father and son who are survivors of some cataclysmic apocolypse-like event and really have just each other to lean on (I hope I got that right, but as I said, I haven't read the book).  Anyway, Bernardo asked me if I identified more with the father or the son in the song and I had to say both... the father because he is the strong one, and I've tried my best to be strong through this whole experience, but also the son because he has had to rely on his father, much as I have had to rely on the all the wonderful support I've had from my family and friends.

It was very special that Bernardo played some of my favorite songs for me, and played them so beautifully too.

Despite how good I was feeling as I went into chemo, I have to say I am starting to feel the effects of three treatments now, particularly with fatigue.  Even after sleeping for 9 hours, I was still dragging the next day, but it's not so bad that I can't work through it.  I've also felt a little "fogginess" now and then... just kind of tired and a little dazed.  Someone told me early on that you start to feel like you're getting the flu... and that's a good description.  Over the weekend I didn't feel like doing much of anything except sitting in a chair and reading all day, so that is what I did.

So I may not have gotten my 3-mile run in this weekend, but at least I am starting to feel a little better now.  Maybe next weekend!


  1. Emily - You are doing so well and I too will circle the scan results day on my calendar! I'm hopeful and praying for some good news that day! Love ya!
    PS: Quincy is super cute and I now feel like I should get Snoop some cards too, but maybe not since my lazy bones dog doesn't have a job :-)

  2. So happy to see your update! I've been wondering how you've been. Quincy is sooo cute and those cards are hysterical! How about a picture of Bernardo next time???????? xxoo

  3. So glad you are being kind to your body and listening to it. I'm confident that your scan date may be a national least it will be for all of us waiting to hear the good results!!!!!Miss you...

  4. If I were a publisher, I would sign you for a deal right now! I LOVE your writing. I'm sure that it is somewhat therapeutic for you to write, but it is also therapeutic for your readers. Your positivity has been a strong influence in my life and I look forward to your posts every week. Hugs, Bonnie

  5. Keep fighting Emily! Always thinking about you!

  6. Emily, I love you! First because you used the word "harbingers" and 2nd because you wrote a whole paragraph that turned the needle sticks and boob flashes into a sport! Awesome!

    Um, so I have an idea. Since you're feeling tired and all...and spent your last weekend reading (I did too!!!) and will most likely spend more time doing so, how about we both go out and buy "The Road" and read it at the same time and then discuss the next time we meet, ya know, like a book club of sorts.

    And, also, it hits you more and you're tired and home but find you just want some company or need someone to run some errands for you, you know where to find me!