Last Chemo – Recap

Hi everyone! We’re back from our two week escape post-chemo.  I wrote a few blog entries while in Hawaii but didn’t feel like editing and posting them. So keep in mind that the next few entries were written a few weeks ago.  Once I get all of these up I’ll start posting real-time again. xoxo

Here I am — one week out since my last chemo. I’ve had a lot of firsts and milestones to acknowledge (maybe not celebrate).

At my last chemo, I woke up like I did on any other given chemo Tuesday. With a deep sadness and tears welled in my eyes.  As always, I looked over to Paul and said, once again, “I can’t possibly do it again. I don’t want to do it again”.  Ever the supportive husband, he kissed me and said, “You can do this. This is the very last time you will have to do this. Ever.”

My final chemo was bittersweet. I hadn’t had a massage prior to my last 3 chemo’s because Lisa was enjoying a well-deserved vacation. So, this, my final chemo, started with a relaxing, lovely massage. Then, off I went to Jelly for blood work and Garrett for my final consult before my final Benadryl nap. What’s crazy is that it was all sort of sad and anticlimactic at the same time. I felt that I was losing a HUGE chunk of my life and my new cancer family, yet I was gaining my independence again (whatever that means).

I’m proud to say that Garrett and his team asked me to be one of the new faces of his practice (my pic and bio will appear on his website). It just so happens, that the professional photographer for their website was coming in on my last infusion day. So it was a BIG day. Can’t you just picture it, I’m totally zonked from a massage and Benadryl. I wake up and try to re-apply my make-up and sit for a photo shoot! Ha! I was a hot mess. I planned my outfit very strategically so that I had three separate looks for the photographer. Sadly, I was in such a daze — it was all I could do to let her just take my picture — forget about transitioning looks! End of day, I was wearing my Stella & Dot breast cancer awareness scarf in the photo. I’m happy about that because I was wearing it the day of my mammogram when this entire journey began. It felt fitting to wear it as chemo came to a close.

The entire day was surreal. I don’t think there were any other patients in the infusion room that day. So it was really quiet in the office. Paul and Tasha did a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ as the very last drops of Taxol dripped into my veins (See Paul’s blog post — I am super out of it, it’s pretty hilarious!).  Then, during my photo shoot, everybody sort of came out of the wood works to congratulate, high five and hug me.

My clearest memory from the photo shoot was of Lisa literally screaming at me “You’re done!” and DAMN, that felt F’ing good! I know she was partly trying to get me to loosen up in front of the camera — but it was all so bittersweet to me — every single day since last December, I’ve counted on Smith Integrative Oncology — the entire team, to help me get by. Everything from a paper cut (which is actually no joke when you’re undergoing chemo) — to my 10 day hospital stay. They’ve been there for me. Through think and thin. My new family.

Now, our regular dates are done. I’m happy to break up with them on the one hand, but I’m sad to know that I won’t see all of these wonderful people on a regular basis.  They saved me. Together with Paul, all of these people saved me.  They made me find the strength to go on when I had no idea that any strength was left. They made me want to put on a cute outfit and pair it with some cute Stella & Dot each infusion day so that I could make them smile.

All I can say to SIO, Paul, and all of you who have supported me along this road, is a heartfelt THANK YOU. I don’t know what else to say. I know my fight isn’t quite over yet, but you all carried me this far, and for that, you get a giant THANK YOU.


Good Karma

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog! So much has happened this week I can’t wait to catch everybody up!

As you may or may not have recalled, this was the week we were meeting with three different medical oncologists here in the city. The idea was to hear each one out, understand their thoughts on my chemotherapy regime (and rationale behind it) and also to just see who we liked best (everything from the doctor, to the nurses, receptionist, office atmosphere etc).

All three oncologists came highly recommended to us, so we knew we couldn’t go wrong — it was really just a matter of who we clicked with.  Our first appointment was Monday morning with Dr. Garrett Smith of Smith Integrative Oncology.  I learned of this practice through the gals at BAYS (Bay Area Young Survivors). Dr. Smith believes in tailoring each patients chemo to them, rather than just taking a formulaic approach.  FOr example, since I am triple negative, most doctors would just say, “hit her with the ACT regime” but Dr. Smith looks at me and my pathology to be sure he makes all the right decisions for what’s best for me.  He also believes in combining acupuncture and massage with chemo so he has people on premises that can offer those services on infusion day in addition to having a nutritionist on site.  OK, need I say more? I don’t think so.

Our meeting went amazingly and I am in love with Dr. Smith (OK, that is a strong word, but boy do I have a crush on him!). He listened to every one of my questions and answered them thoughtfully, directly and succinctly  He also took very seriously our future family planning desires — which as you know are extremely important to us.  Needless to say, we chose Dr. Smith on the spot and I cancelled the other two appointments we had scheduled — that’s how much I liked him and his practice!

Dr. Smith wants to do a few more tests on the pathology of my tumor to determine the exact chemo cocktail I will be on. All of that is underway right now. I likely will have to do the full blown ACT cocktail (I’ll explain what all of that means in more detail when it’s confirmed that’s what I’m getting) — which is the kick-you-in-your-ass cocktail.  But there is the slightest of possibilities that I may only need the CT cocktail (get to skip the “A” which is super duper toxic).  Again, I’ll go into much more detail about chemo and all of its lovely side effects in a different post!

My first infusion is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, December 18th. Stay tuned for more details on all of that as they come in! Rather than freak myself out about what’s to come, I decided to take to the BAYS list-serve and start a thread seeking advice from chemo veterans. The responses were many and super informational. I plan to summarize all the advice I was given in another post — because I got a lot of great info!

In addition to making the huge decision about our medical oncologist (Which is such a relief! Honestly, I feel SO lucky that we are with Garrett), I also had my three week post op with Dr. Hong (my favorite plastic surgeon on the planet!).  Paul got really busy with work, so my brother Bobby took me to my appointment with Dr. Hong. It was really nice that we got to spend some one on one time together and talk about all the ins and outs of cancer, chemo etc. I forget sometimes that while I’ve quickly become an expert on all things breast cancer — my family hasn’t.  So we talked a lot and he asked a bunch of questions and we just sort of chatted about everything.  It was really nice!

I think Bob was a little bit weirded out that I wanted him in the room with for the plastics appointment though. I mean I’m his sister, he’s not supposed to see my boobs (or lack there of, in my particular case at the moment!). But he was a champ.  Dr. Hong removed all the surgical tape from my surgical incision sites and said everything was healing nicely. He even gave me the go ahead to start shaving my armpits and wearing deodorant SCORE! I KNOW I’m being a good patient if I got clearance for that 3 weeks out! yeah boyyeeee! 

The hardest part of the appointment was when Dr. Hong inserted a needle into my spacers (ie. boob prosthetics) and pumped them up with saline. This will happen for the next few weeks until we get my boobies to the size we want. I’ve mentioned this before, but the process is slow because you are literally stretching your muscle and skin.  The insertion of the needle hurt A LOT (I’m not going to lie to you), the adding of the saline — not so bad.  I had to hold Bobby’s hand through the whole thing — but he said I was trooper and did a good job!

A few hours later however, I felt a lot of pressure across my chest and my surgical arm (ie. my left arm and armpit close to where my tumor and the sentinel node biopsy were done) was really tight and hurting. Thankfully I went to PT that afternoon and really stretched myself out. As a matter of fact Julie Wong, my AMAZE PT, said that I officially have full movement back in both of my shoulders and that I can start putting shirts on every my head! Yay for another small victory!

Unfortunately, overnight, my body tends to tighten up all over again (just by virtue of lying flat and not moving at all), so I woke up in the middle of the night (well, 5am-ish) with excruciating pain. It felt like my chest was in a vice. This is not an uncommon description to hear from people who have just had their spacers filled — from what I’m told. Oh joy! I have how many more of these fillings to go?! Lordie!

But you know me, I cried it out a little bit, Paul helped soothe me, I took a pain pill and then I moved on. I mean somebody needs to take the dog out for a poop, feed her and do the laundry right?! So that’s what I did. I also made my first medical marijuana order — it was due time. I’ll keep you all posted on that journey. I’m not going to try any of the stuff I ordered (edibles as well as medicinal herbs and a vaporizer) until someone is here to monitor me and show me what the heck to do! I have zero clue what a vaporizer is — all I know is that I do not want to smoke pot and I hear during chemo you might be so nauseated — that you really don’t want the edibles. So I’m covering all bases. And like any good Type A gal — I will be test running over the next few days!

So, I’m going to end this post on an up note for you all. Earlier today, I was walking to the bodega at the bottom of the street to get some supplies and I ran into my UPS delivery guy, Devin. He stopped me and said I have a package for you from yesterday, you weren’t home. I replied, yes, I know, I saw your note stuck to my door last night — I had some doc appointments yesterday — sorry I missed you. He went on to say what an inspiration I am to him and then ran to his truck to get me my package.  But, not only did he give me the pair of Rachel Zoe jeans I ordered from Bloomies (yay for Black Friday online sales!) — he also gave my a bouquet of flowers from HIM to ME! How sweet is that? He’s obviously seen a lot of me over the past few weeks since I’ve been home and so many of you have been so kind to send us flowers and pick-me-up gifts. But to have my UPS man get me flowers just because was so AMAZING. That is good karma — finally coming my way. I will make sure to pay it forward. I promise.