Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the Herceptin Train

Today I began the first of the "every 3 weeks for one year" regimen of Herceptin, which is a drug used for women who are HER2 positive to prevent cancer cells from multiplying and growing.  I remember this was one of the first pieces of "good news" I received after the diagnosis.  My surgeon called specifically to say, "I have good news...you are HER2 positive so down the line you will be able to receive a medication that will help you."  I told her she was speaking Greek and I would need more information before believing that!  But now, today, here I am done with the chemo cocktails (while I still think of this drug as a chemo extension) and onto this new turn in the journey to help prevente any recurrence while strengthening my body's ability to come through this and say "goodbye" to cancer for good.  Having had time to do some research, all the surgeon said six months back was true.  Herceptin has proven to be a "wonder drug" for women with early stage breast cancer like my own.  And best of all, my hair can still grow back while on this drug!

When my oncologist asked if I had any questions last week, my first question was about my hair!  She told me that about three months from now, my hair should be about and inch or two long and as long as I am comfortable with that, I can take off my wig and/or hat and let the wind blow freely over my head!  I am looking forward to that.  I understand that it will take longer for the eyelashes and eyebrows, which is disappointing, but no choice on the waiting.  Thank God, again, for cosmetics! 

Last Thursday night, I came down with a vomiting and diaherra virus that was just stampeding through our preschool and our church--adults and children alike.  It was the first time in a long, long time I was sick like that!  Having been with the preschool for over 30 years, I have a pretty good immune system.  But, going through chemo and having low counts, that is pretty much shot!  So it was only a matter of time actually before the "bug" decided to "bite me"!

It was pretty intimidating, though, once I developed a fever.  It had been drummed in my head that any fever over 100.5, I needed to call "chemo central" right away.  My fever became 100.8, and it was time to call!  I was asked if I had any antibiotics at home.  I did not.  They told me if the temperature got to 101, I was to call immediately for a prescription and with the number of a 24 hour pharmacy and start the medication right away.  If the fever went higher, I needed to go to the hospital emergency room as soon as possible for an IV antibiotic.  I knew in the back of my mind that any sign of infection could be serious, but this really brought it home.  Thankfully, the fever never went any higher.  But I was sooooo weak for a few days that it was all I could do to get off the couch or the bed!

Today finally feeling better, thankfully, since I knew I had to go to the chemo castle once again.  It was kinda disappointing to be going there because it felt like chemo had never ended.  In fact, some of the "regulars" I saw said, "I thought you were done!"  But once you mention you needed another medication for a while, they all understand since they have been there or heard this might happen in their own future.

Tomorrow I go for the "after chemo" MugaScan to check for any possible heart damage (something that needs to be checked periodically).  And Thursday, I go to see the breast surgeon to get the plans organized for the surgery.  For now, I am on the Herceptin train ride for the next year...next stop...mastectomy!

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