Monday, 23 January 2012

January 2012: Taking Control Back

Flashback: May 10th, 2011:

I get an MRI .

Aside from the stage three breast tumors and five cancerous nodes in my right armpit, which are all easily removable by surgery, if you are a radiologist, you could see a possible stage four--or terminal--suspicious node under my collarbone and rib. Had one been the radiologist reading the scan one would have known that time was of the essence.

Physically, a doctor cannot get into the human body under the collar bone without breaking the collar bone and rib. Hence it is never removed, only shrunken by radiation.

Ah, you say, reading this, where does this collarbone suspicious node fit into the slow march towards death? Where does it fit in terms of staging? Stage four breast cancer means your cancer has metastasized distantly to one or more of the following four organs: bones, lungs, liver, and brain. So how does this possible "local metastasis" fit into the staging of cancer? Why is this local metastasis significant?

Answer: because lymph nodes are the vehicles upon which cancer cells travel to the four organs mentioned above.

Are you still with me?

Let's play "Guess when I was told about the collarbone node?"

Go on. Have a guess.

Waiting. . .

What's that you say? End of May, 2011? are wrong.

I was told about the problematic collarbone node mid July, two whole months later. Standard practice for all in my situation. It occurred during my first meeting with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Caudreliere, the one who talked like Peter Sellers. He told me he saw the scan and read the report which included a comment by the radiologist on the "suspicious" collarbone node.

During that meeting he told me he was organizing another biopsy for me, NOT on the breast as by that time the cancerous breast had been lopped off. True to form, I was phoned, and attended a second biopsy: a biopsy of the suspicious collarbone node. August, 2011 I had it. And the guy doing it told me he could already tell it wasn't cancerous. Phew!

Off I go into the hands of the chemo oncologist till those sixteen weeks are over. The week following my last chemo, on November 12th, Christine took me to see Dr. Caudreliere again, the radiation oncologist.

During this meeting nought was said about the suspicious node, so I assumed all was good.


Last week, mid-January, 2012, when I finally was allowed to start radiation (though I had been told I could start it as early as December 2nd, if the staff was ready), I met with Dr. C. and he showed me the biopsy result, that the collarbone node was still suspicious for cancer.

Come on!! Come on!!! Are you kidding me? A biopsy confirms or denies cancer, it doesn't leave you somewhere in between! What the hell?

So am I alive or dead? Will I have stage four or terminal cancer soon or not? Am I still a permanent stage three?

Now top off this stunning piece of new information with the following astonishing thing I learned in November from both oncologists.

I asked both Dr. Wheatley-Price, and Dr. Caudreliere the following: "I have been reading online in my HER2 Breast Cancer support forum, a lot about the operations given to stage four, or terminal, women all over the world. The cancer spreading to the liver or lungs results in them having ablations on the liver or lungs, or a tiny piece of cancerous organ being lopped off with clean margins. Many of these women have been, like, ten years healthy since the spread of the cancer to either the lungs or the liver. Will you do that for me if the cancer metastasizes?"

Both doctors were emphatic that no, they would not. Although I asked them that question on separate occasions, both replied identically. "Breast cancer is too aggressive a cancer, esp yours, the HER2 kind, to bother lopping off the metastasis." (Ok, they used fancier words but the translation is correct.) "It will just spread to another place on the liver or lung, etc." "No point." What I realized is that they are on policy in this province to leave me in the ditch to die like a dog. Big contrast to the American women, but only the ones who have been paying into an expensive HMO policy. ($1600 per month if you are self employed.)

Side note: do not get me wrong. I am eternally grateful to free Canadian health care for cancer. We in Canada get this $130,000 initial cancer treatment for free, like the Brits, Swedes, Finns, etc. I am in awe, usually, of the incredibly wonderful gifts of care I have had, perfectly free to all citizens here. Astonished by the brilliant CCAC nurses who arrive at your house, for free, anytime day or night when you are sick from chemo, to inject your butt.

So I asked both oncologists this followup question: "is this policy to do no further treatment of stage four metastases due to cost-saving purposes?" Answer "NO! Simply the effectiveness is not there. You will be considered terminal and given palliative care till you die."

Okay. I had gotten used to the idea of dying. Since end of April last year I had been on an educational adventure, and I was forced to get used to the idea of being dead inside five years. And don't forget, the past year has been a big downer so death became a rather welcome idea at times. Our business, with me out of it, has been tanking a bit. Google will sink your business ad down to the point of nobody being able to find your business unless you throw money at them or a marketing person and we were hurting. My friend, Jill's mom, in Scotland had a tragic incident with a radiation error, and that was always on my mind when it comes to radiation.

In the January meeting with Dr. C. he had done some homework and provided me with the answer to the question I asked him mid-November when we met. "To what percentage (ballpark is ok) will my life expectancy improve if I have radiation atop the herceptin, surgery, and chemo I have already had?" Last week, mid January, 2012 he came prepared and said "ten percent". Well. Let me go home and think about the pros and cons of radiation (which I had bloody well thought he would have provided me mid November.) Back then he just said "well your chances will be better" but when pressed for numbers he had none.

The problem with him waiting this long to give me the exact statistic is that I had to do a lot of soul searching and balancing the negatives against the positives, inside a short time period. He had me down for treatment the same day he gave me the "ten percent" statistic so I did four radiations last week, each one a half hour.

Another new piece of information I was hit with last Monday was this one: "people who do all the treatment have up to an 85% chance of surviving, given your stage three cancer, HER2 status, etc." As I digested this incredible piece of information I realized that without radiation, 75% of women in the exact place I am right now survive. Three out of four survive and one in four will be dead inside the next 4.5 years. That stat is the exact inverse of how I stood on July 15th, when I met with Dr. Wheatley-Price, and he told me that with no further treatment, 3 out of 4 women in my situation are dead inside five years.

The last whompin' big piece of new info I had from Dr. Caudreliere, one week ago today, was that he had added seven new radiations, aimed exclusively at the collarbone node, to the 23 I was on deck for.

I experienced horrible depression, really really black depression during the week, last week, when I was undergoing radiation. It was partly the horrid weather, freezing temperatures, the radiation-induced fatigue, the fact radiation produces depression as a side effect, the Frontline episode I watched, on radiation caused by nuclear reactors that failed in Japan and elsewhere, such as Chernobyl, etc. The repetition of "radiation causes cancer" used in that Frontline episode, and the loss of several monthly clients to terrifying economic consequences for ourselves, and the fact Dave would not agree to invest in marketing our business. Once you get used to bad news, believe it or not, good news is not always good. Everything was out of my control. Others were rocking my world up and down and whenever they wanted, on the oncologist's schedule to provide or withhold information, regardless of my own schedule for requiring information.

Another bad thing happened to me in this neighbourhood, too. This coming Friday I go to court for it. What happened is this. I was backing out of our driveway to drive to the hospital. A car was parked on the other side of our narrow street. To get out, I had to gingerly maneuver the vehicle to avoid hitting it. I had to pull up close to its front bumper. There were sounds of construction in the air. A worker was working on a neighbour's house two houses away. One of the workmen was watching me maneuver around his coworker's car. He thought I hit the bumper. As I drew forward to pass him he started shouting angrily at me. It was clear he was a big guy in a temper who thought I had bumped his friend's bumper. I shot by him as I had just heard the story of the Ontario Attorney General who had rolled down his window when an angry courier thought he bumped him and the courier grabbed the steering wheel and a death resulted. I pulled by him and continued on. I had not hit the bumper.

When I arrived home a couple of hours later an angry police officer arrested me for "leaving the scene of an accident." I got out of the car in amazement. I knew no such accident had occurred but I knew the worker was pissed I had not stopped for him. I also knew what he had thought which I knew not to be true. I moved towards the so called injured car knowing full well it had not been touched and the policeman ordered me loudly "Don't touch that car!" My hands were already on the bumper, examining it for damage. It had none.

The cop was so mad he called for backup! The other policemen arrived and after sitting there doing nothing asked me "why are we here?" I didn't know, and my good friend next door even told the cop she had heard nothing in the way of a collision and was on the other side of a screen window as the weather was hot that autumn day. Dave arrived home after the dog park in the early afternoon and he, too, examined the car and said there was no mark on it. I took pictures and gave them to the Prosecutor when I went to see her. The whole thing was absurd. The cop was of a similar age and anger as the man who called him. It was clear they had bonded in the two hours I was gone. The "victim" came out and ran to his car, looking at me, saying "that's 800 bucks damage." Nothing on the car was damaged.

Sure enough no claim was filed against our insurance and I had the pictures to prove the car was unharmed. I went once to a court session where the judge put the date further down the calendar. This Friday, the 27th of January, I go at 1:30 to the court.

Cognitive dissonance, or depression and confusion while the brain is processing disparate, conflicting information, had set in. I was down in the well of depression again, due in no small part, to the yo-yo experience I was having by information coming at me that was both conflicting and late, late, late.

A week earlier, I'd received a phone call that my radiation had been delayed due to my "oddly shaped" chest, as Dr. C. called it on the phone message, etc. The last straw was that the girls on the desk failed to be able to make a simple change in scheduling for Friday for me, that I had presented them with four days earlier. The half hour radiations were set for all over the daily map: early, middle, late, with no two times the same. Thirty of them. My December 2nd start of radiation was already delayed till mid January. I balanced all this info against the fact that when I met, in November, one of the surgeons who was to do my reconstruction, he said four to six months had to pass after radiation before anybody would reconstruct my misshapen, deformed chest.

Everything was out of my control. I was a puppet thrown about by a two year old. Misshapen chest still there, hair inching its way out by millimeters. I was going to have to remain ugly for years, depending on people who never bother telling you what you should know, or who may or may not have been just fooling around all December, rather than getting the prep done to start me on radiation. Meanwhile I was reading about the burning skin, the radiation errors, the mistakes, the fatigue, the pneumonia, etc all possible effects of radiation.

This morning I called off the radiation. I am 75% alive. That is good enough for me. I don't know if you have ever experienced the kind of fatigue chemo gives, but I slept most of December. Just when I started feeling myself again, in January, down I went again with fatigue from the four radiations.

I'm tired of waking up tired. I want control back over my life so I can get up and start marketing my business again. I have started seeing Dr. Wilson, a wonderful woman psychiatrist in the oncology department at the Cancer Institute at the hospital. Canada has provided six sessions with an oncological psychiatrist for all cancer patients. Free. I have had two sessions with her and they are worth their weight in gold. She upped my anti-depressant dosage. Good. I hate this freezing weather.

Monday, 5 December 2011

finished chemo!!!!

Hi blog followers and friends!

Chemo has ended! Hooray!! For now. Barring possible future metastasis.

Do not get breast cancer as an elderly person. Please. In my recent hospitalization I met an elderly woman who had to be helped onto a commode everytime she needed to go to the bathroom. I felt so sorry for her as she waited for help for ages and ages each time she buzzed and called for help. You need to get breast cancer when you are young enough to handle chemo too. Do not get it when you are infirm and have trouble getting to the toilet and remaining on it for hours at
a time in the middle of the night.

Eighteen weeks, six chemos, an operation to insert a port in my jugular vein and vena cava, a biopsy of a chest node, a hospital stay for a possible superbug, a re-opening of the mastectomy wound oozing fungus, stomach pain, nausea, two months of painful heartburn, random diarrhea, week-long diarrhea, zinc cream on my ass like a baby, weeks of agonizing constipation, vomiting, getting hubby to burp me and read to me, injecting my own belly with needles full of white-blood-cell-stimulator, home-nurses' visits where they inject your butt, blood tests in your lymphless arm cos the "good arm" has all its veins shot, food tasting like metal, a billion different pills to take twenty times a day, constant doctor appointments, herceptin injections via my port, crying, raging, and feeling sorry for myself later, chemo is over.

And how were YOUR past four and a half months?

World of difference. Feeling myself again. Blues and anger all gone.
I feel great!

I wrote to a newly diagnosed, stage three (like myself) lady on the HER2 breast cancer support website where women with this kind of aggressive cancer all over the world support one another, that "chemo will take you down, way down. Give in to the tears, the rage. When it is over, however, it is really over and you won't even remember how sick you were for the four and a half months."

This is so true. I am way luckier than she, though. She has two young kids and is thirty four years old. What a drag for her to go through chemo at Christmas time. I am so very lucky to be finished chemo in time to start regaining hair and energy in time for a fun holiday season.

The fact this newcomer to HER2 breast cancer is only thirty four is not unusual. Hundreds of women on the site find their breast cancer in their late twenties and thirties and forties, apart from the more commonly accepted fifty year age mark. This makes more incomprehensible the recent news that the Canadian task force on Preventative Medicine has recommended no woman be screened for Breast Cancer before the age of fifty. Insane. My new surgeon, Dr. Mirsky, is outright angry at this news event. "There are women who would be dead without screening prior to the age of fifty!"

I saw Dr. Mirsky recently to discuss reconstruction. He did an uncomfortable search for lumps on my existing breast. He suggested June for my reconstruction. I will be four months past radiation by then so the new saline bags won't be burnt by the remaining radiation.

He, himself, will retire in April. But he has a couple of surgeons lined up for me who will both participate in the surgery. The procedure is this: I will have my existing boob removed (high chance of a separate cancer in your second boob if the first had breast cancer in it). Two flat bags will be inserted in my chest wall. A cup of saline solution will be injected into each. Then, every three weeks, I will visit the surgeon's office where he will inject more and more saline. The time after surgery, apparently, is agonising. Also the time between saline injections. Reason is, that the skin is learning how to stretch to accommodate these new saline boobs.

At a time when you think your boobs look normal enough, after enough saline injections into the "expanders" you go back into surgery. The saline is drained, and replaced with silicone, as the skin has been stretched enough to accommodate the new silicone bags. People who want nipples can then have them put on. I was told that if I didn't want them (which I don't) that i could have tattoos for flat nipples, the reason for which is that taking a shower at the health club will not be quite so embarrassing. We will see. Not sure I need anything other than lumps to make clothes look normal. But I do want to join a gym. And I don't want women staring at my nipple-less mounds.

Recent fact: Canadian women, in an international study, choose reconstruction less often than any other nationality. I think i understand why women choose no reconstruction. The whole issue is embarrassing and ridiculous. For me, though, I have all along railed against the idea of being left with a single ridiculous boob flying around. I hate my prosthesis bras. They don't fit right which i knew ahead of time anyway. I have a wide swimmer's upper back and have always had a problem fitting bras. I returned to the store run by a woman whose sister in law died of breast cancer and she scared me so badly I couldn't return a second time. She regards a customer returning for a refit a challenge of her talent at fitting. The prosthesis was too big and she gave me a smaller one but it, too, is too big. And the eighty five dollar bras are too small too.

Saturday, when I knew I had to get into one of the bras for the party that night, I twice drove to Merivale Rd looking for the Fabricland that the net says exists there, and could not find it. Fabricland, I heard, sells these expanders you sew into your bra when it is too small. Saves eighty five bucks. When i bombed out i went home and got out the sewing kit and sewed pieces of velcro into the strap to make it bigger. This is the kind of crap I tried to avoid back in June when i BEGGED, unsuccessfully, the surgeon, grumpy, nasty Dr. Lorimer, to take both my boobs. So you see, reconstruction, for me, is a hateful process, full of bitterness. All the American women on the HER2 website get a bilateral first thing after finding the breast cancer. Canadian surgeons, according to Mirsky, just don't do it. Bad enough recovering from the expanders being sewn in and the skin stretched; having to additionally recover from another mastectomy is stupid and awful!

Yesterday we put up the tree. It is so incredibly pretty! Tim and Jocelyne brought us a pie and we had a lovely time in front of the roaring wood fire with the tree just up.

Saturday night we celebrated my brother, Barry's birthday at his house at a lovely party and I chatted with the prime minister's wife for a long time and had a really great time. Barry gave a hilarious speech and laura put on an incredible meal with three big tables in the dining room.

I want to thank Monique, Jocelyne, Jordan, and Christine for feeding me all during my chemo. Monique has two kids and a job and a partner but still cooked and baked for me like crazy. I cannot thank them enough. I had the most wonderful home nurse, Chantal, throughout. It is to her I owe having a family doctor. She was an angel. This year at Midnight Mass, I have so much to thank God for and I pray that those going through chemo at this magical time of year, will remember there is next year for having a wonderful Christmas.

Other good news: my niece, Siobhan, daughter of my late brother Steve (who died of kidney cancer ten years ago) is now a Doctor of Philosophy! She just passed her Phd. exams with flying colours and is a full fledged doctor as is my sister, Rosemary, who also has a Phd. Very proud of you, Siobhan!!

Chemo really does have a cumulative effect. By the last Taxotere chemo on November 7th there were only two days in front of it where I felt ok. I had asked my oncologist, Paul, for a prescription for heartburn pain right before it. He only knew about Losec, which I had already in my possession and which had not been working. Funny he didn't know about Nexium, which the women on my online her2 support site talked about.

In short, that last chemo on November 7th began a month of hellish stomach pain and heartburn, where poor ole dave had to burp me each evening and it still didn't work. My digestive system was in hell for a month until I finally received a phone call with great news, that I now had a family doctor! Hooray for Dr. Rowan. The first word out of his mouth, unprompted by me, was "nexium" and after the first pill i was fine. i only took it for three days, and my tummy has been normal since. It isn't covered under the free drugs for canadian cancer patients program, but it is heaven.

Hospital. From november seventh's chemo, I had eight straight days of diarrhea and heartburn. A week after chemo I ended up in hospital. There is a ward in the General hospital I never knew about. It had seventy people in it who are undergoing chemo for various kinds of cancers and who either can't handle the chemo or who got febrile neutropenia, which is what I had.

They did tests during my week at the hospital but "none of the cultures grew". My oncologist was consulted when I was sent, initially, to "Stretcher Bay" in the chemo ward at the General hospital (against my will) for observation and testing. He thought I had C Difficile, the superbug, which can cause eight days of diarrhea and fever. Poor Christine! She and I had thought we were only going to the west end of Ottawa's cancer centre from where they sent me to the General Hospital's Stretcher Bay. A long day for poor Chris!

I only had a mild fever; it never reached a hundred degrees. I had a bug and no white blood cells. Eighty percent of people with febrile neutropenia never find out what bug they had.

After I was sent to the main hospital's special chemo patients' ward, there was a sign on my room that people had to wear gloves and hospital coat to enter the room. Even the food deliverers were not allowed in, so my food was left to get cold outside the room till I figured it out and started going looking for food.

The staff was incredibly nice and responsive. My brother, Barry, and his wife, Laura's visits were incredibly welcome. Barry bought me a few nights of television too, so that was great.

Dave was a lifesaver. The first night the food people said they'd bring dinner but then they forgot. Dave heated Jordan's lasagna up, from the freezer, and it was still hot when he reached the General hospital. Very welcome indeed!

One of the effects of chemo as you know is hairloss. You also lose your eyebrows and eyelashes. I retained some of my eyebrows, however, and three whole eyelashes! Saturday night I got out the warpaint for Barry's birthday. As i applied mascara I found it weird and amusing that new eyelashes were growing in, but were only a milimetre in length. Looked very weird with mascara on the one milimetre lashes.

I had thought Saturday night was just a family dinner for my brother's birthday and I had on my wig but an ordinary top and slacks. What a surprise when I got to his house and walked into a house full of sparkly minidresses and six inch Louboutins and famous people. I was introduced to CBC reporter, Julie Van Dusen (whom I met several times before there) and Perrin Beatty. Right away I knew I was underdressed. We had a great time and the food was excellent.

My energy and my brain are still a bit low, but I expect that to increase by the day. I am so lucky and blessed not to have anymore chemo. I will be going for tattooing on my mastectomy site on Dec 20th, in anticipation of radiation beginning on January 9th. The black tattoos will tell the techs where to aim the radiation machine.  Very nervous about radiation errors that can result in lung problems for life. Twenty three radiations I wish i could avoid but the stats tell me that my future survival depends on them.

What a great thing to have one's stomach back in shape. Looking forward to Christmas baking, which I began the other day with banana cake, from Christine's recipe.

I thank you all for all the incredible love and kindnesses and good wishes over the past six months, and I wish you all the loveliest Christmas season ever!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Post Depression: on to "pissed off"

I was very depressed for a long while recently and when life wanted to show me neat stuff it did. I am more awake now. Forgive the command verb tense, in here. I am telling off the world. Not personal.

i am in awe of the generosity and thoughtfulness of you, my friends reading this. Suzanne M, again thanx so much for the anti yeast powder. Continues to be useful. Monique and Dawn and Jordan and Jocelyne and Chrissy: your food is so good and that matters now that nothing tastes real or good for the nine weeks i am on taxotere.
Keith, Deb, Leean, Lu, Tracy, Timmy T, Joc, Tim Jones: I cannot thank you enough for your moral support and help. Court: your friendship is gold to me. Abby and Suzanne H: thank you so very much for helping me laugh and chat through the last chemo. It went so fast cos of our convos. More than anything, all of you: your friendship and support are bread to me. Dawn: yours is the best canneloni ever! monique, I have to publish your recipes for carrot/squash soup and coffee cake. Joc: wow! so many delish soups! your recipes would be greatly appreciated, esp for mussels pasta.

My sisters Rosemary and Adrienne have been rocks. I am so in awe of how kind you, my friends, my family of choice, as they call it, plus ade and rose and ing, siobhan and sinead....and I know Liz is worried about me out there and her kids Hannah and Conor too. Krys Bryl, Cathy Roche, Leslie, and Deb too, thx for notes. If I have left any of you out, I bad. Sorry. Freya you know I feel your love and care anywhere I am. Tracy I love you and know that were you on this side of the pond you would be here everyday and I feel that so, pls do not fear.Dave you have been very good to me. Thank you.

I look really bad and would post the pic if i a) get the nerve; b) lose all feminine pride/hope; c) suddenly feel like giving you a halloween scare for this time of year.
My eyebrows and eyelashes have been dropping out since taxo began which pricks my eyeballs. Millimetres of dead white hair frost my bald pate and fewer and fewer black follicles exist on my telly salavas/Kojak ‘do.

I ended up getting the port put in under local anaesthetic in a real, all woman, serious operating theater. Christine, thank God, accompanied me. Reaaaallly long. Hate it, but what can I do?

I still hate it on the grounds that they went into my jugular vein with a tube, placed it under the skin of my chest, wound it through my Vena Cava IN MY HEART and I have this Terminator Two button under my skin and a plastic tube snaking along which you can detect under my skin. Yuck. And Gross.

Hate it cos I know i will die with it in me in the next two years. Want to die pretty.

I don’t mind the fact I will most likely be dead in a couple of years. I just know, from the her2 site, that I will certainly metastasize, this is a metastatic cancer. Nobody with HER2 stays in stage three or whatever. Everybody goes on to metastasize. And i want to tell you some of the people found their stage three cancer WHILE THEY WERE BREASTFEEDING and some while pregnant.

I know I will be dead within a coupla years. Here is my bet for any taker: I finish my herceptin this time next year, having received twenty five radiations in january and herceptin at the chemo unit every three weeks till next October.

Then in or around March of the year after next I will metastasize to lungs, liver, brain or bones, or maybe two of those four, and inside three months I will be dead. Now do not write in here telling me no that is not true. You don’t know. Linda McCartney and others chose to pretend they would live and then they died. Not my style. If I live, whoopee!! Great. Otherwise I don’t die a fool.

I read online at the Her2 website and it is commonly what happens. Rarely some women survive long enough to say “eight years or eleven years metastasis under control so considered in remission” but that will not be me. I am telling you this. No, do not give me voodoo crap about “well if you tell your body that it will listen” as you are an idiot if you think that. Seriously.

Do you think the breastfeeding and pregnant women who got stage three HER2 brought it on themselves? Well you are stupid then. And arrogant. And need humility. My mom had breast cancer and never smoked nor drank a single drink in her life. And it is Breast Cancer Awareness month, by the way, so allow me my BCA once in a year rant here without correcting me.

I appreciate your support, thanks for wanting me to live. What I want to say for BCA month is this: don’t be smug. Don’t think your diet means a damn thing and your non smoking. Sorry. I must have read thousands of women’s stories on the HER2 website and i hear their distresses, terrors, and anger on there: They want you to know that you cannot do anything to prevent this monster.

Elizabeth Edwards is dead. Do you understand? She was RRRREALLY wealthy, famous and well connected and so was Linda McCartney and all the other dead breast cancer patients who got the best of treatment, the best nutrition, the best of everything. Early detection. Well that is true, you want that, cos metastasis (your agent of death within weeks, often, not always) is slower that way. But do not delude yourself. Even if you find your lump in stage one, you can suddenly jump within weeks or months to stage four and then to death, boom.

What pisses all these women and me off is that the smug buggers who think that catching cancer in stage one is some kind of talisman against death, are deluded. Countless accounts exist on that site showing the medical histories of everybody who posts on there. Start to read them for yourself. A whole lot of women who find it in stage one are bam, suddenly, months later, in stage four, and then there are the deceased posts.

Women dead, who used to post, like me, on there. But who are silent now.

Do not engage in magical thinking unless, and I say unless, you are fully aware you are just playing a game with your brain.

My sister, Eliz, when she was here, trotted out that line “oh breast cancer is like AIDS now....just a chronic, non death condition...” My chemo nurse trotted it out too. What i want to say to them is this: You are scared. You are nervous. You do not want it to happen to you or your daughter or granddaughter so you cling to the optimistic words of the one breast cancer survivor friend you have, who swears they are alive because they practised/purchased/deluded themselves with X. Or Y. Or Z.

Or they had a good doctor. Or they caught it early. Or there were goldfish selling hotcakes in their underwear drawer the day they found their lump. Or linkin logs took over the Easter Egg hunt, firing the Easter Bunny on the day they found their lump. What i am saying here is that it doesn’t matter. Fill in the blanks. Magical thinking is what people do who cannot stand the pain of the sadness of their own mortality.
I say: Feel that fucker!! Feel it today!

"Kill the imagination and you kill the soul. Kill the soul and you're left with a listless, apathetic creature who can become hopeless or brutal or both." ~Marion Woodman

What is wrong with feeling pain? What is wrong with grief?

What is wrong is that if you avoid it all the time you will lose your voice like shania twain did, or your joy, or you will become so brittle, personality wise that you start to get paranoid, overtouchy and weird. Don’t do that. Feel the fear, feel the grief, yell, pound stuff, cry, mourn, smile, giggle at yourself, and then feel everything cos you are allowed. And it is the only way to become an authentic human being, no matter what your age.

Do not run from pain. Feel it till it releases you and wants to show you other stuff. I was very depressed for a long while recently and when life wanted to show me neat stuff it did. I am more awake now.

Go lie down in your bed and cry for my upcoming death and others u know who could get cancer or who have died from it and also...this is hard... and possibly yours. then carry it around cos i will indeed be dead within a coupla years and breast cancer cannot be prevented. Cannot be mitigated except by Fate.

Cannot be called off except by forces beyond your (fill in the blank with whichever talisman makes you feel better: yoga, nonsmoking, vegetables, fruit, linkin log sandwiches, Easter Bunny deodorant applications, anything that makes you feel safer.)
You are not safe from breast cancer. One in eight. One in eight check it out it is fact. Of those, whether you live or die has nothing to do with what you did or did not eat, stretch, dig, smoke, etc. Not up to you to stop your death. Not up to me to stop mine.

No change in my attitude will save me. Hear that? disagree? bring it. I got the facts to pop ur balloon.

No talisman. No guru. No nuttin’ gonna keep you alive, me alive, your daughter, your granddaughter, nothin. Just try not to say in front of someone with active cancer: “oh it is just like the common frickin cold AIDS is”. You sound insane because first of all only rich white people don’t die of AIDS. So stop that. AIDS is just a chronic condition now? Tell that to the toddlers in Africa being raised by eighty five year old grannies cos BOTH their parents are dead.

What is it about people who don’t smoke, eat right, and do yoga, that they just cannot stop spouting smug, offensive, arrogant crap???

This stuff is not true!! I feel like SARS days are back, where ten dead nurses, who cared for people with SARS in toronto hospitals are lying in coffins while the principal of my school is telling us to lie to the students and get the kids to go around to classrooms squelching rumours that SARS kills anyone. Kids would meet me in the corridor saying “The media is lying! Yah! The principal says it is a big lie!! There is nothing wrong with getting SARS!!” I mean, how respectful is that to the ten dead nurses lying there in their coffins full of SARS!!!!”

Whew. Ok. I got that out of me. But I am asking you if you are reading this to feel your feelings of fear about the possibility you may get breast cancer and you may die from it. I have done that and I have wept.

But it ain’t the end of the world. The world is still a beautiful place even if you decide to stop lying. Let me rephrase.

When you tell the truth about the world, the people you love, the qualities in all humans that you adore, the joy you feel from animals and nature, and a good nite out, and hanging out having valuable conversations with special people and watching good films and going to galleries to see beautiful works of art, and reading good books, and admiring all that is stunning about this world, along with the sad, bad stuff, you become authentic. And that is the goal of each of our lives.

To become authentic. To tell as few fairy tales, and lies as possible, to young people and to ourselves and to still feel joy. Life is good. Bad is being rooted out even as I speak, by good people. Bad cannot be rooted out by magical thinking. You honour the fallen when you speak truth to power. So speak it already.

Back to the subject of my port in my chest: Hate it cos it is the first truly painful procedure I have had, needle in the nipple notwithstanding, as that one stands alone in a horror chamber all by itself. The port pain was not at the time of initial insertion; But the pain when the nurses at the chemo unit access it....aye karamba. Man it kills when they shove a needle into it, a gripper, or whatever. They flush it with cleaner first and then between the chemo and the herceptin. Then they flush it afterwards.

Am going to add pictures to this blog. Just decided. Black cirlces under my eyes complete the pre death look. Just in time for Halloween. Been invited to a halloween party. Thinking of dressing up as a healthy person.

I wear big frozen oven mitts and footies, asking nurses to change em to more frozen as they defrost at the hospital, for the few hours of taxotere chemo. I willingly freeze these hands out of a pathological fear of yellowed and or brittle/split or falling-out nails. I painted em with Christine’s gift of nail strengthener for the second taxo. Chris gave me a bag of fantastic creams for my dry skin. Freezing your hands and feet during chemo keeps the nails on.

I was one of the lucky ones. Thanks to Keith for the excellent advice. I did the advil, the vitamins, the pain killers and managed to avoid the agonizing bone pain. I do get bone pain for a few days in the first week after taxotere but not too bad thanks to his advice.

Food tastes metallic and i can’t drink much but cranberry juice and water as other drinks taste bad.

Worst symptom by far is the painful gas. You cannot really sleep well for two weeks and going to the bathroom is a drag. In and outa the bathroom all night. Not to gross you out but forcing myself to document anyway as per aims of the blog, you know the piles of raccoon and rabbit poo at a campsite u find up north? Well those are a pain to produce, poor wee bunnies. Takes hours and hours and many trips. Looking forward to end of week two after taxo to stop having to make going to the bathroom this really big painful deal.

Today I am not eating a thing as it has been eight days and I had a long painful night. I simply am eating nothing and drinking only the one coffee till i feel starving enough to eat. Monique’s food is in the fridge and I think i will have some of her soup in a few hours. Jocelyne’s soup and couscous got me through last taxo. I am in very good hands.

I had an awesome Thanksgiving at Chris and Mike’s and will steal photos off facebook to add here. We had a ball, and the food was beyond amazing. Moist turkey and all the trimmins. So grateful to Allah that Thanksgiving fell on the week before a taxo rather than during the two weeks following it. Am going to see Freya in the next forty eight hours so I am really excited.

Had to get out of house. Made Dave take me to Ides of March, George Clooney’s film. Good play that it was adapted from. Must have been good on stage to attract the money to make it into a film.

Trouble with it: Evan Rachel Wood is too plain, flat chested, and big chinned, to play the so called “irresistable” intern. I don’t buy it. And she cannot act her way out of a paper bag. All actors require direction.

She and Gosling got nothin from their director. It was another “actors free for all” where the pacing of their speeches is left to their “creativity” so that nothing comes together in terms of pacing.

Pacing is a dance of tension and release in a film; suited to the arcs of tension and release you, as the director, have predefined. You accelerate their speeches towards a climax in tension. You do not allow them to just do what they like. Actors are not inside a director’s brain so they cannot help you to achieve your vision unless you pace them. “Cut off one another’s speeches before they finish! Accelerate the pace!” I was practically calling out to the screen.

Casting mistakes, both of them. But to be fair, at least commit to your actors enough to direct them. They are hams, actors, by nature. They will take an hour to deliver a single line if it gets them camera time. Wood was worse than Gosling. Gosling can do it; I’ve seen it in other films. But Wood was just the “it” girl of Hollywood, mistakenly chosen by Clooney.

Ryan Canadian Gosling is similarly so plain I have to look at the furniture to get a rise in any scene he is in. Not a leading man, but someone, like Ed Norton, i believe. Talented and ambitious enough to be cast in psychopath, not leading man roles. Blue Valentine, if you can stomach your way through that awful project, is exactly the vehicle for Gosling. He ain’t leading man material but he can act. If you direct him.

Clooney is...well...great as usual. As an actor only. Was a good director. Not in this film. I said to Dave on the way out: “wow, never seen anyone take a decent idea, a decent script, and kill it with NO directing. “ It isn’t that it was poorly directed. It just wasn’t directed at all.

The director is supposed to have a vision. Take a look at any film directed by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, the Taviani brothers ( Fiorile is a 1993 Italian film about a family curse caused by greed. It is in subtitles, but it is fantastic.) or the Gilroy brothers for what I mean by good directing.

Tony Gilroy governs each camera angle and chronology of scenes, audio, visuals, styling, cinematography, everything, to fit into the story arcs. He takes apart a script, works through what he thinks of the possibilities, and chooses actors, clothes, colours, shots, with his brother, the film editor, to create a masterpiece of good directing. (Michael Clayton, and Duplicity, for example, show cohesion among all the elements for which a director is responisible. Fabulous films.)

James Cameron is a brilliant director: True Lies and ALL the Terminator films reflect the sense of humour of the director in every single choice in one of his films.

Nobody, of course, beats Peter Weir as a director. My favourite films are all his: Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World; Green Card; The Year of Living Dangerously, Witness. Classics no matter which genre he chooses to direct in: they kill. If you have never seen a romcom that did not suck, please rent Green Card.

In conclusion, I found Ides of March undirected. Check out the last scene where the most arrogant, egregious sin I have ever seen, occurs: Clooney, a guy who can direct, has directed good films, knows how to direct, simply chose not to mike the last speech of the film. Incredible, except that he also chose to simply not light some of the scenes as well. How can this happen?

“Hey guys! Hung over today. Decided you all can dress as you like, mike yourselves or not, boom mike or no, who cares...not directing today. Just do as you feel.” Is this what happened?

I knew this was coming back in the early nineties when everybody who is into film was in juvenile paroxyms of joy over Tarantino (Yech) and films like Pulp Fiction and Scarface became every teenage boy’s answer, in Drama class, when i went around asking what their favourite films were. Expressionism, as in visual art, is an inferior artistic decision. Period.

You cannot take the director and give him a script that might represent years of a writer’s lifeblood, and say, “just take your ego’s expression, your own personal self aggrandisement as the purpose of directorial endeavor on this one. Carte blanche. It’s all about you.” Yet, sadly, this is the definition of expressionism.

What is a director if not the artiste, the auteur, the co creator of a project bigger than his/her ego, yet governed by a structure? You serve the story. Period.

I will sound ninety years old if I give you my whole theory here about how Hollywood writers are told (this is fact) to aim every film at the teenage male as he is the one that pays for all box office films, and how that equation (because it is true, the teenage male is the only one keeping films in the black; they are too young to go to bars, so they simply have to pay box office for their entertainment , while we adults rarely venture farther than the video store so that we can watch films at home while we drink and smoke, things we cannot do at a cinema).

Even Scorsese dabbled in expressionism back in the early nineties when it reached its sad height, courtesy of overgrown child/Tarantino. Scorsese directed Casino, his worst film ever.

Forgive the review. Supposed to be abt cancer. But I live for film. Have taken many courses including ones at UCLA online in scriptwriting. Have directed plays in toronto and of course teenagers’ plays. So yeah, I have a right to my opinion.
you also, i figure, have a right to my opinion.

Of course, I would be remiss if i didn’t mention Jane Campian’s The Piano, an incredible piece of directing. Another woman director, Patricia Rozema, and a Canuck, at that, did I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, but unfortunately both The Piano and Mermaids are the only films of these two women directors work that I think are truly great.

I will be back here to add photos and fix the grammar.Hungry now for monique’s soup!

Later: Monique! Dave heated me two bowls full of the carrot squash soup. I can't stop the readers of this blog from demanding the recipe, cos ladies and gentlemen: it is beyond. thank u! Dawn just picked up jaida. Ellen and Joanna: Bobbi becomes a spin top toy when she sees her!! Just adores her!! So nice for my little nurse to get good Dawn energy!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

worst depression ever

that is the blog.
that is it.
two more months of chemo.
one more year herceptin
twenty five radiations.
cannot recall a depression this black.
thank god for food and care from christine, jocelyne, jordan.

Monday, 26 September 2011

taxotere and herceptin

It turns out that although i have only a twenty five percent chance of being alive in five years if I don't do the treatment, the odds of being alive in five years only improve to fifty fifty with treatment.

I had a five hour infusion friday. The nurses, through incompetence and other such bullshit, added another two hours onto the front end. They forgot to phone the pharmacy to ask them to mix my drugs.

Note to never say to someone with breast cancer (as my nurse did): "oh things are so progressive now with chemo's developments that it is basically like aids now, a chronic condition." Please don't say this. You sound so stupid I am embarrassed for you. And you would never dare say it in front of the family who has lost someone to this disease as someone getting all the treatment possible dies from this everyday. loses the battle. so don't say it. check yourself and your arrogance.

Suzanne and Mike were awesome Friday. Mike drove me there and Suzanne nursed me there. She came to cook for me and give me a drink last nite when i was so thirsty and weak I was shaking.

Missed the Carp Fair.

Bones hurt. Very weak.

Will to live a tad on the low side.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Facing Commitment: taxotere and herceptin begin on thursday

My friend, Debbie, in Texas, sent me a display of flowers that are still blooming, when I was down under, sick and low for two weeks. They are so pretty. Thank you, Debbie. Suzanne in NYC rescued the day by closing my mastectomy wound. I will explain below. Thank you so much, Suzanne.

I am committed to three infusions of taxotere, three weeks apart, which begin two days from now, and to, simultaneously, begin a year of herceptin infusions every three weeks. I have also committed to the port-a-catheter, possibly that morning.

This last round of chemo marked the end of FEC chemo for me (the nausea/hair loss/fatigue chemo) and I slept and felt nauseated for two whole weeks after it. Was just too sick (despite hundreds of dollars of the good anti-nausea drug, paid by Joanna and Ellen), too tired to get out of bed much, and too mentally foggy to cope with much responsibility at all. My first two rounds meant a week in bed after each.

The one week where I felt normal, despite fatigue, this past one, was amazing. I was at Bruce Pit walking dogs everyday and had a ball in the autumn sunshine.

I had a great time with my friends. Saturday night, when Dave took the boys, Bucky and Eiger, on a canoe camping trip, and Bobbi and I got to be girly girls, with treats and cuddles, and when Dawn, Christine, and Courtenay came over for a fun party, I was so happy I forgot all about the chemo and the cancer. Kept my blond wig on all evening and we were four blondes having fun. Dawn turns out to have almost been my sister's niece. It turns out her uncle and my sister were engaged for a few years, decades ago. I recall the Norris family from when they used to live around the corner from us, growing up. I have loved Dawn and known her for a year and a half and never figured that out before. Saturday night Dawn read the angel cards for us three, and I could not get over how accurate they were.

Dave has been much better, too. Much less negativity in the air.

Another great thing about the week of good health was that I started to use the HER2 website and became online friends with a couple of super Her2 friends, Denise and Nancy. I started upping my prayer program with a morning reflection/prayer that comes from an American website too.

Monday morning I researched what I was in for during the next nine weeks when taxotere is my chemo treatment. What I learned scared the devil out of me. I will reprint it here for you. First is taxotere side effects and how Denise managed to mitigate some of the effects, and secondly I will reprint the herceptin effects. I will put these at the bottom of the blog.

I have never committed to anything in my life before that I could not back out of. You all know the attempts to escape finishing chemo. I explained those attempts a coupla blogs ago and how the resident talked me out of it. What you don't know is that not long after I was strong and I recommitted to chemo while my health was good for that one week, the past week.

You know well how hard I tried to avoid the port in my chest. The veins in my left arm appear bruised under the surface and the left arm smarted to touch the week after chemo. Trouble is, is that it hasn't healed. Still smarts to touch and is still bruised. So. I saw Paul, my oncologist, Friday, and we both decided I had to do it. Those veins do not appear strong enough to handle more chemo. My mastectomy wound, however, thanks to Suzanne in New York City, has been receiving powdered fungal medicine, which she kindly Fedexed to me, has finally closed. Home visiting nurse, Chantal, thanks you, Suzanne, as do I. How wonderful is Suzanne!!! There is a really ugly scar in the shape of maroon big lips on either side of where the incision opened, however.

I feel like I am in a surreal situation. Commitment phobia was always my weakness as a younger woman. Never wanted to be "trapped" like my mom was for her whole life. Always had a back up plan. I have a couple of reflections on this. First, I ended up trapped anyway, in terms of my marriage and happiness, despite two adult decades of being a commitmentphobe. Why? Because we always replicate our parents' decisions? Is there free will? Are our decisions always in reaction to those of our parents or mirroring them? I really have to say that for me the jury is still out on nature/nurture and free will when it comes to mating and decisions like that. I have no assurance that pretty well anything we do is from free will. How many murderers, thieves, philanderers, for example, have you met or heard of who didn't have a father just like them? Do we know how much is environment and how much is in the genes? I have no idea.

My surreal situation is that I cannot just back out of chemo. I have to go through it. I have always been a quitter when things got too rough. I am not really made of the stuff that perseveres. Mind you, there is evidence to the complete contrary. Dave can attest that I have spent many an overnite finishing a scene in my script, or debugging our computer, or getting a contrary software program such as a marks program for high school teachers, to make sense. I just don't give up in those situations. I always persevere into the wee hours, loading thirty thousand songs into an ipod in the strange and specific way I enjoy...tailored playlists.

So in conclusion, yes, I am capable of perseverance. I have a Master's thesis to prove it. But as I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, I am completely against being kitted out with a port in my upper chest like a pre-death hospital patient.

Freedom and Responsibility. Everytime I have found myself in a canoe in a provincial park in the wild I start reflecting on it. I sing while paddling, and get to go over all the songs, mostly Irish ballads, that I know all the complicated lyrics of. And reflecting on that while doing it, and how it rarely happens, the singing, in the real world, I always end up reflecting on Freedom versus Responsibility. We have to conform, behave, do the right thing, and we have to feel non-depressed while doing it. We have to feel there is a point to the nasty tasks.

Responsibility gives you the thing all people long for, a fellow I knew in my twenties, once said, "people want to be trusted, and to have some authority to carry out their designs and ideas." This is the golden side of responsibility. Freedom gives you the will to live. Sabotaging yourself can consist of erring too far either way. "You cannot kill the robber, Fancy, (imagination/freedom) lurking within", Dickens wrote, in Hard Times, "you can merely maim and distort him."

The Greeks were obsessed with warning of erring too far in either direction. Balance was the key. The Bacchanalians were honoured out of fear of repressing that which honoured the Id, as Freud later would call the animal drives that keep the human balanced and happy.

I think it is the Life Force, this Bacchanalian drive. "The green fuse that through the flower drives my death." A tangled agreement with mortality calls us to persevere through the gray mess of life, the freedoms, the fun, the duties, the responsibility.

Fear is the problem. Fear generates anxiety, which is handy when you need to get out of the clutches of a zealous Judy/nurse bent on installing a hole in your chest that may or may not ever be removed, depending on possible remote metastasis. Yes, I accept that I have behaved a tad irresponsibly avoiding the port. I got support from some HER2 breast cancer women on the international support website for staying away from a port, from ones who have managed years of distant metastases, and further chemo, further herceptin, all without a port. But others on there just said, it depends on your veins, on whether or not the epirubin, the E in FEC chemo, has been able to destroy them or not.

I created chaos in the nurses' scheduling of my port insertion, and setting up my fourth chemo. Am sure they hate me for this. I just got a call rebooking a missed appointment to talk to the cancer centre social worker for Friday, the day after my port installation, which is now scheduled for Thursday morning, while my chemo is now scheduled for that afternoon.

I have good news. I went to see Paul, as I said before, and he told me that a week ago the Government decided that Nupogen, a drug I have to inject into my belly for the ten days following each taxotere infusion, and for which a nurse will come and teach me, on Wednesday, how to do, will be free to those like me without extended health care. Normally, it would have cost me twenty five hundred dollars. Good news.

Ok. Here is, first, the discussion on the HER2 website on taxotere, followed by side effects from herceptin. I will be having herceptin for a whole year, and three infusions, three weeks apart, of taxotere. You will see why, last night, I lay awake experiencing fear, and a sort of helplessness most of the night. I just wanted to say no to further cancer treatment. Then I recalled that with this rare and aggressive kind of cancer I do not have the liberty to quit the treatment.

Before I print it out here from the website, I have to tell you an incredible thing I learned from Denise's oncologist, a researcher in Philadelphia. First, the majority of women in a poll on our support website, not only failed to discover their cancer till it was Stage 3 out of four stages, but had either false negative mammograms, or discovered it themselves at home, and not by mammogram at all. Denise's doctor said that it most likely has been growing in us quietly, lining the ducts in the breast, silently, undetected, for years. For years we have had breast cancer and not known it.

Thread title: Is pain normal with Taxotere
Hi Everyone..Need some advice.
Was given my first lot of Taxotere on Thursday,felt fine for a couple of days then bang the pain started.
The pain is unbareable. My finger tips feel like they have sharp shooting pains going through them,and my nails hurt as well. They are so sensitive. My whole body feels like i have been 10 rounds with a heavy weight boxer. My mouth is full of ulcers.
Taking my pain killers and mouth washes, and all other kinds of medication, but they are not easing any of this.
The lack of sleep is not good either..
Does anyone know how long this will last,or suffered similar symptoms after having Taxotere.
I can't take it anymore and it has only been a couple of days.

Claire x (in Coventry, UK)

21.06.11-Mammogram Biopsy Ultrascan
24.06.11-Told had Cancer of Right Breast
27.06.11-Confirmed HER2 & 2-3 Lumps in Lymphnodes.Awaiting MRI-CT-Mugger and Bone Scans.
05.07.11-Appt CT Neck-Abdo-Pelvis with contrast
08.07.11-Appt NM Cardiac Ventriculography Rest
11.07.11-Appt NM Bone Whole Body
13.07.11-Appt MRI Scan Breast's and Thorax
14.07.11-Chemo FEC..7 days GCSF Injections.
01.08.11-Consultant confirmed Scans show no Mets
04.08.11-Cycle 2 FEC
To Date.Had Cycle 3 of FEC and Herceptin.Now on Taxotere and Herceptin
Tumour shrunk from 9.5cm to 5.5cms.

Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Townsville, Australia
Posts: 44
Re: Is pain normal with Taxotere

Hi Claire,
I too had taxotere and hated it!! I would get depressed and cry on day 4 like clockwork also had lots of headaches bone and muscle pain so much so persuaded my onc to have another full set of scans at the end of it. In hindsight wish I had waited for a while for that till the effects had gone. I also had finger pain but not so much in the finger nails.
Hang in there not long till its over

Jenny xx
Diagnosed Nov '10 IDC whilst pregnant with 2nd child
Her 2 ++ ER/PR + but weak and patchy 50% + 5%
Left mastectomy Dec '10, 6cm tumour 1 of 2 lymph (micro mets)
Clear margins but lymphovasculer invasion
Stage 3a Grade 3
Fec 100 x 3 Jan '11 Taxotere X 3 and Herceptin X 1yr
Staging scans - ct and bone - May '11 - NED!!
Start Femara - in chemo induced menapause
25 Rads June '11

Praying the Herceptin is as good as its hype!!

Senior Member

Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Philly Suburbs
Posts: 48
Re: Is pain normal with Taxotere
I know just what you are talking about. I thought I'd go mad from the pain! Worse that labor! Worse than anything!
Told the onc after round one...she said "take the oxycodone on a schedule". Didn't help at all.
Long story short...after round 2...I told her I couldn't take it anymore...what other chemo is available. I'm stage 3, ER/PR she said she really, really wanted me to continue.
The new pain management plan...which worked pretty well...was:
Start taking 600mg of ibuprofen, every 6 hours, around the clock, on the day after chemo...even though nothing hurts yet. When the first hint of pain shows up, add the oxycodone, as prescribed, round the clock...whether you feel the pain or not. I was skeptical about taking the meds around the clock, regardless of I didn't at first. Yow! The pain came rushing back about 2 hours after the skipped dose! I never skipped another dose. After about 4 days...I was down to just the ibuprofen...then no pain meds. What a different experience. Without the pain, I was able to do all 4 problem.

Just remember to take a stool softener and some keep things "regular".

Hope this helps! Oh...and I also had to take my temperature before I took the ibuprofen each be sure there was no fever/neutropenia.
Good luck! You can do it!
Age at diagnosis 46
No family history of BC
12/26/10 found lump during BSE
1/11 - needle biopsy
2/11-Lumpectomy and axillary node dissection - Stage 3, ER/PR-, 14/17 nodes
3/11 - Post-op staph infection
4/11-A/C x 4, then Taxol/Herceptin x 4, Herceptin Q3 weeks for a year
8/26/11 finished last Taxol!!!
10/7/11 mastectomy and reconstruction
11/11 radiation x ?

“ Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds you down or polishes you up is for you, and you alone, to decide. ”
– Cavett Robert

Side Effects of Herceptin

Herceptin only
I would like to hear from those who have had HERCEPTIN only with no chemo of any kind before or during treatment. I am a little more than 1/2 way through and have had very few side effects. These are some I've noticed:
. fingernails peel, crack , and split
. drippy nose - occasional , not related to any allergies or cold
. possible connection to bladder infections

I've had no fatigue

Re: Herceptin only
I have been on Herceptin only for a little over a year.Very little side effects,but I definitely have the finger nail issues.
Mom had the herceptin nose and bladder urgency.