Hi everyone, sorry about the lack of writing in the past week. I'm back now and do have some updates to share with you.
First my MRI results came back and the tumour has shrunk significantly. This is really great news. It doesn't mean my treatment plan will be any different, but what it does mean is that the odds of surgery being successful are much greater. I had an Echo Cardio Gram done to check my heart out before starting the next round of chemo (as Herceptin damages the heart), and the results of that are also great.
Speaking of treatment plan, I met with both the Breast Surgeon and the Radiologist on August 27th, so now I know more about what to expect there. The news was both good and bad.
In regards to my chemotherapy, Dr. S has changed my regime and my drug starting this week in order to avoid me having to take massive doses of steroids. I was originally scheduled for 4 treatments of taxotere and herceptin, three weeks apart, however that would have meant taking about four times the amount of steroids that I have currently been taking. For me, this would have been a nightmare as I am already struggling with the current steroid dose. So, now I am moving to 12 treatments of weekly taxol, rather than taxotere. The idea behind this is that each of the doses will be smaller, so I won't need as many steroids. The challenges are that I'm getting chemo every week, so there won't be the nice "good days" that I have been used to prior to each chemo session. Also, the side affects (which are nasty), are cumulative, so by about the 7th session it apparently gets pretty ugly. I may not even be able to type as one of the biggest side effects of taxol is peripheral neuropathy - numbness and inability to control ones fingers and hands. I have been told with time it will go away, in the meantime, I may have to dictate my blog
After the 12 treatments of taxol/herceptin, I will get another 9 months of herceptin (one every three weeks). During this time they will begin the ugly stuff - RADIATION!!!
Now I had heard radiation wasn't too bad (when compared to chemo), and that some peoples skin will burn and some won't. This was my biggest fear going into radiation. I have pale skin so I was worried about my odds of getting burned. Well, my radiologist assured me not to worry about it. I WILL be burned! Why? Because with IBC radiation is different. They need to not only kill the cancer inside the breast, but they also need to kill the cancer on the skin. How do they achieve this? By putting a bolus on your skin that acts like an attractant to the radiation and purposely burns the heck out of your skin. Yup you heard right, I'm going to go through 28 treatments of deliberately burning my skin, and not just a small patch. My entire right side from collar bone to two inches below the breast. From two inches past my midline to all the way under my arm pit and around to my back by about four inches. They do this every weekday for 28 days. By the time I'm done, if I haven't lost my mind from the pain of second degree burns, I will most assuredly be looking like a nicely roasted thanksgiving turkey. So, am I worried about radiation, yes I'm now scared to death about it. However, like everything else I'm having to go through to kill this cancer, I'm going to try and take it one day at a time and hope I make it to the other side.
Once the radiation is done, I get a months break and then they do the breast surgery. This appears to be easy compared to everything else. In my case what they will do is take skin and tissue from my stomach (yeah free tummy tuck), and re-build my breast. This is good news because not only will I not have an implant, but I'll have a nice slim tummy, albeit with a huge scar. My surgeon told me not to lose anymore weight otherwise there might not be enough there, so I'm going to keep up with my Haagen Dazs routine :-) Due to the "tummy tuck", the recovery time after the surgery will be 2-3 months rather than the usual 3-4 weeks, however she is expecting it to provide far better results both in looks and in keeping the cancer away than a traditional implant surgery would.
If all goes well I should be healed from radiation and surgery by June 2013, and off the herceptin by August - then I hope this nightmare will be over for good! Anyway, now I have an angel looking after me so I hope he gives me the strength I will need over the next few months and keeps cancer away from me for many, many years to come.
That's all for now folks, I'll update you after my first round of the new chemo drugs.
Monday, 3 September 2012