This week has been the usual pick’n’mix of bits and pieces. I was feeling quite good on Monday but I think wore myself out doing some writing. I woke at 3.30am on Tuesday with a migraine and luckily had some good migraine medicine to turn that around in a couple of hours. I felt really tired on Tuesday (post-migraine) but had already booked Pink Pilates which is a 45 minute drive each way from here. In the end, I decided to go (as I had cancelled last week when I wasn’t feeling very well) and it was excellent and I got a lot out of it.
I was knackered on Wednesday and then started to get pre-hospital nausea and anxiety on Wednesday night and Thursday morning prior to going to hospital.
One piece of good news; I noticed that my skin has cleared up almost completely and there are no more sores on my head. My scalp is still a bit sore but not too bad. I think I have lost nearly half my hair but because my hair is long-ish and quite thick, no one else would notice. But it is falling out everywhere.
Thursday: Herceptin appointment
The Oncologist and I discussed a few things:
– Sleep, my inability to sleep properly is due half to the chemo and half to just everything that has happened this year. In late December, I should notice my sleep improving.
– Bladder irritation is normal but it will start to turn around soon when the chemo is out of my system.
– Fatigue. Some days I do not feel like doing anything, just sitting and staring in to space or watching DVDs. And then other days, I am able to do a few things. Sometimes I overdo it on the good days and then pay for it with worse fatigue the following day. If I drive or go to Wellington, I need at least one rest day afterwards.
– I do use will power to do exercise most days (I have started doing a bit of biking which is good for fitness and learning balance again after the stomach surgery).
– I am having the 12 weekly heart scan next week (to check for possible heart damage from the Herceptin). If there is heart damage, then the Herceptin will stop. Last time I did Herceptin, I didn’t have heart damage during the 12 months of Herceptin so I’m hoping that this year will be the same.
– I pointed out that the fourth chemo cycle was better than the third one. Yay.
– I will be going on an Aromatase Inhibitor (hormone therapy) for five years called Exemestane. More about this next week. This hormone therapy will weaken my bone health. I just had a bone density scan and I do not have Osteoporosis but I am the step before, Osteopenia. The Oncologist encouraged me to have dairy in my diet. Also there is an annual injection I can have to boost the bone density.
– Statistics – with all the treatments I’m receiving, I have an approximate 94% survival rate over five years.
– The chemo will be in my system for around three more weeks. Then after that, side effects will gradually disappear.
I told the Oncologist about this website and she was supportive. She told me about an episode of Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked that was very inspiring where Gok helped a young breast cancer survivor. I will try and get a link for the website.
I was feeling a bit nauseous just going to the chemo ward (all those hospital smells). After having the Herceptin, I have been feeling seriously crappy for nearly two days. The side effects are meant to be a lot gentler than for chemo generally so I didn’t expect to feel like that.
My feet are aching a lot; I have had nausea, a very painful nose, extreme fatigue, a metallic taste in my mouth, my skin has broken out again (but not as bad as with the chemo) and a feeling like a cold. Just when I felt that I was getting better from the chemo… Next time, I’ll take an anti-nausea tablet for that day. By 7pm that night, my nose had more or less stopped hurting. It was lovely and sunny so I went for a walk on the beach. It was very healing.
I thought the side effects were mostly in my head but thought I’d find out a bit more about the side effects online. Turns out, it wasn’t all in my head as the most common side effects associated with Herceptin in patients with breast cancer are:
- Infections, fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain (especially muscle pain)
- Shortness of breath
- Very low blood pressure
- Lack of energy and strength – fatigue
- Increased cough
- Low white and red blood cell counts
Saturday and Sunday
Saturday, I was feeling a lot better but overdid it with some fun outings. So Sunday, I was feeling very tired and quiet. One positive is that I slept without half a sleeping tablet for the first time in a couple of months on Saturday night.
Today, I realise that even though I had just Herceptin, there is still chemo in my body which has made this Herceptin treatment a challenging one. Hopefully, the next one will be easier and at least, I will know what to expect. I also talked to the Oncology nurse and she thought I probably have oral thrush (from all the medications I’ve taken). She is looking in to a new anti-nausea medication for me to use next time.
Also, I was getting a bit overwhelmed by another nine months of cancer treatment. It feels like a really long time and just when I start to feel better, I get a new onslaught of one drug or another. Today, I am feeling physically better and feel like I can do this!!
What has helped me
- My sister in law taking me to the hospital appointment (makes it a bit easier to have someone there).
- Having an excellent Oncologist that I can communicate easily with. Same with my Oncology nurse.
- Planning some fun outings with friends.
- Talking to people going through similar things.
- Writing and talking about what is happening for me.
- Walking on the beach or a gentle bike ride. Even when I’m really tired, it gives me a bit more energy and an up feeling.
- Resting a lot but aiming for an outing each day.
- Supportive messages from good friends and family.