I haven’t checked in for a while as there wasn’t too much to say. But now that I’ve reached the half way mark for Herceptin (yahoo), it is a good time to do a catch up.
As of last week, I completed Herceptin Number 10 out of 17 Herceptin treatments. Treatment goes for a year and is every three weeks. When I reached the half way mark in February, it just seemed daunting to have another six months to go. But now that it’s March, it’s only five months to go. Breast cancer treatment can take a long time… but that is an investment in my future.
Highlights in the last few months:
Hair not falling out. My hair has completely stopped shedding and my scalp is no longer sore.
Sleeping properly. Somewhere around mid-January, I started sleeping properly without medication. In fact, I started sleeping 10-12 hours a day. It is a huge relief I must say.
Slightly improved skin. My skin no longer looks chicken pox like on my face but there is definitely still a problem with acne breakouts on my face and neck. On talking to my GP and breast surgeon, my body is still processing all the surgeries, chemotherapy and Herceptin. They recommend mild normal acne medication.
Getting back in to normal life. I have moved out from living with my parents and am flatting on my own. It’s nice to have some more independence back and see more friends. Also time to process everything that happened in the last year.
Nose bleeds. Are still around…not as bad but just here and there caused by the Herceptin and Chemo damaging membranes. Tip: My Breast Surgeon said to use Vaseline, dap a bit up each nostril to protect the nose.
Headaches. These are my main bug bear at the moment. Sometimes up to four days out of seven. And unfortunately, do not respond to any pain killers that I have tried. I think it is a combination of just a lot of change and stress, with the medications.
Slow pace still. I still have limited energy reserves. I can do one or two outings or appointments a day if they are not too full on. But if I cross the line, I get very tired. I still don’t schedule very much but at least, I can go out and do stuff pretty much as normal.
Other than that, I am doing well. I am back into many of the normal routines and really enjoying putting time into Breast Cancer Nirvana.
On discussion with my Oncologist and Breast Surgeon, I decided not to continue with hormone therapy at this stage. I had already been taking hormone therapy for around 4 to 4.5 years and then had awful side effects when I tried the last one. Apparently, the estrogenic level of the breast cancer tumour was approximately 20% which is not that high. The Her 2 positive level was higher and for me, the most important thing is for me to complete the Herceptin treatment year (a total of two years in the last five years). N.B. every type of cancer is different and I am not advocating this move for anyone else; it is specific to my diagnosis.
What has helped me in the last few months:
- Support from family, friends and various complementary therapists (EFT, art therapy and Pink Pilates mainly)
- Fun times and chats with friends
- Going flatting
- Time to rest, sleep and recover
- Exercise daily (walking and cycling mainly) and getting in to nature
- Writing down my experiences
- Having a project (in my case, this website)
- A fantastic medical team (Oncologist, Breast Surgeon, Plastic Surgeon, GP, natural health therapists and excellent Nurses).
My tips to others:
- Take good friends and family to appointments with you. The appointments are just easier that way.
- Also have headphones and a book with you (so you can stay relaxed and not too involved with other things taking place in the chemo ward).
- If blood tests are difficult (i.e. like me, veins are hard to find), have the blood test done on the chemo day once they put in the canula (get to your appointment much earlier for that and let the Nurses know in advance).
- Take as much time as you need or practical to recover and get yourself back
- Accept support from others, and especially accept laughter and fun outings
- Create a ball of positivity around you while you are ill, going through treatments and recovering. It is important to stay as positive as possible and reduce all stressors around you so you can heal ‘you’
- Stop people when they start to tell you negative or depressing stories about cancer. There are many positive survival stories out there (the other stories are important but this is not the time to hear all the stories that don’t have happy endings.
- Cancer retreats have been a wonderful focus for me.