Play by Play

If you have been following my blog then you know that I had my first chemo treatment yesterday.  Somehow, the day I feared most in my battle against cancer was not as scary as I imagined.  Honestly, I’m not surprised.  It seems that nothing is as scary as you think it is going to be.  As I live through many difficulties in this strange and wondrous life, I have come to believe that putting time and energy into worry wastes too much time and energy.  As Mark Twain brilliantly held, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Below is a play by play of my first treatment from start to finish. 

 9:00 am 

My mom drove me to my appointment.  We arrived fashionably late.  Walking through the doors of my oncologist, I felt strong and positive.  In my left hand was my courage stone, my right hand my cell phone, walking by my side was my mom and in my heart all of you.

9:15 am

Dr. Stebel took my vitals and prepped me.  Sitting in an overstuffed recliner, she began to prepare my port.  As she pulled back my shirt, I tried to help.  Dr. Stebel quickly with a gentle force said, “Deanne, relax, sit back and do absolutely nothing.  Let me do all the work.”  Does she know who she is talking to?  That’s like telling a pilot who loves to fly to switch to co-pilot or telling Grandma she does not need to go to the trouble to bake her homemade apple pie, we are going to pick it up at Costco.  As you may have learned by now from reading my blog, it’s a bit difficult for me to let go.

She cleaned the area thoroughly and spread a numbing cream, Ladacain, on my port.  Since I have become so thin these days, the port protrudes under my skin, slightly resembling a huge cyst, disgusting.  At least she used some cute little pink “I Love Kitty” band aids when she was done which made me smile.  I felt like a little girl, when my mom would take care of my “owies”.

She told me to sit back and rest and she will be back in a few minutes.

 

9:30 am

Dr. Stebel returned and said, “Deanne, I want you to close your eyes and imagine being in your favorite place and tell me about it.”  I began telling her about the ocean, its blue waters and salty smell and then in mid-sentence I switched gears.  I found myself on stage singing with my band.  Not a bad place to be as she inserted the needle into my port.  Ouch!

She attached me to Bag #1, anti-nausea medicine. 

 

9:45 am

Fifteen minutes later, Dr, Stebel attached the second bag, taxotere to my IV as the chemo, poison, medicine, or liquid love as my friend Michelle told me to imagine it dripped slowly through the tubes into my veins.  At that moment, all I could think of was the chemo seeping slowly into my veins, mixing with my blood, killing every cell it touches, both healthy and cancerous.  Chemo does not care.  It does not decipher or delineate between bad and good.  Like Sherman’s March at the end of the Civil War, destroying, killing, and pillaging every living thing in its path until they reached the sea.

I look forward to the day I reach the sea.

 

10:35 am

By this point in time, I feel nothing.  No difference.  No symptoms.  Not yet anyway.

My mom and I are chatting about motherhood, my childhood, marriage and life.  It’s nice to have time like this with her.  One of my bestest girlfriends from Phoenix, Stacy, less than 24 hours earlier, lost her mother to breast cancer.  These are moments to cherish because things could change in a blink of an eye.  My heart goes out to you and your family Stacy.

Stacy is the hot cougar on the far left!

The room is nice and cozy, carpeted, a television and blankets to keep me warm.  I will be spending a lot of time in this room.  Chemo is administered every three weeks for the next six months followed by a shot of Neulastra the next day to increase my white blood cell count.  Herceptin is administered every single week for the next six months then down to every three weeks for an additional 6 months.  Herceptin is a biological.  It stops the signal from the Her 2/neu receptors so that the cancer cells will stop multiplying and spreading like wild flowers.  Her 2/ neu tends to metastasize to the lungs, bones and brain.

Today’s first session is supposed to take five hours.  Dr. Stebel said, “you are 1/6 of the way there.”  Nice way to look at it but I have learned that when a doctor tells you that it will be a little sore for a few days, he is really saying, “It’s going to hurt like hell for the next week or two or three.” 

 

11:03 am

I have to pee.  Not an easy feat, when attached to an IV thing-a-ma-jig.

At this point in time, Dr. Stebel came to check on me and we had a very interesting conversation.  She believes that she has the highest breast cancer survival rate in the country due to her very “zen” like treatment process.  She does everything herself, from mixing the chemo to administering it to the patient. She is very personable and makes you feel quite safe.  She has no official statistics, but it would be nice to do an in-depth study on this.  I think I found the right place for me.

 

11:30 am

Dr. Stebel is now hooking me up to Bag #3, Carboplatinum, a second chemo used in conjunction with Taxotere. 

I have the room to myself, no chemo partners thus far.  But I actually look forward to the day of meeting other women like me.

Just checked my Facebook.  Yes, Raundi, it is cocktail time.  Thank you for all your loving words guys.  It means everything to me. 

Now I am signing, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.  Wish I could whistle.

12:00 pm

Finally pee’d.

12:15 pm

I got my wish.  I have a roommate.  Her name is Tulare.  She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 at age 42.  She went through chemo and a mastectomy but unfortunately it came back with a vengeance a few years later and had metastasized into her lungs, bones and now brain.  As she told me her story, a fear began to creep into my veins along with the chemo, until I learned more details.  Apparently, she had tried to heal herself with alternative medicine, juicing, raw foods, and coffee enemas, similar to the Gerson Therapy.  Within one year, her tumor grew exponentially finally reaching 6 centimeters and spread to her lymph nodes.  At that point she decided to have chemo and a mastectomy.  She wished she had not waited so long for chemo but I told her, “hindsight is 20/20”.  Honestly, Tulare was so sweet, open and a breath of fresh air.  She had no hair, no eyelashes and no eyebrows but a glowing smile and wonderful spirit.  I found her to be absolutely beautiful and a godsend, sent to me by the universe to solidify my decision.

12:45 pm

Bag #4 is now being hooked up to my IV.  This is the last bag for today, full of Herceptin.  It will take an hour and a half for the bag to empty into my veins.  An entire year to do it’s magic.

I had another interesting conversation with my doctor and roommate at this point about the money going into cancer research.  The discussion led to the all-mighty FDA, Food and Drug Administration.  Do you know that it is illegal to claim that you can cure cancer, especially if you are not a doctor?  You can be arrested and imprisoned.  The Gerson Institute claims to have cured many cancer patients, but they are forced to operate on the other side of the border, in Mexico.  Other facilities like this are not given any extra monies or grants for research, unless big bucks are promised.  Some even go as far to say that the FDA is in cahoots with the big pharmaceutical companies, keeping any cure at bay.  A cure would wipe out an entire industry.  It’s hard to believe that people can be so cruel all for the almighty dollar. 

1:58 pm

Almost done!  Quietly resting.  Getting a bit tired.  A chance to think, ponder and process this entire experience, another “Yes Mom” adventure.  I still have my courage stone in my left hand, my phone in my right, my mom by my side and all of you in my heart. 

 

2:11 pm

I feel foggy.  Maybe this is what they mean by Chemo brain.  Dr. Stebel is now removing the last bag and flushing my port with a saline solution and Heprin to protect me from blood clots.  As she extracts the IV from my port, the most painful part of the procedure so far, I wince, sit back and catch my breath. 

I’m done. 

Only 57 more treatments to go.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear….Mark Twain

 

Today I had my shot of Neulasta.  Dr. Stebel told me I will crash in the next couple days.  So, I plan to fill my soul first with friends and music and scheduled band practice for tomorrow afternoon to soften my landing.

More pictures to follow if I can figure out how to upload them from my phone.

7 Responses to “Play by Play”

  1. Stacy Says:

    Hey! I am wondering how you are doing…and thinking how strange life is that you are fighting your breast cancer and I am sitting here figuring out how I am going to be a motherless daughter, nevermind that I am 44. I am a DAUGHTER damn it! This isnt fair!

    But it makes me relieved and glad and proud that you are out there fighting this thing! You are a MOM! You are doing what you gotta do…nevermind the pain, the nausea, the hairchallenged days ahead (btw might it be an upside if you dont have to shave your legs this summer?)

    I am giving you a HUGE internet hug…and please give one to your mom from me! Your mom for so many years was the second mom that I wanted and needed and if she were in Phx now and I saw her I would collapse. And I imagine she can only handle one daughter at a time right now!
    xo
    Stacy
    the hot babe on the left side of the picture above!! 8-)

  2. Maureen Says:

    Stacy thank you. I am torn between Phoenix and Laguna Niguel right now. I know I am where I need to be, and want to be, right now. But if things were different I would be there for you with my arms wide open. It’s hard to lose your Mom. I was lucky to have mine until I was 60. You go ahead an cry for Mary Ellen, she was a very special
    person and I know she was so proud of you and your family.

    BIG BIG HUGS TO YOU.

    Love you,

    Maureen

  3. Raundi Says:

    Wow…what a ride. I love you.

  4. Cyndi Says:

    I’ve now had my dose of courage for the day! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your journey.

    ROCK ON, today!

  5. Delena Sinclair Says:

    Deanne,
    Sending you positive thoughts and prayers from Germany. I wish I could be there to help in some way. Please know I am thinking about you often and praying for you daily! Oh, and by the way, I am so glad you met a kind soul at chemo to share your journey with. It is amazing how people are placed in our lives when we need them, and I PROMISE it is not the universe the placed her there!!! Smile :)
    Love and Hugs!
    Delena

  6. amanda Says:

    Your strength is amazing.

  7. Gretchen Says:

    Sounds like you are meeting many special people on your journey through this. You are someone who learns from everyone you meet. Thanks for sharing who you meet and all you learn from them.

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