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Archive for the tag “stage 2 breast cancer”

Chemotherapy 1 of 6 – The Toxic Bride

Yeah, I wish!

Yeah, I wish!

Well, I did it! Got through my very first chemo session! Honestly, it was a breeze. The first one was long (5 hours), since I had to do long doses of my targeted therapy (Perjeta and Herceptin) for the HER2+ flavor of my cancer. But the next five rounds will only be 3 hours each.

Basically, I sat in a recliner and slept, played games, snacked, and read a little. It was like flying business class to NYC except I ended up where I started.

Here’s how it went down:

First, I met with Dr. Cap and he was disappointed that we didn’t yet have the pathology report for the MRI-guided biopsy I had the day before. He called the lab and they weren’t ready. Then he got on the phone and conferred with my surgeon (Who needs a new nickname. He’s so much more than “Boobcutter”). They agree that it was okay to go ahead and start treatment now. What’s in my left boob didn’t set off the PET scan, so it could be a pre-cancerous duct or something that we’d just keep an eye on. There’s a tiny clip in there now, so they’ll know where to look in the future. (This brings my shrapnel count to three: one in Turdy the main tumor in my right boob, one in Son of Turdy the ginormous malignant lymph node in my right armpit, and now this left boob business.)

Anyway, Dr. Cap isn’t happy with my iron levels and he wants me to take iron supplements.

“Yeah, but then I might not poop,” I say.
“Well, the diarrhea from the chemo will probably balance that out.” He grins.

Gunny and I wore pins!

Gunny and I wore pins!

Cleared for take-off I choose the best chair in the infusion suite. Off in the corner, next to the windows, across from the blanket warmer. One of the chemo nurses “accessed my port” to start the IV. This was by far the most painful bit of the entire cancer carnival so far. I think I mentioned that I have an extra-thick collarbone and my surgeon had to go pretty deep to get the central line connected. Anyway, the needle she started with was too short, and she thought she could get it to connect better if she pushed down on my chest. It felt like being stomped on by a horse. I only had that surgery ten days ago, lady! Easy! So she gets a longer needle and it worked fine and I chilled out.

She waited patiently while I took my round 1 selfie.


And then the party began. First bag was a cocktail of anti-nausea medication and steroids. Then came the Benadryl. Luckily my husband was still there at that point because a nurse came around to set up appointments for the Neulasta shot (which stimulates bone marrow to produce white blood cells), a blood draw, and Round 2. I was pretty loopy by then and Gunny handled the appointment-setting. Then he went off to watch the new Avengers movie for the second time so I could nap.

My chemo nurse swapped the Benadryl bag for an hour’s worth of Perjeta. This is the HER2+ killer that still has new-car smell. It’s sort of companion treatment to Herceptin and makes it work harder and more effectively.

I listened to the Great Gatsby soundtrack on my iPod and slept for about an hour.

When I woke up it was time for 90 minutes of Herceptin. This is the shit that is going to save my life. If you want an entertaining look at the discovery of this wonderdrug, watch Living Proof. It stars Harry Connick Jr as Dr. Dennis Slamon who is a hero much more impressive than Iron Man or even my beloved Thor. It has a semi-dippy “Let’s put on lipstick before our cancer drug trial” montage (It IS a Lifetime movie) but it’s otherwise great. Inspiring.

I spent most of this time on my phone keeping up with what I can only describe as the most monumentally awesome thing a person could have happen to them. One of my friends, Kari Toyama (who is just a stellar human being as well as being cool as hell) spearheaded a campaign to have friends post selfies and signs with the hashtag #lovetrixiefuckcancer. So all day I was inundated with more love and support and laughter than I could ever have imagined. Take a look:

kari ToyamaMichelle Obama Shannon I don't always desktop battle wonder jbb Steve Morgan desktop awesome drawing batle Kitty Match Made in Halo puppies! Groot Kristin JVB Max D JamMarcella Dirty Diva Nikki Lexi Kiki Nelly Cory Mom Katie Tara Tyler Philip Josephine Carolyn Kathleen Trisha Angel and Alex Doc Sam Hollywood sign The Boss Alison

I have some un-fun remnants of working in the video game industry, but THIS, my god. THESE PEOPLE are the gift of those years. Kari said to me “PSH it was nothing.” I’m sure you’ll agree that nothing could be further from the truth. It was EVERYTHING.

A glimpse at my Twitter feed yesterday.

A glimpse at my Twitter feed yesterday.

Go ahead and blow your nose and wipe those tears. I’ll wait.

After my targeted HER2 antibody drugs, it was time for the heavy duty shit. The actual chemotherapy. One hour each of Taxotere and Carboplatin. I ate half a peanut butter sandwich and drank water. Oh, and some Swedish Fish. My husband returned from the movies and I started reading a book my friend Kim recommended: A Kind Worth Killing.

This precious thing is Allie the Feel-Better Fairy. Thanks to my dear friend Nori. <3

This precious thing is Allie the Feel-Better Fairy. Thanks to my dear friend Nori. ❤

And then, it was over. I got home in time to meet my baby at the bus stop. I was kinda worn out, and lounged in bed and read. Not much appetite for dinner, but I did my best. I had an ice cream sandwich for dessert.

So here’s a couple things I learned about chemo that I didn’t know before:

1. You are allowed to pee! They can unplug your IV from the wall and you can run on battery power and shuffle your ass to the potty hauling your drugs on a pole. Comes in handy when they’re filling you full of liquids.

2. For a couple days post chemo, you are TOXIC. All of your bodily fluids contain chemo drugs and you don’t want anyone to get any on them. What does this mean? If I have night sweat, I gotta sleep alone. After using the toilet I have to shut the lid and flush twice. TWICE! I feel like I’m murdering the Earth! The most surprising though? NO SEX. Kinda wish they’d warned me about that one the night before so I could store up. But yeah, the chemo nurse said no sex at all for a few days and no unprotected sex for about 8 days. WHO KNEW? Talk about unfuckable!

So how is my toxic ass doing today? Not bad. I felt a little bit queasy when I woke up, so I got up, popped a Zofran and went back to bed. My chemo nurse (and also the amazing Ann who blogs at Breast Cancer? But Doctor I hate Pink and wrote this super helpful Top Four Tips for Getting Through Chemo post) both said to take meds at the first twinge of queaze, so I did. Thanks, ladies!

I went to the hospital this morning for my Neulasta shot. It can cause bone pain, so they have you take Claritin (yes,

I told her she was like our beloved Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when he does his weekly visits to Children's Hospital.

I told her she was like our beloved Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when he does his weekly visits to Children’s Hospital.

the OTC allergy drug!) beforehand. My daughter came with us to see the place Mommy goes to get her medicine and everyone smiled to see her. She says it’s not scary and she wants to go back. We’ll see.

Next up is a blood draw on May 15 to make sure my white counts are okay. It was really sad yesterday to see a woman come in for her chemo all sassy and joking around only to be sent home for low white counts.

Then, Round 2 happens May 26.

In the meantime, I’m hanging in there. I’m still riding the steriod high that kinda props you up the first couple of days, and have heard that days 4-7 are the worst. I will keep you updated, and I’m not going to be polite. For now, I await the coin flip: which will come first, puking or diarrhea, or BOTH?

Thank you for all the love and support!



Yesterday, I finally had that MRI I’ve been waiting on for what feels like forever, but was just a couple weeks. I’d had a CT scan before (the one where you have to drink horrifying chalky liquid flavored to resemble Hell’s pina colada), but this was my first MRI. Quick note: MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of your insides. In my case, my breasts. The purpose of this test was to see if there was anything hinky going on in my boobs that the mammogram didn’t pick up. Specifically, we were on the lookout for naughty lymph nodes. If Turdy the Tumor wants to conquer new ground, he’ll go for the lymph nodes first.

Here’s how it went down. First, I am claustrophobic. Not like diagnosed by a mental health practitioner or taking meds for it claustrophobic, but the breaks out in a cold sweat and feels pukey whilst in a tunnel claustrophobic. I skipped climbing to the top of Arc de Triomphe for this reason. Anyway, the nice lady who scheduled my MRI suggested I hit up my primary care doc for a mild sedative. So, armed with a Xanax, I showed up for my MRI. I changed into a gown and scrub pants. The assistant put in an IV and gave me earplugs and a choice of tunes for the headphones: Classical, Jazz, or Easy Listening. Suspicious that the jazz would fall into the unacceptable easy jazz or, as I call it “no-balls jazz” category, I went for Classical.

Breast MRI machine

I lay face-down on the tray-thingie with my boobs dangling down into a hole and my face in a donut-ish pad. I made a joke to the tech that the picture probably would have been better three kids ago. She laughed, but she couldn’t be much older than 21. She’ll learn.

So then I slid into the tube. Since I was face-down and had my eyes closed, it didn’t feel like I was in a metal tube, so my claustrophobia didn’t rear up. I knew that there would be a noisy THUNK THUNK THUNK sound (hence the earplugs and headphones) but what I wasn’t prepared for was the WAAA! WAAA! WAAA! that followed. At first I thought the building was on fire. The sound went on. Apparently this was part of the program, but man, it felt like my tubecraft had been put on missile lock by an enemy MiG.

The tech checked in with me every once in a while through the headphones. “Doing okay, Christa?” “Yep.” My cheekbones were a little sore from being pressed into the donut. The tech warned me that she was about to inject the contrast dye into my IV and I asked if I could move my head. She said the picture would be better if I didn’t move at all. So I didn’t. The dye felt a little bit cool as it went in, but not uncomfortable.


missile lock

I had ten seconds of a panicky feeling, but pushed it back down. I imagined I was in a cool little deep sea submersible watching peaceful sealife swim around. The whole thing took almost an hour. I’m REALLY glad I had that Xanax. Finally, they had the images they needed, so they slid me out, took out the IV and sent me back to the dressing room. The assistant said that the radiologist would review the pictures and talk to my doctor and I would have some results in 24 hours.

So, I was quite pleasantly surprised to have a phone message from a nurse in Dr. Boobcutter’s office (I call her Buffy because she’s the Cancer Slayer) this morning. I’d planned on waiting all day. I returned her call and she walked me through the MRI results. They were not what I was expecting to hear:

  1. There’s an “enhancement” in my left boob. The good boob. This is something that’s not on the mammogram.
  2. One of the lymph nodes in my right boob (the bad one) looks “suspicious.”
  3. Turdy the tumor looks bigger.



This is not my rack. But this is the kind of photo that is the result of a breast MRI.


So here’s what they want to do next:

  1. Do an MRI-guided biopsy on the whatever-it-is in my left boob. Does that mean they’re going to stick a needle in my tit while I’m in that tube? Good luck with that, doc. Beware the missile-lock alarm.
  2. Ultrasound the dodgy-looking lymph node and possible biopsy it.
  3. Take another look at Turdy. Though, if I’m going to have chemo BEFORE surgery, we can probably skip that part. Seriously, we know he’s made of cancer and we know he’s an aggressive little fucker. Howzabout we stop poking him and start getting him the fuck out of my body? Cut him, nuke him, fart in his general direction. I don’t give a shit, but let’s do SOMETHING to him.

So. Yeah. Not great news, but none of this is crazy bad news either. This all falls well within the normal limits of early-stage breast cancer. This is not the time to panic, and things are moving swiftly again. I have an appointment with Dr. Cappuccino the oncologist on Thursday to discuss the chemo plan. Buffy is scheduling the MRI (for my left boob) and ultrasound (for the lymph node in my right boob). Things are happening.

In the midst of all this waiting and yucky shit though, I have been overwhelmed with kindness and concern. Friends far and near have reached out to offer encouragement and an ear. And I don’t just mean geographical far. I’ve heard from high school friends and ex-boyfriends and people I worked with long ago. They’ve offered support and help. Friends have sent me cards and flowers and Starbucks cards and books and one dear friend who has been through cervical cancer sent me a big bag filled with socks and a blanket and a journal and manicure kit–all to keep me occupied and cozy during chemo. Local friends have offered to babysit, cook dinner, drive my ass around and bring me a pitcher of sangria. I feel so loved and supported it’s hard to describe. I’m so grateful.


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