Wednesday, December 30, 2009

another one for them to refute

Much better this time on Herceptin although if you read my previous posting you will hear that the head nurse at the oncology centre said those symptoms could not be from the treatment. Well, now have a new side effect to be denied: have a Shit taste in my mouth, bitter like gall. Just ate a peach but its still there. Been remembering though: one of my biggest problems with chemo was severe stomach pains, so bad it woke me up early in the morning, and chronic diarrhea. I kept on being told it was impossible to be caused by the chemo; not the right type of chemo to cause it and not enough of it (had 4 sessions). Well I love and trust the doctors and the nurses at the oncology centre but not imagining the symptoms and they are definitely caused, well they happen post-treatment.

Monday, December 28, 2009

the latest re herceptin side effects

went for herceptin today, the latest, the 8th out of 17 treatments, and the head nurse who was on leave last time I went, said it's impossible to have those side-effects I had from herceptin last time. She said their patients who do have side effects feel exhausted and have headaches, sometimes terrible headaches. She thinks it must have been something else to make me feel like that. Mmm..

Sunday, December 27, 2009

a year since i found the lump

I forgot about it but christmas eve was a year since i found the lump below my armpit which turned out to be cancerous.
I think the hardest part to deal with has been the fact that it is not over. Although the chemo took away the cancer, things have not stopped there. I thought it was just a matter of "grit your teeth and bare it, then things will be over" but it hasn't been like that at all. Oh I got through the chemo mostly allright, then had radiation but then got swelling from the radiation and now on herceptin and tamoxifen - all preventative stuff - and all with side-effects so kinda ... well, people keep telling me how well i look but it means nothing. I looked and felt fine when I was diagnosed.... so how do i know I am ok now?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

appears most women decline to take tamoxifen

Interesting. Reading this article from the latest New York Times which says despite the fact that women at risk of returning breast cancer could benefit from taking tamoxifen (not all benefit, cancer has to be hormone receptive), most of them decline to take it cos of the side-effects.
read article

Sunday, December 13, 2009

what a week it has been

Although I am much much better than I was on Tuesday, and have been much better since Thursday late afternoon, I am still not 100% since the last treatment of herceptin. My head feels funny at times. Now that might not sound like a big deal, but I do feel funny every now and then. Ok, didn't pop any tabs today but there were times I felt like shit.
And hot. Oh no, this tamoxifen is really making me have hot flushes. Today was disastrous and it's only now, after 10pm, with all the windows wide open, that I feel better. Going to buy that little portable demister they are selling at Cape Union Mart which turns water into a mist you can spray onto yourself. Will use it just at home and in my car, and at night, when I wake up hot.
Anyway, super glad I am better.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


So so happy to report that the cloud has lifted and I am feeling better. Maybe a little tired - it was so stressful trying to deal with everything while feeling awful - but so so relieved. It had better stay like this. And here I was thinking that I might have to feel like this until July when I am scheduled to finish this herceptin treatment. It was like being in a fog, and somewhat dizzy and kak. A lot like chemo just less intense and no nausea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

got a problem

Feeling really bad on the herceptin. It is day three since I had it and still feeling bad. If I stay still, it's better. If I move around, it's not. And then if I do stay still, don't feel 100%.
Phoned the oncology centre twice today. Wanted to know if it was ok if I pushed myself, that is, was going out tonight (theatre and a play) and was that ok or was it harmful? "Oh, you can be among people; it's not going to affect your immune system," I was told. Ja, I know that but is it wrong to push through this yucky feeling? "Giddy" said the nurse so they are clearly aware of this symptom. Cos I call it "dizzy".
If this persists, it's going to be a real problem. Going to affect all aspects of my life. And in two week's time, got to do my work and my boss's for a week. Going to be really difficult if I feel like this. Then what about exercise? That's what I phoned them about the second time. And a day after my next herceptin treatment, have booked to go to Cape Town. Cannot change the flight. Have to be there, for the unveiling of my mom's tombstone.
I feel like crying. This is like stepping back four months. Feel like shit. And on Monday was running around saying I feel wonderful, wonderful! Then I had the herceptin and now this. But at least I feel better than I felt on Tuesday. Feel like crawling under the duvet but need to do lymph massage first.
Oh, one thing is great. Found two women on the discussion board of the american cancer society who also had no primary tumour with breast cancer. One had a masectomy two weeks and the pathologists found no evidence of disease, what the website - or guess the Americans - call "NED".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

intriguing article re breast cancer and food

CNN article re vitamins and breast cancer recurrence
Thanks, Christopher, for sending this to me!

feeling shit on herceptin

Dunno if it's cos I overdid it and went on this huge grocery shop after treatment yesterday - but they said at the oncology centre I can do what I want - but felt so shitty today had to leave work early. All spacey and kinda dizzy when i walked. Sure will feel better tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

very grateful

Went for my three-weekly herceptin treatment today. My hand bled when they inserted the needle, or whatever it is called - the needle goes into it.
Anyway, there was a girl there who started chatting to me. It was easy to spot her. She was totally bald but looked fabulous really with her well toned body and bright pink top.
She asked me, towards the end of my time there, how often I came for chemo. I explained I was not having chemo - alhough The Lymph Lady says herceptin is a chemo as it is a chemical therapy - but a preventative treatment and that I had had breast cancer.
Then I asked her what she was there for. Melanoma, she said. And this was her first chemo she said. I was a little puzzled cos of her bald head but said nothing. She said she had had radiation. Did they begin with radiation, I asked. No surgery, then a month in hospital having eight hours of this certain treatment - something beginning with an 'e' for eight hours a day - then radiation but then found 18 tumours on her neck (not sure exactly when that was found, think before the radiation) and also on her head, so now she is having this chemo. Three days in a row, then three weeks off.
And I left the oncology centre feeling so so grateful and realising how lucky I have been. I feel I want to say thank you in some way. But how and to who/what? Maybe a charitable donation would be best.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

exhausting local treatment options?

Got an email on Friday about a benefit concert for an actress/singer who has breast cancer - diagnosed in 2003 - and, stated the email, after "exhausting local treatment options" has "followed an integrative approach and made excellent progress especially after receiving treatment at a ground-breaking specialist clinic in Germany".
I wasn't convinced and contacted the PR of the concert for more details and sure she thinks I am a bitch deluxe.
Exhausted local treatment options? There are excellent oncologists here in South Africa where our public/state healthcare is in disgrace but private is so good that many people, especially, from the UK, come here for dental, plastic surgery and other treatments.
And it's not like they are staid. I know one woman, Maria, who was given experimental treatment by The Tango Man, whom I also see.
Went to the Internet and notice there are many alternative cancer clinics in Germany - in other countries too of course - where there use alternative treatments such as "fever therapy" for example.
I believe in a balanced lifestyle, that my exercise has helped me immensely both during chemo and now, plus the yoga - guess that is exercise too - but have never been a fan of alternative treatments for any illness. Maybe I am wrong. What do you think about alternative treatments for cancer?

a visit to the oncology centre

Well, well, well. People can tell you things but sometimes it just doesn't sink in.
The Tango Man told me at my last visit about a month or so ago that my skin is still changing from the radiation. Then on Monday The Lymph Lady said radiation can affect the skin for up to seven years.
But still, when I felt pain and my skin below my left armpit became darker again, I still did not 'click'.
Now the head nurse at the oncology centre has confirmed it, after I first phoned her and then went in for her to examine me: the pain and discolouration I am experiencing is from the radiation, a combination of the radiation effects and the scar tissue the radiation causes.
I nearly cried when I went there on Friday cos I also handed over Christmas presents to Corrie who dealt with my herceptin authorisation - and what a drama that was, taking over a month - to the nurses and the ever-smiling receptionist. I realised how grateful I feel towards them, how when I said that my gift was but a token, a gesture, of my appreciation, I really really meant it.
The Yoga Man says being kind and sweet and caring is part of their job, kinda like a hotel receptionist's/concierge's and that it is more cost effective to have caring support staff than a caring (in attitude) doctor - The Tango Man is quite cold in some ways. But bravo to Sandton Oncology Centre - you are the best!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

bizarre - discolouration under arm again

As I was walking into yoga tonight, I felt sore under my left arm and possibly the armpit too, as if the skin was chafing. During the class was aware of it but not a big deal. By the time I got home, it was damn sore again so pulled up my t-shirt and said to The Yoga Man: "it's sore here; is there anything there?" It looks bruised," he said, "even below your bra."
Well, went to inspect it in the mirror and low and behold, the skin is discoloured again. A bit bigger area than had been discoloured from the radiation before, but less intense.
It is how many months since I finished radiation - maybe about four or even five - and now this deterioration. Only yesterday The Lymph Lady had said that one's skin can take up to seven years to change after radiation.
Well, I will be at the oncology centre on Monday for my three weekly dose of herceptin so will ask them then. Bizarre.. or is it?