The ABC Cancer Diaries

A young, American-Born-Chinese woman living with metastatic breast cancer

Another new treatment, another new year December 24, 2009

Filed under: Treatment — wenren @ 2:04 pm

The past couple of days have been very busy, and stressful. Basically my last treatment was not working, and for the first time I think I was actually feeling some symptoms, or at least feeling paranoid that I was feeling more symptoms. So, I pushed everything up (my scans). I had a bone scan, last Thursday, a PET scan this Monday, and started new treatment yesterday.

At the beginning it wasn’t looking like we were going to be able to start treatment so early because originally my doctor’s appointments were all booked up. We were supposed to meet on Wednesday evening, which would only leave Thursday as a potential day for chemo. Luckily, through being persistent (thanks to my husband for pushing me to be persistent), and I guess my worry translated via email (as I was starting to freak out a bit and even started filling out my health proxy forms and living will forms – but I should do that anyway…) and my oncologist came in especially for us on Tuesday so we could discuss results and the new plan.

Of course during all this time, I was doing research online on what possible chemos would make sense, posting on various forums, and reading through the clinical trials database. I actually came to the same decision as my oncologist in terms of what chemo to do next (Doxil), because I have had lots of other ones, and Doxil does seem to have a bit more effect on those with the BRCA2 mutation. Though the results are from a small trial, but I guess that is good enough for me. Scanning through the clinical trials was a bit disheartening because I don’t qualify for alot of the newer ones that focus on the PARPS which is a more targeted type of therapy. In the end it didn’t matter because clinical trials take time to get through all the protocols, and there is a fair amount of set up required, and well we didn’t want to waste any more time. Basically for the last month, I have been on a treatment that hasn’t really worked.

So what is Doxil like? Well it is a close cousin of Adrimycin (which is nicknamed the red devil), it is a red/pinkish drug that normally can be quite damaging to the heart, but Doxil unlike its other more dangerous cousin Adrimycin, is enclosed in liposomes or fat so it doesn’t do as much damage. So far, I am to expect hand-foot syndrome, which means my palms and soles of my feet will get red, dry and start to blister and peel. The drug company website specifically suggests “No dishwashing.” I suppose that is a plus, though I can wear gloves. That means I will go back to a strict regimen of constant lotioning. I am also expecting mouth sores, so I have gotten my applesauce, and will get some biotene mouthrinse. (So no more spicy foods or hard crunchy fried things for now…) And, the hair is supposed to thin, but not completely come out. I might have some nausea, but I have some meds to counteract that if that happens.

Yesterday, we went in to see the nurse first so she could explain the side effects of the drug, and then had my chemo with my usual pre-meds of steriods, and benadryl. Then I promptly feel asleep, and continued to be pretty drowsy for most of the night. Oh, and the best part of this chemo is that it is every three weeks, so fewer trips to the doctor which is a nice added benefit.

So right now I am feeling very grateful that things worked out with getting into see the doctor AND get my chemo scheduled. I was also very lucky to get a slot because apparently yesterday and today are completely full due to Christmas on Friday, but because my doctor had a patient who canceled her chemo (due to the snowstorm), I was able to get her slot. Now normally they do not allow swaps, but when they heard it was me they let me in!

I need to go in today briefly to get a shot of neulasta to boast my white cells throughout the next few weeks, but I am also going to bring in some holiday cookies for all the nurses as they have all been wonderful and are certainly working extra hard before the holidays.

Thanks for your support, and here’s to a happy and HEALTHY year for all of us!!

(My Chinese horoscope suggests that the upcoming year of the Tiger will be better than this past year…)


Chemo Club – December 9th, Wednesday 10 AM December 8, 2009

Filed under: Chemo Club — wenren @ 1:56 pm

Next chemo club is on! I will bring bananagrams for whoever wants to play. I get very sleepy once I get the benadryl, so I am not too hard to beat.

300 East 66th Street (at 2nd avenue), 3rd Floor


The Game Plan December 2, 2009

Filed under: Treatment,Uncategorized — wenren @ 11:02 pm

I just got back from chemo today, and by now I have my routine. First, I go in to get my finger stick, then I see my doctor, then wait about 2 plus hours until the meds are ready. In the meantime, I chat with my husband and my mother-in-law, and we go out to lunch while we are waiting for the chemo.

Basically the plan for the next month or so, is to get another cycle of this treatment, so I will have treatment next Wednesday and the following Wednesday (the 18th I think). Then I will be off chemo during the Christmas weeks, but I will have my scans done before the holiday. After the new year, we will evaluate the scan results and make a decision from there.

My gut tells me that it is likely that I will be switching treatments soon — to what? I don’t know. I am learning to live with uncertainty, and I have alot of it. I had a pelvic MRI and it showed some bone metastasis to my hips (which might explain some mild pain in my right inner thigh and side.) so hopefully these scans will give us a clearer picture of what is going on.

In the meanwhile, I’ve got to get some paperwork into my school regarding my leave. But basically I will need to extend my leave, and need to gather some signatures. As far as I know, I should still be able to keep my current health insurance for one year. I wish I had happier news to report, but right now I just feel like I am bracing for what is to come, but also just trying to live in the present.