Chemotherapy ruined my Valentine’s Day

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Today was my third weekly dose of the chemotherapy drug Abraxane for the treatment of advanced breast cancer. It was also February 14, Valentine’s Day. And it’s also the day that my oncologist decided to discontinue the steroid she was giving me intravenously for nausea because of its side effects. Instead, she prescribed over-the-counter Prilosac for heartburn and reflux and Zofran (Ondansetron) , a dissolvable pill used to prevent nausea and vomiting. I picked up the Zofran and placed one on my tongue just in time to allay an unfortunate incident at the pharmacy counter. THANK YOU, Target pharmacist!  You had to be there; it was like magic.

I’ve been taking the Zofran every eight hours now to quell the waves of nausea. And after exchanging Valentine’s cards with my hubby, we decided to forego cooking an actual meal in the house (smells too strong!) and I sent him to pick up mild takeout food.

Yeah, thanks, chemo. Just so you’ll know, this isn’t exactly the Valentine’s Day I had planned.  Oh well, February 19 is looking pretty good!

I’m having a hot flash … one long stinking hot flash …

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I’m having a hot flash, one long stinking, continuous hot flash. It’s not even a flash really … certainly not the soaking ones the ladies in my church choir would joke about starting at one end of the risers and eventually consuming the entire alto and soprano sections by the end of the stanza.

This isn’t a flash … something just … broke … like the thermostat on your car …

I’m not sure when it happened. Surgeons removed my ovaries in November in an attempt to cut off the estrogen supply feeding my hormone-receptive metastatic breast cancer.  Since I was diagnosed with what doctors say is an incurable form of breast cancer last spring, I had been taking Tamoxifen hormone pills (while undergoing mastectomies, radiation, etc.)  and really hadn’t noticed any hormone changes. In fact, if recent PET scan results (oh, and an unexpected stay in the hospital over the holidays) are any indication , it looks like the Tamoxifen wasn’t doing much to abate the spread of breast cancer cells.

So, a few weeks ago, out with the egg sacs and on to a new drug called Arimidex,  an aromatase inhibitor my oncologists say they like better but is only available to post-menopausal women.

I recovered from that surgery nicely, then nothing for a few weeks… but, now … it’s unbearable.

Especially, consider that I was the only in the house who would sit each winter in front of the wood stove insert in our living room, wrapped in a blanket complaining that my toes were freezing as the fire pushed our thermostat to well over 80 degrees.   The other night, as I stood outside on my own porch around 1 a.m. (in my what my husband and daughter said was 32-degree weather) holding a glass of ice water in one hand and an Edy’s limeade Popsicle in the other, while trying to let some air into the house, my family laid down a couple of absolutes:

  • I am allowed to run the big box fan next to my bed and rub bags of ice over my body inside the house.
  • And, with apologies to neighbors and other passersby who frequent our main road, I am no longer allowed to stand on the porch in my husband’s boxers and a wife-beater t-shirt while cars whiz by in the middle of the night.

It finally hit me today when I had to stop in the mall to buy an Orange Julius smoothie in the middle of a snowstorm, that these are “personal summers” no one else in my house is experiencing.

So, help, please!

I found this technical crap on the Susan G. Komen site: “One way to slow the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in premenopausal women is stop the ovaries from making estrogen. Keeping the ovaries from making these hormones is called ovarian suppression. Ovarian suppression lowers hormone levels in the body so that the tumor cannot get the estrogen it needs to grow.”

Uh, huh, yeah, but how do I put out the brimstone surging in my body right now?  … If you’re a breast cancer survivor on hormone therapy out there – literally, out there on the porch trying to find a breeze anywhere –  what’s your experience been? Did the hormones finally regulate themselves? Does this misery mean the hormone therapy is working or isn’t working on the cancer cells? How the heck do you find relief? Since my cancer is fueled by estrogen, estrogen-replacement tricks (medical, old wives, or other) won’t help me anyway. I need the estrogen to go away!

Has this been just a flash for you?  I’m burning up here, y’all …

For my friends and family who might worry about my spiritual stability and morale, this isn’t a complaint. I’m full of faith and always feeling blessed. Just an observation about this journey and I’m looking for feedback.

About Me

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My name is Freda Springs and I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer after finding a lump in my left breast on March 22, 2010.  The cancer had already spread to bones in my back, hips and pelvis and a spot was showing up on my liver. After consistently doing self-exams, physician exams and mammography, I became one of a small percentage of women who are diagnosed with this uncurable form of breast cancer right out the gate. That spot on the liver has since grown to 5 cm and is too big to remove with radiation or surgery. Recently, the cells at T4 broke through my spinal cord and were causing spinal cord compression. I was hospitalized three days before Christmas for emergency IV pain management and radiation treatment.  I was able to get out of the hospital on Christmas eve and am finishing up radiation on my back and right hip this week, yeah!  My oncologists tell me that they will continue to treat this cancer as a chronic illness and that am now living with breast cancer. So this blog is about my new life … I’m in the process of transferring and merging some of the entries I’ve already been sharing on my CaringBridge site these past few months with friends and family and inspirational writings at my LionChaser’s Journal blog, fredasprings.wordpress.com , so bear with me as I get this new blog up and running. I pinky swear I will fill in the gaps soon!

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