Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: chemo (page 2 of 2)

Bits and Pieces

This entry is part 12 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I have a few things to say here. May have said some of them before, but I thought I’d try to go into a bit more detail about anything like that.

Such as the numb area of my arm. Today, I can tell it goes around to my back a bit. Its borders back there tend to fluctuate, I think depending on whether or not I’m having other sensations. Like itching. Itching is fun. Neuropathic area itches, reach to scratch, realize area to scratch is actually numb to the sensation of touch, so can’t actually scratch the itch. Sometimes those itches settle in the edge of the numb area, where the one I’m trying to ignore right now is. This is a mild annoyance, and not as traumatic as the sensation of pain which sometimes crawls through the neuropathic area. Sometimes this pain comes on its own, sometimes something I do (usually moving my arm up so my hand is somewhere at head level or above) causes the pain to come. This generally strikes the back of my upper arm, is fleeting, but is shocking at times when I least expect it. Other times, it’ll come in and hover for a while.

Really, I’d rather have this than cancerous lymph nodes.

The steri-strips are still on my armpit and breast. The ones under my arm are peeling off at the ends and bunching up toward the middle, right over the wound from the surgery. I think it’s this which is causing the bruised feeling in my armpit, and the sticky areas keep catching on hair growing and pull it without warning, usually at night when I’m laying on my left side. Move right arm to more comfortable position, pull hair.

This is not to complain, exactly. It’s not that much to have to deal with. Just thinking there might be someone out there who might want to know about all the little discomforts which come with cancer treatments.

Yesterday, I received a call from Robin (a nurse, not Robyn, the Physician’s Assistant who came with my surgeon). She wanted to discuss the order Dr. Weiss, the head Oncologist, put in for something called a “porta-cath.” I think that’s what it was called. It’s something they insert under the skin of the chest for long-term chemo treatments, and she said it made sense they ordered it if I’ll be getting such treatments for a minimum of at least four months. It makes administering the chemo drugs easier and less stressful on the body—she said it can be rough on the veins if doing it through an IV. I have to go in at 7:30 in the morning on the 15th of next month for a fasting lab (whee, no eating/drinking after midnight) and report to the AMU clinic for the porta-cath to be inserted. According to Nurse Robin, they’ll sedate me for the procedure, so I’m going to take Mom with me so she can handle the cab. Also according to Nurse Robin, the sedation will wear off after a few hours and I’ll definitely feel like they’ve done something, but it shouldn’t be too painful. We’ll see about that.

If I find out they’re not doing the chemo long-term, I’m to call and tell Robin, and they’ll arrange to do something slightly different. Something about having a tube hanging out my body, and dressings which need to be changed, with a lot of care required. This enthuses me no end, I assure you, so I’m kind of hoping to do the porta-cath instead.

Robin was most displeased I recalled nothing of this being discussed during my last visit with the Oncologists. I could have heard something about it, and it may not have stuck, but she said it was up to them to make things clear, and she was upset I hadn’t received the printouts they promised. So, I’m kind of hoping my visit with them on the 7th turns out to be nothing more than me getting those printouts and hearing again what they’ll be doing, and maybe getting a firm answer on just how long and how frequently I’ll have to be in for chemo.

Today I got the letter the genetic counselor, whose name is spelled “Anne,” sent me. I’m glad she didn’t take her time about it. I have the distinct impression she got back to her office last Friday, prepared all this, and had it in the mail by the time she left the office for the day.

Some interesting facts from the letter she sent me (I haven’t read the printout from a cancer center’s website she gave me yet. Can’t bear to look at that bit yet).

-Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic (not due to inherited factors).
-Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
-A combination of factors can contribute to development of breast cancer (including smoking, unhealthy living).
-Simply getting older can cause breast cancer—most women who develop it are over 50.
-Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by inherited predispositions.
-Changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 can also lead to an increased risk of other cancers, including ovarian cancer.
-In some families, a specific genetic change can’t be identified, but many members do develop cancer (more than expected by chance). In such cases, it’s considered familial, though they can’t identify the specific cause.

Once again, she iterates I should get the genetic test because of my complete lack of knowledge of health history of my father’s side of the family and my young age (39-40) at developing it. She’s going to call me before the 7th to make sure I do want the test, then put the order in for the blood for it to be drawn at the same time I have it drawn prior to my visit to the Oncologists on that day.

Oncological Update

This entry is part 10 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

My mind is blasted. It started at the VA Hospital today, at my late afternoon appointment with the oncology department. I did not expect this to happen, and I wish now I’d taken notes because I just can’t seem to sort anything out of what I was told.

I’d like to go into what specific chemotherapy drugs I’ll likely receive. Didn’t write any of them down. I do know one is a steroid, though.

I’d like to write about how long I’ll be in chemotherapy. I can’t, though, because I didn’t write that down, either. I do know it’ll be anywhere from four months to at least eight.

I do know I’ll likely be going for chemo about once a month. It’s tentative, but that’s what the head oncologist plans for me. This, I must say, is a relief to hear, and I rather hope it comes true. I’d far rather make one monthly visit for several months rather than two or three visits a month for a shorter period of time. Especially after what I heard about some of the side effects of the chemo medications. He’s going to call someone at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to discuss his plans and see what they say, and I’m glad he’s getting a second opinion. General consensus from the people I spoke with today, including the head oncologist, is that since it looks like all the cancer was removed, they don’t need to do a major attack with the chemo stuff. From what I understand, this is simple follow-up to make sure nothing which may have been left behind survives. My prognosis for surviving this cancer is very good.

I do remember a little about the side effects of the chemo. I’m definitely going to lose all my hair. My eybrows. My eyelashes. I was so far behind on what they were telling me by the time the woman who spoke longest with us got to this part of the side effects that the only question I thought to ask was, “Will my eyelashes grow back?” This makes me laugh now, but I was very concerned about it at the time. As much as it annoys me that my eyelashes brush on my glasses lenses, which then require cleaning, I just could not imagine not having eyelashes.

Oddly, the woman we spoke with longest (who was neither of the two I met last time), told us (Mom was with me) her own mother had recently gone through breast cancer. She said each individual’s reaction to chemo is different, so while she could tell me what most people went through, she said things might not be on the same timeline as theirs, if it happened at all for me. For instance, her mother lost her hair early on, but not her eyelashes or brows until near the end. I might have one chemo treatment and have everything fall out before the next time I go in. She was also able to verify the differences Dr. Savarise told us about—that the energy-sapping effects of chemo may be different for different people—and that I should expect to be tired around ten days following treatments. She said this is because my white blood cell count will drop, and that I should stay at home if at all possible on the tenth day and on days preceding and following it, to ensure I don’t come down with a more mundane illness on top of everything else.

She was also able to tell me that I would most likely experience at least nausea. Vomiting is possible, but she said it’s not as common any more. They include three anti-nausea/vomiting drugs in the chemo treatment (one for short-term prevention of nausea/vomiting, the others for long-term prevention), and I’ll also receive prescriptions for more anti-nausea medications to take at home. She told me it was best that if I woke up the next day with a feeling of nausea I need to take the anti-nausea medication ASAP, to prevent the nausea getting worse, because it’s a matter of staying ahead of it. In addition to the nausea and possible vomiting, I may also experience a lack of taste or food may develop an odd or metallic taste for the day or so following the treatments, but those are temporary.

Basic advice was to try to keep my life as “normal” as possible while undergoing chemo treatments. This means I’m to continue rising at a regular time each day and performing my daily habits. I’m to go grocery shopping (though preferably not around the tenth day after treatments), and I should likely stay home on any square dance night which falls around the tenth day of treatments, to ensure I don’t get ill. However, every other Tuesday of the month, I’m to continue dancing as usual, because keeping spirits up is important.

I’m surprised I remember so much. Anyway, I’ll be getting all this again before treatment, in writing as well as in another discussion.

Next step toward chemo treatment is having a heart test done. Either EKG or the other test (which I’ve forgotten the name of) which was called by a different name. They need this as a baseline because the chemo can affect my heart. I’m to call the hospital tomorrow for my heart-test appointment, and, today, I also had a blood test done, for a baseline reading of everything, which passed.

I hope things go well.

Nano and Chemo

This entry is part 05 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

For the past few years, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nano, where I can be found as Ashe Elton Parker with The Power of Music 3 listed as my project), which happens each November. A few weeks ago, I wasn’t certain I’d be participating due in part to the cancer treatments I’ll be undergoing during that month and in part to the fact I didn’t know what project I’d be writing for November. I wanted something I could either prepare quickly or which was already somewhat prepared and only needed finishing-up in the way of outlining so I could hopefully work in the word count around my chemotherapy treatment visits up at the VA.

Night before last, I started making progress on TPOM3’s outline once more. I’ve also got ideas for how to handle the big major conflict that’s supposed to happen in it, which was primarily what I needed in order to continue with the outline. Now that I have those bits, I can finish the outline, hopefully before the end of October, and be ready to jump into Nano on November first. I’m not sure I’ll be sitting up ’til midnight to start progress on it, but I’ll definitely be doing my best to get words later on that day.

I expect to be starting chemotherapy up at the VA sometime either in late October or early November, so this will have some effect on my writing. I won’t know for sure the start date until the 17th of this month, when I see the Oncologist again. By that time, I’ll have seen my surgeon again and I hope I’ll have my drainage system removed then. Since I expect to be taking weekday-daily trips up to the VA, for two or three weeks in a row for the chemo, I’m kind of hoping they have at least a place where I can hook up my laptop so I can work on my writing. If they don’t, I’ll probably just read, or I may start working on another story I plan to write after Brotherhood is finished.

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