Radiation Treatments 1 & 2

First, I want to let you know that I do not have any pain in the area where I have my radiation treatments. A lot of people assume that I have pain during and or after treatment and I do not. I do not have any burns or irritated skin either. According to my radiation oncologist I should not experience any of the above.

I received my schedule on Thursday when I went in for my first treatment and the final part of the SIMs appointment. My doctor had told me 10 to 14 treatments, so I was happy that she decided on 10. So my first treatment was a few days ago on Thursday, and my last treatment will be on April 26th. I go in every weekday, Monday through Friday, with weekends off.

Thursday was rough. It was a longer appointment because they had to x-ray me and finish plotting for the coordinates to set the machine for my treatments. I had to have both arms up over my head for that whole process which was almost an hour. By the time they were done, I was crying because the pain was so bad in my left arm. It felt like my arm was being ripped out of the socket. I tried so hard not to cry, but the pain was unbearable. I was so embarrassed, and I apologized to the techs; they were very kind and stayed with me and rubbed my back to try to get me to calm down. I don’t remember it hurting that much when I went through the same process in 2019, so I was shocked that the pain was that bad. Luckily the pain didn’t last long and went away about an hour after I got home.

On Friday, my arm hurt again because it went through so much on Thursday. It seems like they are taking longer to get everything set up once I am on the table. They are not only setting the machine for my coordinates, but they are also moving me around so the markers on my body line up as well. Luckily with all of the plotting out of the way, I only have my treatment when I go in now, nothing extra from here on out except a visit with my doctor each Monday.

I’m sure when I return on Monday for treatment #3, I won’t have any more issues with pain. I will try to keep my movement as limited as I can in my left arm over the weekend. The excessive pain I am experiencing is only in my left arm and that is because I had 18 lymph nodes removed from under my left arm during my cancer removal surgery in April 2019. I realize that it has been four years since that surgery but when there are that many lymph nodes removed there are multiple nerves that are cut and disconnected, so at least in my case, I have never regained full mobility and I am still numb in the upper part of my arm over to half of my breast. I have learned to live with the numbness over the years. I can feel pressure but that is all, so it took awhile for me to be able to find the right pressure to shave under my arm and not cut myself. In my opinion it is a small price to pay for my surgeon saving my life and me being alive today.

As always, thank you for being here and supporting me. πŸ’•

Difficult News

I was going to write this blog post earlier in the week, but I have been overwhelmed with so many thoughts and emotions since I met with my oncologist on Monday, March 27th.

On March 21st, I had my most recent PET Scan. Everything went fine with the scan, as usual. I sat next to a sweet 80-year-old lady in the waiting room. She started to chat with me because she was complaining about the wait, and I told her that the wait could be long sometimes; it depends on what type of imaging you are there for and how many appointments there are. She asked me why I knew that, and I explained that I come in every four months for a PET scan since I am a stage 4 cancer patient. She asked me a few more questions and then handed me the book she was reading and told me to keep it. The book is by Zig Ziglar, Embrace the Struggle, Living Life on Life’s Terms. I haven’t started reading it yet, but I will soon.

This past Monday, I went to see my oncologist for my regular 30-day appointment and to get my PET scan results. My blood looks pretty good for me anyway, and I was happy to see that my ANC was 1.4, which is excellent considering that the low number in the acceptable range is 1.5, so that is the highest my ANC has been in months! So we were very happy with my blood panels.

Then we moved on to my PET Scan results. Unfortunately, my tumor has grown. It is roughly 1/3 of an inch larger, which is a slight increase but nonetheless an increase. My oncologist immediately said that I would need radiation treatments to stop the growth of my tumor and hopefully kill it. Luckily I will be going back to see the same radiation oncologist I saw in 2019 for my treatments which is great because I trust her and adore her. I will likely have three weeks’ worth of treatments or 15 sessions. I don’t know all of the details yet, but I will find out when I have my consultation and plotting appointments next Wednesday, April 5th. Matt will be going with me to my appointments next Wednesday, so it will be nice to have him with me because I will be there for half the day.

Understandably, I am overwhelmed with my thoughts and emotions. I am wondering what is next after radiation. My oncologist made it sound like I may not be taking iBrance while I am going through radiation, so that I will ask about that on Wednesday. He also said that he wants to keep me on iBrance for years, but if it proves ineffective, I may have to go through chemo infusions again, and he has told me it will be much tougher this time vs. 2019. So I plan on getting some of my questions answered because, by the time I go in for my appointment next Wednesday, my oncologists will have discussed what is going on with me and the next steps.

I wish I had better news to share but cancer is tricky and you never know what it will do, especially when it is as aggressive as mine has been.

It’s Been A While

I am sorry that I haven’t updated in a while. I have had a lot going on, and at times, it has been overwhelming. I realized this morning that a year ago today, I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. This past year has been up and down for me. A year after being diagnosed, the two small tumors that I found on the side of my neck are gone. The tumor on my rib on the left side of my back has shrunk but is still there.

For the last two months, my blood has been on the decline. My white blood cell count and red blood cell count have been low, which is normal for me, but my white blood cell count has been dropping and getting close to anemia levels. My ANC, which is the Absolute Neutrophil Count, is also falling. The low end in the range is 1.5, but my oncologist says I can go as low as 1.0, but anything lower than that is serious. At my last appointment at the end of January,  my ANC had dropped to 1.1. “ANC is an estimate of the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your blood. Knowing your ANC can help you and your doctor assess your risk of infection.”

So what does this mean for me and my treatment plan? It means that my cancer meds are wearing my body down. I rarely get enough rest to prevent me from feeling tired, so I am having more bad days than good. On the bad days, I feel like I am much older than I am. I have days where my entire body hurts, and when it’s really bad, I have to take pain meds to get some relief. My next appointment is on the 27th, and I have a feeling that my oncologist is going to lower me to 75mg because it feels like my system is not handling the medication very well anymore. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure. I trust my doctor and will, of course, do whatever he suggests. He reminds me often that the goal is to keep my quality of life as good as possible and to kill my tumor so I will go into remission. I will, of course, update you all after my appointment. Also, my next PET scan is coming up, it isn’t scheduled yet, but it will be in the first week of March.

OK, I do have some good news! I went to the eye doctor for my check-up, my last one was before Covid in 2019, and my prescription changed dramatically. Recently I have felt like my vision hasn’t been as clear as it was before, so I thought that it might have gotten worse. But the doctor told me that I needed my prescription to be lowered, not raised. She asked me when I was diagnosed with diabetes and what my last A1c was. I am very close to being prediabetic, and because of that, my contacts have been too strong for my eyes, hence the blurry issue. She asked me what I had changed, if anything, and I said I had mostly been eating a Keto diet. So Keto has been perfect for me; it has helped me lose a little weight and has made a big difference in my A1c and, therefore, my eyesight. My doctor has told me to keep doing what I am doing because I could possibly eliminate my diabetes which would be wonderful!

I will update again after my next appointment with my oncologist; hopefully, I will have good news concerning my blood labs.

Oncologist Appointment on December 5th

On Monday, I had my monthly appointment with my oncologist. As usual, my vitals were taken, and my blood was drawn for my regular blood panel, which is a CBC w/differential. A CBC w/ differential measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood, including the different types of white blood cells (neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, basophils, and eosinophils). The amount of hemoglobin (a substance in the blood that carries oxygen) and hematocrit (the amount of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells) are also measured. A CBC with differential is used to help diagnose and monitor many different conditions, including anemia and infection.

When my doctor came into the exam room, he handed me my blood panel results and told me that my blood looked good this month! My white blood cell count went up from last month to 3.9, which is only .1 from the low end of normal, and my ANC went up to 1.7, which is .2 into the acceptable range, which is the highest it has been since I started my medication in March. WBC count, RBC count, and ANC are the primary three levels that my oncologist looks at. My red blood cell count is lower, so it needs to be watched because if it lowers any more, I could develop Anemia. I take Iron every day, and I have been getting my B12 shots, so I am hoping that in the next month, my RBC count will improve.

Once we were done discussing my results, my oncologist said that he felt I was doing well and that I had adjusted well to my medications, so there was no need to change my treatment. We discussed the frequency of PET scans, and we agreed that I would have my next PET scan in early March, four months after my last one.

Yesterday I was not feeling well, which is not uncommon after starting to take the iBrance again after a week off and getting my Faslodex injections. Today I am in quite a bit of pain, primarily overall body pain, mainly from the Injections. Faslodex, for me, is very unpredictable. Some months I can barely tell I have had the injections, sometimes, I get terrible headaches and injection site pain, and sometimes, my whole body hurts like it does today. Generally, any discomfort or pain goes away with Tylenol and only lasts for a day or two if I have any at all.

Thank you again for your continued support! πŸ’•

PET Scan Results and Oncologist Appointment on November 7th

As far as my PET scan results are concerned, I am happy to say I have good news! The two tumors in my neck are gone; there was no sign of them still being there other than some excess tissue. Cancer on my rib in my back had no change compared to my PET scan in July. I have no other signs of metastatic disease, so no new tumors have been detected. πŸ™‚ So, the meds are still working, so we are staying on the current plan.

I am hoping that when I have my next PET scan in 4 to 6 months, the remaining tumor will either be smaller or still have no change. From what I understand, once the tumor is completely gone, I will be in remission, which is the end goal of stage 4 metastatic cancer since there is no cure.

September & October Doctor’s Appointments

I have had several doctor’s appointments over the last two months, seeing my oncologist twice, my surgeon, and having my annual mammogram done.

On Monday, September 12th, I had my monthly oncologist appointment to chat with my doctor, check my blood, and get my Faslodex injections. As far as my bloodwork is concerned, it is a little better. My white blood cell count went up a little bit from last month, so my ANC went up as well, which is good. My PA explained that my white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and ANC levels would go up and down from month to month, but it is normal, and as long as I am not too far off from a normal range, there is no reason to worry.

Friday, September 16th: I had my annual mammogram appointment. This appointment is made along with my annual check-up with my surgeon, so he orders the mammogram and then follows up to do my annual exam and go over my results. My mammogram appointments are not routine, mainly because of the scar tissue I have from my surgeries. As usual, they had to do extra imaging, but at least this time, I didn’t have to go through an ultrasound as well as a mammogram. The hospital has a 3D mammogram machine now so that they can get amazingly clear images. The tech I had was the same one I saw back in 2019, and she was very open about showing me the side-by-side pictures from 2019 and now. It was both sad and a relief to see the comparison because my tumors were very easy to see in 2019, just as it is easy to see that there is nothing in my imaging now to be concerned about. My appointment took 3 hours; as I said, not routine, but when I leave, I had my results in my hand, which was a relief because I didn’t have to wait until the following week when I saw my surgeon. All of my imaging was clear, with no sign of cancer.

Wednesday, September 21st: I went to see my surgeon for my annual check-up and to discuss my mammogram results. As soon as he walked into the exam room, he asked me about having a biopsy done on one of the ribs on my back, so I explained the imaging I had that led up to my getting the biopsy. Once we discussed what I had been through since I last saw him in February, he went through my annual exam. He said that I might have some slight capsular contracture developing in both breasts. I was alarmed by this news, but at this time, I am not overly concerned as I am not in any pain, and I can’t physically feel anything myself. But my surgeon is the expert. So if he feels something, then I believe him; he certainly knows better than I do. He mentioned a few times that I don’t have to limit my visits to once a year, so I agreed and said I would feel better if he kept a closer eye on things, so we decided to do a checkup every six months. I love that my surgeon genuinely cares about his patients and that I can fully trust him.

My oncologist appointment on October 11th was pretty routine. My white blood cell count dropped by .1, but again, it will fluctuate a little from month to month, so there is no reason to be worried. This time my Faslodex injection on the right side hurt for days. I do have some discomfort, usually in the evening after I have had my injections, but this time the pain lasted for days. I can’t explain why it hurt so much this time, but I am sure the thickness of the medicine is part of it. Unfortunately, I now dread the injection part of my appointments, but I must have them because the treatment will help keep my cancer from spreading more than it already has.

I’m sorry for the late update. I have been struggling with several things but mainly with depression. I might write about it in the future, but for now, I need to keep the details to myself. All I can say is that having stage 4 cancer is hard, especially mentally and emotionally. People compliment me on how good I look, and I appreciate that because I try my best not to look as ill as I feel on any given day. On the bad days, I stay at home because I can’t face people, and on the good days, especially days when I have little to no fatigue, I get out of the house or do a workout; anything I can do to take advantage of feeling better on that particular day.

Take care and remember, tomorrow is never promised, so live your life as best as you can. Be kind to people, treat people the way you want to be treated, and don’t judge people; you have no idea what someone else is going through, so always be kind and keep hate out of your heart. πŸ’•

%d bloggers like this: