First of all, my Chemo Buddy Jill just 'graduated' today. From here until at least next spring, she won't have to have any treatments or scans or anything, barring unexpected happenstance (which darn well better not occur, or I will have very stern words for the Powers That Be).
I have mixed feelings - on one hand, I will miss her wonderful spirit and entertaining company, and that of her husband, as well. I also have to admit to a tinge of jealousy.
On the other hand, I'm just thrilled for her, and have very high hopes that she will do excellently. And it's always heartening to get good news when dealing with this monster. I wish Jill health and happiness for many years to come!
Scylla and Charybdis
On the disconcerting side, my chemo nurse pointed out that my red cell count (at least the immature ones) were sufficient, and that my continued shortness of breath and extreme fatigue/weakness was probably a sign of heart damage. This is not uncommon with many of the chemos, including the ones I have had, and the risks are compounded by the pre-med steroids (see below).
Lucky me. The disconcerting thing is that in a way, dropping dead of a heart attack would be relatively merciful, compared to the death that my particular form of cancer would give me. It seems pitiful and cruel that I might be put in the position of actually wishing to have a heart attack. And of course, it also is pitiful and cruel that the chemo that theoretically is giving me more time with functioning hips/spine is at the same time taking away my ability to take advantage of those things - I am so fatigued and weak that most days I can't walk across a room without getting out of breath and having to sit down and/or take a nap. Forget doing anything useful around the house, or doing things with friends and family - I rarely have the strength any more, even when the chemo side effects are less awful. I am turning into a useless lump, which is not much fun for me and unkind to those who care for me.
Not to mention that I would hate to have my death listed on the 'heart disease' statistics, rather than the cancer death stats. This is not unusual, and allows a couple statistical boondoggles that I detest. By listing chemo-damage deaths to be listed as caused by heart disease rather than cancer or chemo-caused deaths, it makes the oncology stats look much more promising than they actually are. It also allows the pharmaceutical companies to simultaneously not take responsibility for chemo-caused deaths AND gives them even more excuse to push more and more people into taking statins and other highly profitable 'chronic disease' drugs by artificially inflating the 'heart disease' statistics.
Not Dead Yet...
This last week has been a mixed bag, side-effect-wise. Dr. Bouncy raised my steroid prescription with my chemo pre-meds, and added another dose at the end of the week. This means that the risks (including, ahem, heart damage) and side effects from the steroids are increased, which is not good. But on the other hand, my fever stayed within reasonable bounds (99-101), and I got a few extra days of a bit less exhausted and a bit less bone/joint pain.
Which means a few more days of relative functionality - weak and puffy and fluish, but able to sit up and watch TV and write a few emails, which is an improvement on spending the entire week in bed, trying not to cry. I even got two evenings of dining with friends and family this holiday weekend, although I spent a good part of one of them napping (sorry, mom - hopefully tromping us soundly in Bridge helped to make up for the rudeness of the early neglect...).
The chemo effects are accumulative, so things will be harder this week and harder again next week, but I am hopeful that I'll get at least a couple not-too-terrible days out of it. At this point I am grateful for small favors.
Blogger friend Donna has an announcement about a new Phase II trial for metastatic breast cancer patients. It's worth going over there to check it out if you think you might be interested in volunteering. That said: I do believe in trials, especially ones that are checking out drugs that are relatively new to breast cancer treatment, but please also check out my comment on Donna's post - I do think this one needs a bit of research and weighing in the balance before a decision should be made.
My poor sister fell last week and tore up a lot of ligaments and muscles on her entire right side, leaving her in a good deal of pain and pretty much unable to do anything. There has also been a death in the family this week. This means that my mom has been very busy taking sis to hospital and doctors offices, as well as doing a lot of nursing her at home, and now she has a visitation to somehow wedge into her already overwhelming schedule.
Dad stepped up to the plate today; he drove me to chemo, was not at all cranky when it turned out that they delayed my treatment for several hours (post-holiday overbooking led to several timing errors and issues), and ran out to make me a very nice lunch when it turned out I was going to need it during my dragged-out infusion. It was a real blessing; I was feeling really woozy from the high-dose Benadryl, among other things, and getting that food really helped get me 'grounded' and much less shaky, thank goodness.
My son has promised to take me to treatment on Friday, as he did last week, in order to spare my mom the trouble during what has been a very stressful week for her.
Thanks to Dad and to Bren. I appreciate your help and company very much, indeed.
And thanks to Mom for volunteering for the job most weeks. I don't know what I'd do without you, but I know it wouldn't look good. You are the best!