The first big day!

At 6:30am I was up to apply my Elma anesthetic cream to the surface area of where my port sits on my chest. It needs to be applied at least an hour before the needle is inserted for treatment to allow enough time for it to be comfortably numb. We arrived at SJOG by 730am and were waiting outside the Pathology Centre for a blood test I desperately needed done before treatment started. It was to be couriered within 48hours to PMH for my genetic testing. The Pathology center opens at 7:30am and the girl had still not arrived by 7:40am so I was starting to feel a little anxious waiting outside a dark locked door knowing I had 20 mins before chemo started, plus the fact that there were several people in line infront of me to have blood taken. Finally she arrived. Obviously a bad start to her morning because she was in a horrible mood and being very unreasonable to the older people who had arrived before me. One lady had driven all the way from the country with suitcases in hand, had been fasting all night, then to be told ‘this is a Clinipath’ blood form we don’t do it here. In a rude tone. Anyway the girl was wrong and it was all fine and I was finally up next. I passed the girl my forms (which had been given to me at 6pm the night before and told to come here for it at 7:30am  before chemo started). ‘Look. I cannot do this here, its a PathWest pathology form, you will have to have it done else where… I felt the rage build up inside me.. ‘I was given this form last night at 6pm and told to have it done here this morning, I start my first chemo session in 10 minutes next door and I must have this done before any toxic drugs enter my body. She was a bitch. I was left waiting as she slammed doors made rude phone calls infront of me and other elderly cancer patients. I was fired up to tell her to do her job in a calm manner as shes dealing with people who have major illness’s and maybe arriving on time to work would be helpful. One of my nurses came in and had a word to her and I was taken through within a minute or so and nothing more was said apart from her trying to act sweet and nice.

Next I went through to the Ivy Suite where treatment started. Its a long (width), slim corridor kind of room with lots of lazy boy chairs separated by a curtain, then some bed wards for people in for longer stays. The room was reallllllly nice and extremely clean. Staff were walking around in big blue capes with gloves, goggles and other protective gear. Much like radiologists (those who work with patients and xrays everyday) they need to be protected by the poisonous drugs as they are exposed to them every day. I was taken to a bed ward and as I had found out yesterday, I was computer randomised for the trial to just be on the normal chemo treatment for my kinda of breast cancer, which meant I wasn’t going to be having the fourth drug – Avastin. This was fine, it meant less time in hospital and one less drug to worry about. Anyway, because I wasn’t going to be recieving Avastin, I was only going to be in for 7.5 hours instead of 9.

The needle was inserted into my numb chest and I didn’t feel a thing. First drug up was the Docetaxel. This drug has the side effects of causing split, paper thin yucky nails. They say that having your nails exposed to sunlight makes this worse, so I have to constantly have black nail polish on for 4-5 months to help prevent this. I also had to wear one pair of black cotton gloves, then a pair of rubber gloves and THEN what looked like boxing gloves. They had icepacks on the inside of them and were unbearable to wear for the first 40 mins. My finger tips felt like they were being burnt in an oven. This soon subsided as the icepacks warmed up from melting. I had to leave all these gloves on for 2 hours whilst the Docetaxel was being infused. Adam was with me and we fell asleep for about 1.5 hours of this time, next to eachother on my hospital bed. When we woke up my nurse was telling us she wished she had a camera because we looked so cute cuddled up on such a tiny bed!

I felt pretty good, the nurse told me I should feel fine whilst receiving treatment, its just within a couple of days or so of going home is when side effects will kick in. She also said that she was glad I wasn’t sick during the Docetaxel because it normally would be the one that would make you sick during treatment. I had a little bit of nausea but not enough to complain about. Maybe I was just hungry? We ordered a toasted ham and cheese sandwich each which was really delicious. We were well looked after and given diet lemonades upon request which I enjoyed. Ginger ale is supposed to be really good for chemo but unfortunately they didn’t have any diet ones 😦

Jenny is pretty much my favorite nurse so far. She is the lady who sat in for all of my appointments with breast surgeon and visited me many times.. She came in to see me which was great. It was unexpected and she had a good chat to us. She also brought in some prosthesis boobies and really nice mastectomy bras for me to look at. She has given me some information for some ladies to come out at see me at home and fit me for a free prosthesis and what ever bras I would like. Its so amazing the voluntary work people put their hands up for. I will definitely be putting my hand in for help when I am better to help anyone thats in similar positions. I made Adam hold the prosthesis and say ‘Well what do you think!? does it feel reaaaal?!’ haha

Carboplatin was next, only 45 minutes – another drug which can have nasty side effects. By this point I was up wheeling my drip around every 20 mintues for the rest of my stay because I had to wee so much. After each drug is infused they flush it out with lots of saline. So my bladder was blowing up very quickly.

Soon a pharmacist came into  see me, she got all the names of all the meds  I am currently on and came back later with a big list of everything plus more I needed to start taking after I got home and all the directions. Two pages long! I was given lots of different things like anti-nausea, gastro stop, more dex etc. Heres a picture of a few things I was given.

So far so good, finally Hereptin was being infused, this was for 1.5 hrs and current time was at about 2:15 pm. In this time dad came for a short visit and as he left, mum and Jess arrived and Adam went. Adam had been there as long as I had and I couldn’t be more proud of him for keeping me company between nanna naps, eating nice snacks which he also went and got a few! and watching the last 4 or so episodes we had left of season 2 of Partks and Recreation. 3:30pm came and I was pretty much done. Thank god my first long session was over! We now know that the next 5 treatments can be done faster as I didn’t really have much of a reaction to my first one.. well, yet…

Mum and Jess took me home and I wanted to grab a few things from the grocery store before a little nap. We bought so many bottles of diet ginger ale, diet lemonade and my favorite, diet saxby’s ginger beer. We also bought some watermelon/pineapple flavoured frosty fruits – thanks to Emma for introducing these to me a long time ago, they are so delicious!

I got home, showered and Mum n Jess had prepared the meal I requested – a very, very bland chicken with lettuce cucumber and avocado. It was hard to eat and I wasn’t hungry but I needed to eat to be able to take medication. I noticed I started to feel quite cold, yet I was hot to touch and my face was swollen, very flushed cheeks and from the bottom of my breast bone all the way over my shoulders looked like moderate sunburn. I got through to my Oncologist as I was told any reactions must be reported. She said some people have skin reactions but not all, I’d had a reaction to the Docetaxel but not too much to worry about unless I had a temperature of 38 or higher. Phew. No hot showers, and must apply vitamin E cream so it doesn’t go dry and scabby. GROSS!

Other than all that I was pretty fine, a few tummy aches and lethargy. I find it hard to bounce up the stairs as fast as normal. I have to stop half way take some breaths and continue. Today I am grumpy. My red demons are due which is bad timing, but what can you do. Also some side effects to Dex can be mood swings. I’d say its a mixture.

The first big day!

Countdown…

Been a little crazy the last couple of days here.

Monday was a big day. Nicole and mum came to the hospital with me at 8am for CT scans, bone scans, heart checks, blood tests and my first visit to see Skye from clinical trials. During our small break for lunch, we went to Pomegranate Cafe which is situated inside SJOG hospital. I love going there. They have realllllly good food and apparently the best hot chips which I am yet to try.

Wednesday morning Adam and I attended our first counseling appointment at the Solaris Center. I actually cannot remember if I have mentioned the Solaris Center much yet, but it aims to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and carers by giving them the support they require to cope with the emotional and physical side effects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. A purpose built drop-in centre provides a safe place to reflect and have time-out. Trained volunteers provide information, links to other support groups, a ‘listening ear’ and complementary therapies. The Foundation is completely self funded and relies on the generosity of people from local business and the community who share the vision and recognize the importance of providing supportive care to cancer patients and carers.

Late last week I booked a joint counseling appointment for us to go chat to someone about our fears, frustration and stress from this huge situation. We have actually done amazingly well and it just felt nice to chat about things to a professional and give us a little bit of clarity that we are okay and doing all the right things. Our counselor is a retired clinical psychiatrist and we are going to be seeing her on a 2 week basis. Sometimes its just nice to be able to vent to someone other than a close friend or a family member, who also has dealt with many other cancer patients and understands the emotions and problems that go with it all.

I will definitely be visiting the Solaris Center on a regular basis. You can go in there any time for just a sit down for a cup of tea, a browse of their library, or book in for massages/relaxation sessions/beauty treatments/acupuncture and many other services.

Sadly, we had to admit Brooklyn to the vet hospital late Tuesday night after dropping Nicole at the airport. She was completely out of it, lethargic and totally not herself. She staying in over night and I was really upset as it was the last thing I wanted for my little doggie to be unwell too. Oh, and the $700 bill. Thank god we got pet insurance a couple of months ago… I picked her up wednesday evening and she was a bit better. She was infected with some gastrointestinal thing and we were lucky to bring her in because she was on her way down.

Thursday I spent approximately six hours at the hospital. A visit to my Oncologist in regards to my first big day tomorrow and other details following on from Tuesday’s appointment with Skye from Clinical Trials. I will be having regular blood tests in my 3 week cycles of chemo treatment to capture my red blood, platelets and white blood cell results. This will show how harsh my body and immune system is being hit and to determine my next dose of chemo drugs. I also had a 2 hour education session this evening in the ‘Ivy Suite’ (Chemo department inside Bendat Cancer Center) with a lovely nurse called Ana. She basically told me every tiny little bit of information I will need to know. She also gave me some awesome little pamper packages and digital thermometer for me as I will need to keep a very close eye on my temperature. If I reach 38 or higher I will need to go to emergency. Pretty much everything I do I have to think not twice, but three time about before I do it, and then proceed with the right action.

Within the first 7 days of chemo treatment, my body is obviously full of poisons. Any vomit, wee or poo is a big deal. If I was to throw up, who ever cleans it up must wear two pairs of gloves, a face mask and not get any liquid on their skin. If they do, they need to shower immediately for 20 minutes. Doesn’t that sound insane?! If I vomit on my clothes or in my bed, the items must be either thrown out or washed in the washing machine twice. Anything in the toilet, I must close the lid and flush to prevent any splash back.

Days 10 – 14 are the most crucial. I must not be anywhere where I may be around anything that may contaminate me. Shopping centers, big crowds etc. These are the days I will be my worst and most probably be living off custard and icecream (yeah I think not, thats just great for a diabetic!)

There are many many many other side effects and other things like this but I am just going to see how I go and hope that none of them even happen. This is why I will leave them unidentified 🙂

I started my Dex medication tonight. Cancer patients undergoing chemo are given Dexamethasone to counteract certain side effects of their antitumor treatment. Dexamethasone can augment the antiemetic effect of 5-HT3 receptor antagonists like Ondansetron (the drug used for anti-nausea). Tomorrow I will be given more drugs to take at home post chemo treatment. I also had to get some Emla cream which is a local anesthetic cream to use 2-3 hours before I come into treatment. I am to apply this to the top of where my IV port is installed beneath my chest so when its time to put the cannula in, it will hopefully be less painful. Once my IV port has healed a bit better I will post a photo, its still bruised and swollen. I also still am experiencing a lot of pain in my shoulder and back from the CO2 used from the port insertion surgery. I really wish this would subside because I can only sleep on my back at night as both my left and right sides are unbearable to lay on.

I best go to bed now. I have to be up early to apply my Emla cream, then be at hospital by 7:30am ready to go. I will most probably update my blog whilst in the Ivy Suite tomorrow during my 9 hour treatment.

Good night.

Countdown…

8/8!

I was awakened by a phone call from Concept around 10am Saturday morning with zillions of serious questions being asked. Basically yesterday my results with the fertilization of the eggs was that 7/8 were fertilized! We were really happy with that. Yet today I was informed that the last egg had been also fertilized just with cell splitting being a bit slower than the other eggs had. Five embryos were ‘coming along brilliantly’ whilst three were either slow or too fast. I had the choice to freeze them all today, or wait till tomorrow which gives a slightly higher chance of survival for the embryos once they are thawed and possibly help the other three that weren’t as great. This also meant I had the chance I could even lose them all. I also could of froze five and left the three till tomorrow or vice versa. Its actually pretty hard to explain and you can imagine I was laying in bed going ‘what the hell am I supposed to do?!’ Its great I had a say in what I wanted done, but I also thought it would of been easier for the embryologist to just tell me what they were going to do with them for the best outcome. I ain’t no scientist…  I told the lady I would like to speak with Adam and my mum first and let her know. We decided to freeze them all today with the highest amount saved and hope for the best. Mum spoke to her friend Jenny and she is a nurse who said definitely freeze them all now because you wouldn’t want to risk loosing them all as I only get one go at IVF.

Blessed with the company of Nicole and Lynz today. The two special ladies who have flown interestate to see me. With a lunch planned and the intensions of a bit of shopping after, my body didn’t seem to agree with these plans.

We had a short, shared lunch and decided to go to Priceline. After a couple of minutes I felt my abdomen and had a bad feeling. I was swelling, and it was happening fast. I spent all of yesterday resting and watching what I had left of the new season of Americas Next Top Model kindly lent to me by Clare. My abdomen was extremely bloated from pubic bone up and I had to lay on the couch with just undies on because any kind of track pants were even too restricting. I was huge! My right shoulder/back was still aching from the IV port surgery also and I felt like a big heap of shit. Anyway, whilst in Priceline, I called one of the coordination nurses from Concept and explained my symptoms and distress. The doctors orders were to go to KEED – King Edward Emergancy Department. (Women’s health hospital).

Adam accompanied me to the hospital and I was taken to a huge enclosed room that looked like a room where women are brought into urgently during labour. It kind of freaked me out. I was in this huge concealed room and every other patient in for emergency were in one big open room together separated by a thin curtain. I had urine tests, ultrasounds, laxatives, blood tests and everything else you can imagine. The doctor came in shortly after my urine test and sat down with us for what looked like an intimate chat.

Doctor – ‘Your urine test has shown positive results to be pregnant’.

Me – ‘….?’

Doctor – ‘These tests are very accurate yet we will also do a blood test to confirm it. I am sorry’.

Adam and I – ‘Thats impossible!? what?! no…..?! NOOO!’

I furiously BURST into tears. How is this possible? What did I do wrong? I have been so careful and only had intercourse once in fuck knows how long?! a month?! I start chemo in a week!? I’m killing my own child…I just had IVF…?!

These were the questions and confusions plus other shit going on in my head, how is this even possible? Who has put all these negative horrible vibes my way to be so unlucky. Does this mean I have to have another operation? An abortion? A second time? This is not human. I hate my life.

Adam embraced me as I broke down into a shit heap on the crappy paper towel covered birth bed. I just wanted to die. Adam refused to believe it was true. He was baffled and was saying isn’t this impossible? Rach has had her vaginal ultrasounds every second day for the past two weeks and no one picked this up? She’s had blood tests every morning for two weeks… and they didn’t pick it up there either? AT A FERTILITY HOSPITAL!? Outrageous. Wouldn’t the hormones I was injecting for two weeks possibly come out in my urine to show pregnancy results?…

The doctor left the room after showing her remorse and subtle support. She soon returned and said ‘I am really sorry….. The trigger injection you had on wednesday to prepare you for your IVF procedure actually has played a part in these results. You are not pregnant. WELL THANK FUCK, Thanks doctor for ruining my scattered brain even more. Shouldn’t doctors be certain before they announce such news to a cancer patient? Or ANY patient? My emotions are screwed enough. Adam would of been a better doctor in this situation. Calm, supportive and looking for possible reasons why this was happening.

We were in emergency for 3 hours or so. We had a bit of fun too. We basically had the theatre room or what ever it was, to ourselves. We played with gloves and things and pretended to be doctors. It kept us amused and I guess took my mind off the tragic situation I had just gone through.

I was soon fine to go home, yet to rest. Not go out with the girls for Lynz’s last night in Perth as planned. I was devastated but also knew I really shouldn’t of been going out anyway after having two operations two days before. The outcome was that yes my abdomen was extremely enlarged. I looked like I had gone in to give birth. My kidneys were fine, ovaries were very enlarged and swollen causing back pain and horrible discomfort also from the excessive fluids in each side.

Thats all I can remember right now. Its dinner time. Peace!

8/8!