Friday, June 3, 2011

Done with chemo!

Seventh and last chemotherapy is done! I am so relieved. I arrived for my chemo feeling over-confident and forgetful of my obligations to hydrate so that the veins would be more visible. Instead, I over-imbibed on champagne for my grandmother's 95th birthday the night before (which was worth it!), and then forgot all about the water.

The nurse had a hard time finding a vein, then getting a vein to accept the IV. The first vein swelled up like a grape within a minute after the needle was put in. It was a worrisome site for me. Sheila, my RN, did not seem too alarmed, but she did pass me onto another nurse. The next nurse tried two more veins that she found after heating up my arm with a heating pad, and as they each started to blow up and wouldn't take the IV, she band-aided the needle marks and then called in nurse #3. I'm now running out of veins on my right arm, since the left arm can't be used for IVs due to my lymph node removals. Fortunately, she found one on the back of my arm, and the fourth one worked like a charm. After that, they dosed me with pre-chemo benadryl and steroids and I slept.

It is such a relief to be done. Did I already mention that? It's a bright sunny day and a new morning for us with no treatments looming. Celebratory dinner with my husband planned, and a music festival tomorrow.

The only damper to the day is the need to make yet another decision. I met with the Chief Radiation Oncologist at Sloan Kettering's Westchester branch yesterday, and need to make a decision whether to accept radiation therapy over the left breast, which would be daily for six weeks. This would dramatically reduce the risk of cancer recurring in the left chest wall. But it wouldn't reduce the recurrence of the cancer in other areas, such as the liver or bones. The chemotherapy and hormone pills are more systemic, the radiation is a localized procedure.

I can't help but think that radiation would be overkill. And any medical intervention has its own risks and side effects. The lung, for instance, would get a dose of radiation that it does not need. There's a 10% risk of lung inflammation, called pneumonitis. With my history, he wants to talk to my regular oncologist and get back to me.

As for me, I'm mentally exhausted from chemo. I realize that we still have a few more hurdles, but all seem jumpable.

I'm ready to jump start my life, to celebrate and to get back to running and thinking about my work and the future. So unless cancer recurrence in the chest wall is a "real" risk, we will skip radiation and knock on a lot of wood.

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