Monday, June 15, 2009

The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly....Everywhere

Monday, June 15, 2009

As Joe said in his previous guest post, I spent all last week (June 6-June 14) in Maine staying in a the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Yes, I really did stay in a working lighthouse. While this was a very cool experience, internet and cell phone service were not readily available. Therefore, no posts. Let me also go ahead and inform you that there will be a lull in posts at the end of this month as well. So...if there's a week later on this month in which I go one worry...I'm fact, I'll be more than fine. I'll be on vacation again on the beaches of Mexico.

As for the cancer updates. Yes indeedy folks, today I had my 6th...count 'em...SIXTH...chemo treatment. That means there are only two to go. It went off without a hitch, but of course there are many more days for me to develop problems and side effects. I say this because while on vacation in Maine last week, I developed some unfortunate side effects as a result of chemo treatment number five which took place on June 1.

It has been a trend throughout the treatment cycles that I have treatment on a Monday (every other one to be exact) and by the following Thursday or Friday, I have developed some odd side effect or problem (recall the tales of elbow incidents, odd infections, flu-like symptoms, and now...rashes). Yes, it's true, I developed a rash just a day and a half before I left for Maine. Being the vacation party animal that I am, I made it a point to go running into the doctor on Friday to make sure I could get it taken care of before leaving for Maine on Saturday morning. I did NOT want my first vacation since my honeymoon to be ruined by red blotches and feeling itchy all over my arms, legs, hands, feet, stomach, and chest. It was a pretty mild rash...kind of I wasn't too worried about getting it taken care of with a quick steroid. Sure enough...Doc prescribed me a steroid pack (one of those where you take 7 pills the first day, 6 the second, 5 the third...and so on until they're gone) and I was on my way.

Skip forward to day 7 of the steroid pack when you're supposed to take only 1 pill.

On day 7, also known as Wednesday while in Maine on vacation, I broke out in the rash again, except this time it was way worse, truly covering my whole body in ugly, LARGE, red blotches. Additionally, my hands and feet swelled up and on my hands and feet, the bumps kind of merged together into huge red blotches and started to raise up. This is not good.

Me being resourceful as I am, I called the cancer center from the one corner in the lighthouse where I could find cell phone service and awaited a call back. I described in detail what I was experiencing and according to the Doc, I was having an allergic reaction to the Taxol (yes, that is the same drug I went on and on about because it was SO MUCH better than my A/C treatments). Sad for me...I am allergic to that particular chemo drug. He prescribed another 7 day steroid pack to be started same day. They called in the prescription to the closest RiteAide in Maine for me and I began the pack same day...if you're following along on my day counts, that means it was Day 7 of pack 1 and Day 1 of pack 2, which means I took 8 steroids in one day and several Benedryl tabs to stop the itching.

By day 6 of pack 2, my rash was finally gone. It was gone from my chest, back, head, face, and stomach by Day 2, gone from my legs by day 4, and finally left my hands by day 5. My feet were the hold outs. Day 6 (also known as yesterday)...the rash was finally gone from my feet.

Today was Day 7 of the second steroid pack and Day 2 of my pre/post chemo steroid prescription. Yes, more steroids. Doc prescribed steroids for the day before, the day of, and the day after chemo as well, just as added precaution. One tablet, twice daily, the day before, day of, and day after. On top of all those steroids taken by mouth, they administered a bag of steroids intervenously at chemo today as well. I should be able to hit like Manny Ramirez by this point.

Note: My husband just asked me (in all seriousness) if I knew I was getting a different kind of steroid. Yes. I am aware. It was a joke...clearly lost on some people. Sheesh...tough crowd.

Okay, on to the actual chemo from today.

So, after all those drug reactions, the doc decided Taxol is not the drug for me. Therefore, I am now on a different chemo drug very much like Taxol, but about 10 times the cost. Fortunately for me, I have met my annual health insurance maximum, so it is my insurance company, not me, who will be disappointed by this news.

Here's the breakdown. New drug called Taxotere (or Docetaxel). All the same potential side effects as Taxol, though they are less likely with this one. I can only assume the difference is something comparable to drinking moonshine versus top shelf vodka. Both mean you'll have a rough morning, but you might make it out of bed with the top shelf. The usual will occur...decrease in white blood cell, platelet, and red blood cell counts, bone pain, flu-like symptoms, fluid retention, tingling in the hands and feet, mouth ulcers, and hair loss--as always. The more uncommon side effects are allergic reaction, nausea, and other such stomach and skin problems. This is all very good news. The bad stuff is unlikely and I'm supposed to be much less tired on this one!!!! Yippee!

Also on a note of good news, I don't have to get my Neulasta injections anymore. For all 5 treatments prior to today (treatment #6), I had to go in the day after chemo and get a Neulasta injection, which would help rebuild bone marrow and restore white blood cell counts. Well, when I went in today and they did my bloodwork, my WBC level was about 29. For reference, your WBC is normal between about 4 and 10. This means, mine was about 3-7 times what it should be. I usually run at about a mine was about 4 times what I normally am. Result? No more Neulasta for me. No wonder I spent about 2 full days after treatment number 5 crying on my couch in agonizing bone pain. Sheesh!

Basically, another chemo down, another doctor visit resulting in positive news, and Thursday I look forward to finally meeting again with my surgeon. I haven't seen him since April 1, so it will be nice to get back in there and get a surgery date set. We also will discuss whether a lumpectomy or a mastectomy is the way to go for me and he may order some tests so we can get a clear picture of what we're dealing with. No one has actually SEEN the tumor since April, so it will be nice to see the progress. Keep your fingers crossed for a PET, MRI, ultrasound, or mammogram being ordered!

Well, I think that's it. That's the news as it stands and I leave you with my favorite couple of pictures from my 9 days in Maine. If ever you find yourself in a mentally draining period of your life, consider going there. It was rejuvenating to say the least. I took close to 300 pictures, but I'm going to share just a few of my favorites with you.

The flowers are called Lupines. They are wildflowers that grow all over Maine. I saw pink, purple, and white ones and I'm absolutely obsessed with them. I wonder if I can get them to grow here.

The building is the lighthouse where we stayed and the ocean is off behind it in the picture. It was unarguably quaint and had a flawless view of the Atlantic. At night, it was pitch black except for the moon reflecting off the water when there was no cloud cover. The only other source of light was the one rotating beacon of light about 50 feet from my window, which shone in at about 5 second intervals.

The final picture is of the view up one coast from the lighthouse, which is where we spent a great deal of our time. I would sit and drink my coffee each morning, looking out at the sun splashed water, and at the lobster fisherman collecting their traps just off the coast. The seagulls would swarm around them in hopes of catching a bite, and the cool, crisp, ocean breeze would flow in the open windows and doors. Flawless.


  1. Well, other than the icky rash it sounds like you had a great trip to Maine. Still very sad that you were so close but so, so far away! Oh well, next trip you will just have to come to New York. There, problem solved.
    I hope this new drug is easier on you and I am so excited that you only have two more treatments to go!
    Love and miss you and I will talk to you soon!

  2. I'm glad you had such a great time in Maine! Sorry about your surprise rash, that sucks... Isn't Maine awesome?? That's where Jake and I went on our honeymoon, and I'd LOVE to go back someday. Keep trucking along, I can't believe you're so close to being done with chemo. That's great!

  3. It doesn't seem right that I look forward to reading your cancer posts with glee. Your writing brings a smile to my lips every time. It also gives me the complete update of the details in your treatment. This is good since Joe is a man of few words sometimes. Thanks for taking the time to share with the world!