Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chemo #1 (and off-roading!)

OK, a new entry to cover whatever is going to happen with my first chemotherapy treatment, scheduled for this friday.

I have been to the clinic today, as they like to see you on the Tuesday to check blood and general health before the chemo is given on a Friday clinic. I also haven't seen them for a while, and wanted to know about my CT and bone scans.

The good news is that I am ALL CLEAR on both scans, so that is amazing news. I have a reasonably aggressive cancer, so I was really worried that it may already have spread, but it looks like it has not. Phew.
The Registrar even gave me print outs of the results!!

Last time I went they confirmed that my cancer is Oestrogen and Progesterone receptive. This means something like the cancer cells divide more quickly when they meet an oest or prog cell, and I originally thought this was a bad thing. However, a bit more reading and checked with the doctor today, and apparently it is a GOOD thing, because there is much more they can do about it - hence, this is what Tamoxifen does. I am strongly progesterone receptive (which I think is rarer) and weakly oestrogen receptive.

The bad/good news though, is that my cancer is also receptive to the HER2 protein. This is generally an "aggressive characteristic" but the good news is there is a treatment for it: 18 injections of Herceptin at 3 weekly intervals. These will start halfway through the chemo. It can affect heart function though, but they will do heart scans at regular intervals to monitor this. Apparently the worst diagnosis is what they call triple negative - neither oestrogen, progesterone or HER2 receptive as all they can do is surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy will start 4-8 weeks after chemotherapy and will be 3 weeks of daily (weekdays only) treatments to both the chest and an area just under the neck where any lymph nodes might be lurking - ones they didn't find/couldn't reach during surgery.

The tamoxifen starts when the chemo stops, and they have agreed that I can have the gonapeptyl depot injections (the monthly ovary suppression & potential protection drug) at my local hospital instead of having to go to Cardiff for these. Phew. They mentioned they are just about to start a proper clinical trial about this particular therapy, but I can't take part because I have already had the first dose. THANK GOD!!! Otherwise I would have had a chance of receiving a placebo and not the real thing!!!!! I have read too many good things about it to not want to have it!!

I have agreed to help with two other trials though: the first one is simply a new way of training student doctors on their first hospital rotation. They assign a student to you, and this person goes with you on your chemo journey, so will be present at most of the chemo sessions and will want to talk to you about your experience and how it makes you feel. I think it is aimed at ensuring they see things from the patient's perspective. I have no problems with that, anything that can help them understand the range of responses they might come across!!!

The second is a proper trial but also not a medical one. A nurse is doing a Masters degree and doing a trial to see whether telling chemo patients the information they need during their therapy is better delivered on the day of treatment (Friday) or on the day of the pre-clinic (Tuesday). I have signed up and am (randomly, I had to pick a card!) part of the Tuesday gang. I automatically think this will be better as you have time to think about it, formulate questions and then can ask for anything you have thought of or forgotten to be repeated on the Friday. Otherwise you won't see them for another 3 weeks.

So, chemo (FEC) starts at 9am on Friday and will take 1-2 hours. I will be given steroids (protects your tummy/digestive system - but also makes you hungry and therefore fat!!) and anti-sickness tablets to take away with me, but essentially, everyone reacts differently, so we will just have to wait and see. G will be coming with me to that one, but if I don't have a bad reaction, I may be able to take myself in the future. We shall see....!!!!!

On a positive note, anyone who was a bit worried about me because of my last few posts (they are added as comments on the 'Egg Wednesday' entry for anyone who missed them), G and I went ot visit one of his old school friends at the weekend and took the Freelander 'green laning' in East Devon. It was great! These are unmetalled roads, therefore it is legal to drive on them, but they have no tarmac and are generally a bit wet and overgrown. I did the driving to start with, and G sorted out the buttons on which 'terrain mode' we should be in. The car also has a Hill Descent Control function which allows you just to steer it - it will control the speed and braking on its own to get you down a tricky hill safely! The car is amazing, as it totally looks after you. Jay did try and get us to drive through a river, but seeing as he has a modified and raised Jeep Wrangler, and we have an unmodified vehicle that I need for everyday use, we declined that one!!!

You can see photos on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/album.php?aid=7396&id=1734535817

and here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=165613&id=539858331&l=8951e3cd7a

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