Everything is in stages or steps. That’s the only way that you can deal with it. (The eating the elephant one bite at a time theory.)
Surgery is done. I have basically healed from that so now I’m moving on to treatment.
First step in treatment? Chemotherapy
I met my medical oncologist yesterday.
Big relief: I like her.
Since May, I’ve REALLY learned the importance (and benefit) of liking your doctor(s).
I’ve been fortunate thus far. I LOVE the two surgeons who have brought me this far.
Now I need the expertise of someone else to get me through the Chemo and direct the oral hormone therapy in the 3 treatment stage.
You DO want your doctor to be smart – to know her stuff – and you want her to have good communication skills so that you actually have some understanding of what is taking place.
But to actually like this person who has your life in her hands is critical to me.
It has to do with trust, confidence, faith, comfort. All those things that can change the emotional and psychological part for you. And that affects healing and well-being etc, etc.
So I was very happy as she came in and introduced herself that I “took” to her. I like the way she handles herself. I like her straightforward manner and directness with which she “explains things,” shares options and reveals unpleasantness.
She was very open with me about the difficult nature of chemotherapy for patients. Not just in the potential side effects but that it’s a lot of activity. There is the treatment day when you get your infusion, but you have to go in the day prior for blood work (to make sure you blood count is manageable) and then again the day after for an injection to bolster your white blood count. So every 2 weeks I have 3 days of visits.
Yes, it’s a lot. But look at it from the elephant point of view. It’s only 4 treatments for the first chemo stage. Thinking of it like that is manageable.
This first part is also the most difficult – meaning it has the worst side effects. This is when I may be nauseous (for starters)and will lose my hair. But they’ve learned so much about what works in preventing or at least reducing some of this (nausea) that they pre-administer nausea medical before the chemo drip starts and send strong oral meds home with you. I also have a book on treatment and nutrition (published by the American Cancer Society) because there is also proof that eating in certain patterns and following pretty reasonable restrictions helps with the nausea.
The infusion day will be long. Basically it consumes ½ a day. The infusion itself takes about 4 hours but by the time you get situated on the front and back end of the session, you may as well say 5 hours. Luckily, I am getting the port in my chest so I will have my hands free to work during those 5 hours. They have wifi and easy chairs. I can bring snacks or have some they have on hand. They have a fridge and microwave. And I can even bring 2 people with me. Those who know me can already picture me there with my laptop, working on blog posts or newsletters.
One of the hardest parts is the restrictions to avoid contact with bacteria. Chemo weakens the immune system. No contact with those sneezing or coughing or known to be sick. No contact with baby diapers and the like. No buffets, potlucks, salad bars etc. No raw fruits and vegetables (especially out in restaurants) No ingesting sushi, seared tuna, rare meat….and I must wear gloves when handling raw meat to cooking. Take extra pre-cautions in (or don’t use) public restrooms. And I should avoid using old make-up since bacteria collects in it each time we re-dip that brush or applicator….
The second stage of chemo treatment isn’t as difficult (as far as side effects) but I do it once a week for 12 weeks. Thankfully, I don’t have the 3 day routine in this stage.
So 20 weeks. That’s 5 months. I won’t finish until the end of January.
I had a little deer-in-the-headlights syndrome coming out of this appointment yesterday. Especially after “scheduling” the activities – just to get started.
I still have the pre-chemo required echo cardiogram coming up as well as the placement of the injection port and a chemo teach session with a nurse. Then I will start the actual sessions – but that schedule can’t be created until the echo is approved and insurance signs off on the treatment plan. Neither of these is questionable since this is standard treatment – just protocol.
So add these activities to the schedule of appointments (ongoing reconstruction sessions, consultation with oncology radiologist) that I already have and … all I can say is WOW!
But (think of the elephant) I can do this.