All cancers are not the same

That might seem like an obvious statement! One thing I’ve found, though, is that once people find out you have cancer, they always know someone who has/had:

  • the same cancer as yours, with possibly good (or bad) results
  • a different cancer to yours, but they are sure the story must be the same
  • the same cancer as yours, but different treatment
  • the same cancer as yours, the same treatment, too

Whatever the choice, take this to the bank:

Your cancer and treatment, and your reaction to it all is 100% unique to you!

You’ll see on the forums or Facebook groups that when someone gets a new diagnosis, the first thing they ask is

what is chemo/surgery/radiation like?

They will receive a variety of answers, mostly trying to be helpful. But none of them mean a thing, as someone else’s reaction will not be the same as yours! You can rely on none of these helpful people for a prediction as to how your treatment will go!

This came as a shock to me. After reading various forums and articles, there I was, ready to start some of the worst chemo around for breast cancer, and I was ready for a rough ride. In the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. The next drug, which supposedly had fewer side effects, I found more annoying, as there were no known drugs around to counter the side effects (which plague me to this day).

So when a friend was diagnosed, what did I do? Did I keep schtum, with my new knowledge that any info I passed on was useless? No, I did not. Trying to be helpful, I gave her the benefit of my experiences. Note the use of the word “my”.

As I should  have known, her experiences have been totally different to mine, rendering my advice useless.

So sorry about that, maybe I’ll be smarter next time, but I don’t think we can count on that.

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he terminado

…and to put it another way, in another language, that’s it, I’m done, no more!

Yup. (image from feedwire.com)

Yup. (image from feedwire.com)

Today was the last day of my ‘radiation therapy’, aka death ray delivery. I had an extra 3 days tagged on at the last minute, to deliver a last shot of the ol’ rays to the tumour area, so hopefully all those nasty cells are dead and buried.

My chemo finished about 6 weeks ago, and so finally, at long last, I feel I’m ready to get back to my life. It’s a life different to what went before, in so many ways. Never again can you take your body and health for granted, never again will you ignore symptoms in the hope they will just go away. Never again (probably) will your body work exactly as it did before, given the possibly life-long effects wreaked on it by chemo.

But hey, I’m still here, as I always say! I view this as a bit of a wake-up call: don’t get too smug with your life, don’t be afraid to tackle new challenges, figure out what is really important to you (you’ll be amazed at how few things really are that important).

I plan on hitting the ground running, alongside the warnings from doctor and husband about letting my body recover!

Prognosis? Well, I’ve looked at the stats. But as my husband has said, statistics are just compiled data, and really have nothing to do with you. If stats show you have a 0% or a 100% chance of survival, it makes no difference unless you are that 0% or 100% affected.

I did ask my doctor about prognosis, and he just smiled and said “bueno” — I think I’ll be happy with that.

Penultimate Taxol

Tuesday was my 11th cycle of Taxol, which means I only have one more to go.

Am I excited? Well, I expected to be, but quite frankly, all I feel is relief.How_much_is_enough_logo

The "taxol 11 look". Thank god for sunglasses!

The “taxol 11 look”. Thank god for sunglasses!

A ‘cancer buddy’ and I were discussing this today. She only has one more cycle of Abraxane (another drug in the taxane drug family), and has had terrible, terrible side effects all the way through her chemo. And I mean all the way – she has been hospitalised, has developed a heart problem, has had dangerously low white blood cells throughout, and may have permanent eye damage. She is going through all this as a single mother, and is also in the middle of a divorce. It makes me humble.

We are both feeling the same about now – the closer we get to the end of chemo, the harder it is to make yourself finish.

What if I miss the last one, how bad can that be?

We just want to be done with it – right now! Well, of course we aren’t daft, we will finish the course. But still.

I haven’t had totally terrible side effects most of the time, and, in fact, I am continually told how lucky I’ve been throughout treatment. Yeah, I feel pretty lucky about now.

She also had something great to say about the ol’ pink ribbon thing.

What moron I, wonder, chose pink for breast cancer? It’s certainly not girlie and fluffy and sugar and spice. Pink ribbon? Rubbish – some sort of tough Lara Croft theme, I think, would have been better!

You go, girl!

Taxol 6 is a comin’ up

Tomorrow it’s chemo day (again!). I know I’ve mentioned that we are now old pros at this – we have the schedule down to a fine art!

Lunching before Taxol treatment. Note no eyebrows or eyelashes!

Lunching before Taxol treatment. Note no eyebrows or eyelashes!

It’s a big day tomorrow (assuming my bloods are good, and I can actually have the infusion). As of the end of treatment, I will be 50% through my Taxol treatments!

That may not seem like much, but to cancer folk, these little milestones are big things. I don’t like think I have ‘so many treatments left’ or ‘so many years left to worry’. It is so much better to think of what has been accomplished, not what is left to do.

I told that very same thing to a friend of mine who just had breast surgery. She has one very big step over with now. Rejoice in that, and recover from it; only then can you move on to the next thing.

Infusion day (again)

Still roaring through the Taxol infusions, and so far, not so bad! Despite going every week, we find the quick progression rather nice (Nice? Did I really say that?)

We have the process down now. Take the irritatingly winding road to Malaga, then roar down the motorway to the hospital, get bloods taken around 2. If I’m lucky, the adorable Salvador will be there to take the blood from my port-a-cath. Although the nurses there are all fine, he’s the best. He’s personable and competent, which is definitely what you want! We also talk campo stuff with him, like how the olive harvest is looking, the price of avocados, and so on. Makes a nice change from talking cancer and side effects!

taxol 4

Lunching at the Italian

My blood seems to be reluctant to leave my body, so it’s always a bit of a performance to draw blood from my port. I think one nurse was trying to suck it out by sheer force – ouch! I quickly explained the “Salvador technique” to her – put several tubes of water through first, to flush things out. Then, we lay the chair down slightly, and I put my arm over my head and look to the side (slightly re-positions the internals of the port, so says Salvador). The blood usually then comes out quite freely!

After bloods, we go to lunch, quite often a lovely little Italian near the sea. We’re lucky so far, in that the tourist season hasn’t started yet, so parking is a breeze, and we get quick service.

Back to the hospital by 4, sign in, then wait for the doctor to arrive at 4:30. We try to get there a bit early, so we are first in the queue to see the doctor. Once we go into his office, we talk blood results (slightly anaemic this week, a known side effect), discuss any issues or questions I might have, then I go for the infusion.

Out by 7ish, we hope, and home before 8:30. A long day!

Taxol third cycle – done and dusted!

This is a positive day! 🙂

When you are diagnosed with cancer – or any other life-threatening condition – you soon learn you have good and bad days. In fact, often within the course of a day, you can reduce that down to good and bad hours! Your mood can change frighteningly fast, for no particular reason, it seems.

Having lunch pre chemo!

Having lunch pre chemo!

I had my third cycle of Taxol on Tuesday. I was dreading the neuropathy and the joint pain, but so far, although it’s come every time, it hasn’t become worse as the cycles continue. It also has only lasted one day each time, which is manageable. I may just be lucky so far, and it may turn out to be horrendous, but for now, I’m having positive thoughts!

Unlike the ‘red devil’ of my last drug combo, this one seems much better. Not too much brain fog, better moods, no nausea, and so far, no bad blood counts. So that makes me happy, too. It also makes life so much easier for those around me!

I try not to think that I have 9 cycles left. I prefer to look at the accomplishment thus far. I am a quarter of the way through my Taxol treatments!

Wow!

Best advice? Don’t get too cocky.

Just when you think you know a drug, it kicks you in the backside.

That’s right. 3 cycles of AC, and the last one knocks me for six (don’t you love cricket sayings?). I thought it was all going soooo smoothly, as the first two days after chemo, I was just fine, no nausea, nothing. Even felt well enough for a curry take-out, a first!

Then wham, it hits. The old killer headache is back, and the dizziness. And then came the nausea, lasting for days, and including being actually sick. Me no likee.

Add to that a chest infection and my last week has been pretty grim. How do you catch something when you hardly leave the mountain? Well, the hospital is a likely place, full of sick people, doncha know. Or, after taking a virology course, I know I can also blame fomites. (look it up, I refuse to tell you)

Poor Kenton has been hit by the bug too, so we’ve been a sad pair. He’s been the one who still has had to deal with mountain stuff, like frozen pipes, getting firewood in, and so on. I think we may be on the mend now, but it’s been a long hard slog.