So, now begins the next phase of my life -- the post-cancer treatments. Now that I am officially cancer-free, we need to make sure I stay that way for the foreseeable future. So, let the drugs begin.
Last Thursday I met with my new oncologist at Sloan Kettering, and we laid out the plan for the next FIVE YEARS. Here's the summary:
1. Re-start my Herceptin treatments -- these are the once-every-three-week infusions of a chemo drug (with few side effects) to target the HER2 genetic mutation of my cancer. I'll have this infusion every 3 weeks for the rest of the year.
2. Start taking Tamoxifen, a very popular/infamous drug that many women take post-breast cancer. Tamoxifen blocks estrogen from getting to the cancer cells and "feeding" them (encouraging growth). I'll take a pill every day for the next five years. This, unfortunately, has many side effects -- hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, emotional mood swings, sexual blah blah, etc.
3. In addition to Tamoxifen, we've decided I'll also do monthly shots of Lupron, which will actually shut down my ovaries and prevent them from producing estrogen at all. I'll get a shot in the ass every month for the next five years. Lupron has all of the same side effects as Tamoxifen -- only worse! The two drugs in combination with each other increase the severity of all of the side effects. Many doctors don't recommend taking the Lupron, but because of my youth and the fact that my cancer had already moved to my lymph nodes upon diagnosis, we decided to be as aggressive as possible in treatment.
So, basically, I can expect to be fat, sweaty, sleepless, sexless, and pissed off for the next five years. Feel free to strike me from your dinner party-invite lists now.
Obviously these drugs affect every woman differently, and I certainly hope that I will handle the side effects well. But we'll just have to wait and see. I'll keep you posted.
Going through the doctor's visit and waiting rooms and Herceptin treatment at SK on Thursday wasn't much fun -- sort of took me back to the bad ole days when I was getting chemo every week and feeling sick and spending hours upon hours in a hospital. I had to wait for about 4 hours. The nurse was young, and seemed new, and couldn't get the IV in my vein. The treatment took three times as long as I expected it to, since we were re-starting it and they gave me a larger dose. And to add insult to injury, after the IV was finished, they stuck me in the butt with a big needle. Welcome to Lupron.
On the up side, the chemo rooms at Sloan Kettering are really lovely -- sort of like a Cancer Day Spa. Each patient has a private room with a nice sliding frosted-glass door, for privacy. Each room has a TV, and a comfy recliner with a fun remote-control for hours of raising-and-lowering fun. And of course, there's the snacks -- NutriGrain bars, graham crackers, little cans of juice and soda. You'd be surprised how much joy I can get from a 4-inch tall can of ginger ale. This only slightly makes up for the vein-digging and butt-jabbing, but I've learned to take what you can get and make the most of it.
The best part, of course, is that these treatments will not actually make me sick. And, I only have to have them every three weeks. A vast improvement over weekly sessions of wretched chemotherapy.
I'll be sure to keep you posted on the effects of the Tamoxifen/Lupron combo. Cross your fingers for me.
(Soon to come: a chronicle of hair loss and re-growth).