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#252481 - 10/16/16 07:45 AM Re: Some Scary News [Re: Nan]
Nan Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 04/12/01
Posts: 2699
Loc: The Lone Star State
The latest update.

My medical oncologist says that some of the cancer cells managed to leak into the bloodstream during the 6 months the thing was growing. I had a chemo treatment just about 4 weeks ago that put me in the hospital for 3 days. I had a roaring case of sepsis and they had to culture the bug since nothing seemed to work to stop it. Treatment required that I come back for IV antibiotics for 11 days delivered via a pic line to deliver IV antibiotics directly to my bloodstream since the bacterium in question was immune to everything else.

By the way, the doctor says that what happened to me was not unusual, but he couldn't really warn me because reactions are highly individual. On the good side, he says the inflammatory markers are now way down, which shows that the chemo was very effective and knocked the stray cancer cells back on their heels. The remaining chemo treatments are to make sure we get the ones that are still twitching. He expects me to make a full recovery. He tells me some doctors treat their patients' cancers gently, and many of them spread as a result rather than disappear. He, on the other hand, makes you feel miserable (which I do) but he kills the cancer cells. I guess setting the hare's foot against the goose giblets, I'll take his method.

We completed the antibiotics, and then I had my second chemo treatment last Tuesday. I have 4 more to go, every three weeks. Yay.

No infection accompanied this one. It has, however effected my blood cell count and clotting factors, not to mention my immune system. Think the boy in the bubble. My fingernails look white and I'm trying to eat food with a lot of iron in it to compensate. Also the shakiness when I try to walk is something to see to be believed. I'm trying to tough it out because I have no wish for a blood transfusion. Call me paranoid. The way my luck has been running, I would get the blood from someone with HIV who has not progressed past the short interval where the disease is not detectable in the bloodstream. No thanks.

I have about a week until my blood cell count begins to rise again. Until then I have to stay away from anyone sneezing, sniffling or coughing, or take the risk of pneumonia, which I would rather not have. The prospect of another hospital stay holds no appeal for me.

My hair has predictably started to fall out and I am wearing my wig or a nightcap full time. Nobody but nobody is going to see me without hair. Period.

And by the way, I do look like an alien from Star Trek. Nobody gets pictures.
_________________________
When I get old, I don't want people thinking, "What a sweet little old lady." I want them to say, "Oh crap, what's she up to now?"

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#252506 - 10/17/16 06:54 AM Re: Some Scary News [Re: Nan]
KateW Offline
Clark Defenders United

Registered: 10/10/11
Posts: 1692
I'm sorry to hear of the complications, but, yes, it does happen.
When my sister-in-law went through chemo a while back, her hair was just starting to turn gray. All the follicles still producing color gave up and fell out leaving her with just the gray hair. She said she looked like she was eighty years old and shaved it all off. She was also only able to eat KFC's two piece meal during chemo because that was all that tasted good to her. Whenever anyone went somewhere we'd bring her back a meal and do what we could for her. She's four years free now, and that happens, too. smile

Kate

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#252874 - 01/24/17 07:22 AM Re: Some Scary News [Re: Nan]
Nan Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 04/12/01
Posts: 2699
Loc: The Lone Star State
Adventures in Chemo
by Nan Smith

Well, at long last the chemo is over. January 3 was my last treatment, and now it is a matter of waiting several weeks until all the chemicals work their way out of my system.

This includes the steroids they gave me to avoid allergic reactions to the actual chemo. I've gained 20 pounds because of them, and now I have to lose the weight. <sigh> I also have the traditional moon face of people on steroids, however it never got too bad, and is starting to go away.

That part has been a fun ride, because the steroids also gave me a chemically induced case of diabetes. So, naturally they had to give me stuff to keep my blood sugar down. More pills. For a while there, I could swear I rattled when I walked. Fortunately the number is now decreasing, to my vast relief.

All the chemical poisons have, of course, disrupted my body's natural flora, so I'm having trouble with that, and they have to figure out how to get that all re-balanced. One of the problems it has caused is repeated UTIs. The last one (resistant e-coli courtesy of all the infections I have had because of the chemo) was going on when I had my last chemo treatment, which had to be given on schedule in spite of the infection.

Since it knocked my immune system down, the infection went crazy and I wound up in the hospital on IV antibiotics for a week. That was an adventure all its own. (You remember the definition of adventure, don't you? "Somebody else having a hell of a hard time a thousand miles away.")

While I was there they did a CT scan to see if the kidney stones, which I manufacture in abundance, had tried to move and might be causing part of the problem. They hadn't, but they spotted something on my liver, 5.5 cm long, that shouldn't be there. Because of my history of breast cancer, the hospitalist jumped to the conclusion that it was liver cancer, that the breast cancer had metastasized and that I had only a few weeks to live and should be put in hospice. Oy!

Anyway, I called Dr. Ehsan, my oncologist, in a panic, and he got involved. He got hold of the scan and the report and called the guy and told him I did not have liver cancer, that I had just finished a course of chemotherapy, and that they had better do another CT scan, this time with contrasting media instead of without, to see what this mystery thing really was.

Eventually, the hospitalist agreed to do it, even though he wasn't convinced, and I begged the people in charge to rush it through. They did, too. They got the scan in just under the wire that night, and eventually it got read.

As Dr Ehsan said, it wasn't cancer. It was a hemangioma on my liver. Big difference. Lots of people have hemangiomas. You're born with them, and they can show up anywhere. In case you don't know the term, if you see someone with a big red birthmark on his face or other part of his body, that is a hemangioma. Mine just happened to pick my liver for a good place to live.

They can be dangerous, of course. They are a collection of blood vessels that have grown abnormally, and if someone with a large one manages to fall or otherwise damage the thing, they can literally bleed out, and quickly. It happened to a little boy I used to know, who had one on his face. But it is a lot different from a cancer, and mine has apparently been there all my life with no harm. My doctor, however, recommended that I do something about this one, because if I ever develop another breast cancer (God forbid) any adventurous cancer cell that tries to metastasize would find that a good home because of the abundant blood supply. Getting rid of it involves a single injection that chemically cauterizes it and it's gone. I agreed, and that's going to be done in a couple of months. A minor problem, especially considering what the hospitalist had in mind. Yeesh!

Anyway, that is the saga of my recent adventures in chemo. We're counting the weeks until I am free of the chemicals, and I have half a dozen more specialists to see in the next couple of months to get my system operating as it should again, especially to deal with these confounded UTIs. Guess what. It's been a week and I have another one, but at least my immune system is coming back, and it won't mean getting stuck in the hospital again.

One other good thing came out of this, too. My parents always told me that they believed I was allergic to penicillin because of something that happened when I was about 2 years old. Penicillin, as most know, was discovered during WW2, and so it was still pretty new at the time. I told Dr. Ehsan about the incident and he said that in his opinion, I was not allergic to penicillin.

So, when I went into the emergency room, they gave me penicillin initially to deal with the infection, since I was going septic.

Guess what. Dr. Ehsan was right. I am not allergic to penicillin, which gives me a whole new arsenal of antibiotics that they can use on these dratted infections until they can put my body chemistry back together again. That was one small bright spot in all the rest of the drama. But the whole thing was enough to make me want to go back on the tranquilizers they gave me in the beginning when they found the cancer. I got off those as soon as I could, however, and in spite of temptation, with this last little event, I don't want anything to do with them.

Oh yes, one other joy to deal with. Apparently I am developing non-alcoholic fatty liver, and to get rid of it I have to lose about 20 pounds and avoid sugar and starches. <Sigh> No more chocolate in the near future, along with a lot of other things I love.

But I have to lose the weight anyway, since it was the steroids and chemo that made me gain it, so maybe the day will come when I can go back to eating things like that again, albeit in smaller amounts.

Dr. Ehsan said that chemo is not a sprint but a marathon, and that this is actually the harder part of the whole process. I believe him.

Anyway, I survived the cancer and the chemo. I'm on the home stretch, even if it's no rose garden. I'll tough it out, I guess.

I'll drop a note again in a few weeks to let you know how things are going.

Nan
_________________________
When I get old, I don't want people thinking, "What a sweet little old lady." I want them to say, "Oh crap, what's she up to now?"

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#252896 - 01/28/17 04:04 PM Re: Some Scary News [Re: Nan]
Nan Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 04/12/01
Posts: 2699
Loc: The Lone Star State
Well, well, I now have some good news and bad news. I spoke too soon. I'm going to have to go back into the hospital to be put on IV antibiotics for a week to kill this blasted infection, since there are no oral antibiotics that I can take to kill it. The only one is Bactrim, which is a sulfa drug, and I am definitely allergic to sulfa drugs, as the last time I took one (Septra) I broke out in a lovely little red rash that itched like fury and lasted for a week.

However, the good news is, my urologist thinks he has pinpointed the source of the infections. I have a big kidney stone in the left kidney which is probably harboring the bacteria, so the antibiotics can't reach them. The solution to that is shockwave therapy, otherwise known as lithotripsy. So first they have to kill the infection again, and then smash the stone.

I sure hope he's right on this one. This is getting awfully old.
_________________________
_________________________
When I get old, I don't want people thinking, "What a sweet little old lady." I want them to say, "Oh crap, what's she up to now?"

Top
#253121 - 03/15/17 03:31 PM Re: Some Scary News [Re: Nan]
BevvUK Offline
Jimmy Olsen

Registered: 03/15/17
Posts: 2
Nan, I've rejoined this board tonight after many years' absence. I too have been cursed with BC. Social media has been a sanity saver for me at times. If you're on Facebook, Nancy's Point is a very good person to follow for news/reassurance. I remember you from years ago, don't expect you to remember me, sorry you've had to go through this, but glad you're still here.

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