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Monday, October 25, 2010

Last Herceptin

Today, 15 months to the day of my official diagnosis (that is, the day my pathology came back), I will sit for my last herceptin infusion. Hopefully, my last ever. However, upon contemplation, if I could continue herceptin in an effort to prevent recurrence, I would. If I do have a recurrence, I'll have to have herceptin for the rest of my life, or as long as my heart can tolerate it. It is highly cardio-toxic.

In fact, my last echo-cardiogram indicated a 10% decrease in heart function; however, unlike MUGA scans (which involve the injection of radioactive dyes and freak me out) the "reading" of an echo-cardiogram varies from person to person, so a 10% decrease could be due to interpretation, which is exactly what my onco chalked the decrease up to. The ejection fraction was still within normal range, regardless, and I had run 5 miles the day no one is worried about my heart.

But isn't that a mixed bag: if I have a recurrences, I'll have to have herceptin for the rest of my life, unless it causes enough heart damage that I'll have to stop it. Heart damage can kill...cancer can all the way around, I guess.

Rumor has it there is a herceptin vaccine in stage three trials right now. I'd be first in line, I think, if it were available for me.

Of course, there are "unknown long term effects" with which to be concerned. After all, I think herceptin itself has only been available like I've been using it since 2006 and only since 1998 for metastatic breast cancer...

Anyway, in a few minutes, I'll leave for my last infusion, hopefully forever.

Meanwhile, I'm just about to need to get my hair cut and styled. My wonderful sister-in-law did my first trim a few weeks ago, so that it is all the same length...about 1.5". It's much thicker than it was before. It's much, much curlier. I understand that I have what is known as a "chemo-perm". I'm trying to enjoy it, and I rather hope the curls stay. Some people find they do; others find they don't. Meanwhile, I've decided to keep my hair short. Now, I just need to find a local stylist who can make it do what I want it to do. Oh, and the appropriate "product" to make it conform to my every desire and have a texture that I approve of. Not too much to ask for. Probably impossible.

I've continued my quest for physical fitness. Some might call it an obsession. My one child certainly thinks it takes up too much of my time. Of course, being the whiniest child in the family, I take his complaints with a grain of salt. He'd never be happy. It has been a change for them working days and then taking exercise classes and/or working out in the evenings. At one point, I might have cared more than I do now. Now, whatever. In fact, now, I regret the years I spent sublimating my needs to theirs, and more so, using that as an excuse to avoid dealing with my own issues. Yes, indeed, I think this is a common problem of many women, mothers especially, especially mothers in my "circle" of dedicated breastfeeders and homeschoolers. And now, looking in from the outside, I see many women who have put themselves in the position of being regularly taken advantage of by their families because of this. And I see many women who use their husbands, children, and "busyness" as an excuse for ignoring their physical (and perhaps mental) health. But all of this is material for another entry on another day.

Back to my own quest for fitness. I ran a little over 8 miles yesterday. I didn't do it quite nonstop. Yet, when I did stop, it was to stretch and deal with tight muscles, not to rest. I understand "runners" do this all the time. I'm not racing. I'm completing. I have one more "breast cancer" hurdle to accomplish this year, and that's my reconstruction surgery on November 19th. To psych myself up for that, my plan is to run the equivalent of a half marathon the weekend prior. I can't find a race nearby, and I'll be way too busy dealing with grading, planning for being out of the classroom, and generally getting ready for surgery to travel to a sanctioned event, so my plan is to simply run 13.1 miles on either that Saturday or Sunday on my own. I feel sure I can do it.

That is all well and good. In general, I feel good. I've learned to cope with the constant fatigue, which is still lingering from radiation. Some say it never goes away. My biggest challenge, the one I find most frustrating, the one that is most fear inducing, the worst perhaps permanent side effect of all of this, though, the one thing that I'm NOT doing well dealing with, is chemo-brain. I'll write more about this later, but suffice it to say, it is real, it's not going away or improving, and it has had a HUGE negative impact on my ability to live life and to function at my job. Fortunately, it now has a more professional sounding name and has been recognized by experts. Meanwhile, I am having a hard time coming to grips with, in essence, learning to accept that I'm basically brain damaged and not nearly as smart and capable as I was one year ago.

However, now I must jump in the van, drive to Toledo, and get my last infusion. I shall then celebrate by taking Tynan out to lunch and then, if the weather holds, we are going to go on a fun bike ride in one of the metroparks.

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