Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chemotherapy Schedule

Nicole's positive attitude and strength has been amazing.  Beyond amazing.  If you saw her walking down the street today you wouldn't even know she had cancer and you probably wouldn't even notice that she had a gnarly surgery just a couple of weeks ago.  She's a tough cookie.

Two weeks ago she and I were able to go to a little bit of church.  One of the speakers said, "We all go through trials and struggles in our lives." Nin leaned over to to me and whispered, "Not me. #blessed".

I added this gif because anytime Nin sees this scene, she laughs out loud.  Regardless of how many times she's seen it. (I'm out of town and Nin called me tell me how she laughed out loud and watched this over and over. Then read the sentence above. Nailed it!)

This week we got Nin's chemo schedule which is essentially a schedule dictating the next 6+ months of our lives.  Its going to be quite the adventure.  Here is a breakdown of her chemo treatments.

(Chemo is pronounced "key-mo" but I think it should be pronounced "chee-mo".  Feel free to use either pronunciation in your mind as you read the rest of this)

Chemo Treatment #1: Nin will be starting the first round of chemo on June 1st.  This will be an eight week protocol with four doses, one every other week.  This treatment is called DDAC: Dose Dense Adriamycin and Cytoxan.  They say it is one of the most aggressive chemotherapy treatments (along with her second treatment) available for Breast Cancer patients.  They decided to implement this protocol due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Nin's young age, her hot bod (their words, not mine), it spreading to her lymph nodes, and her great overall health (besides the cancer, obvi).

This chemo protocol can wreak hacov on the patient's bone marrow (the production factory for white and red blood cells...probably).  To help her body continue making white blood cells, which fight infection, she will be given a drug the day after chemo called Neulasta.  Some people say that the bone pain side effects of the Neulasta can be worse than the chemo treatment side effects.  These first eight weeks will be pretty intense.  It'll only be six weeks from the first dose to the last dose so we're doing our minds a favor and calling it six weeks instead of eight.  If all goes well, she'll get her last dose on July 12th.

Chemo Treatment #2: Nin will start her second round of treatment two weeks after her last dose of DDAC.  This protocol is Taxol + Herceptin.  It will be a 12-week protocol with weekly injections. No chemo is great but this will be much better than the DDAC.  Some people can apparently work full-time through this treatment.  After these 12 weeks, she will continue to receive Herceptin injections once every three weeks for a few more months, a total of one year.

Let's talk side effects.  Chee-mo is a systemic treatment that attacks quickly reproducing cells throughout the entire body.  The most obvious side effect is hair loss.  One thing we aren't looking forward to, and hoping to avoid, is neuropathy.  It is common for chemo patients to experience neuropathy which can cause numbness in the hands and feet.  In some cases it can be permanent.  Imagine picking up your phone or a TV remote and not being able to feel your fingers.  Pretty crappy.  I didn't add this section of the post to bring you all down.  I added it in hopes of getting feedback or ideas from other cancer survivors or current patients to prevent this as best as possible.  Our Oncology Nurse recommends wrapping your wrists and ankles with ice packs during chemo to restrict blood flow.  Anybody else out there have any suggestions or recommendations that worked for them?

Radiation: There is a possibility that Nin could be done with chemo on October 11th, one day before her 30th birthday!  Sometime shortly after that date she'll start Radiation Therapy.  Or as our Nurse Practitioner from Germany awesomely pronounces it "Rad-iation".  She will get radiated every weekday for six weeks.  We're hoping she gets a super power from it.  When I think of radiation therapy, I think of this clip from Family Guy.  Apologies for the terrible quality and the insensitive cancer reference but it's too good not to share.  Especially when you know that the voice of the character is Adam West, the original Batman.

I've forgotten to end posts with inspiring quotes.  Since this post is about cancer treatment I'd thought I'd share this gem from Jack Handey:

"I just thought of something, what if the cure for cancer was something really ridiculous that can't be discovered in hospital research? Like what if the cure for cancer is: "Put a croissant on a tractor" or "Rub your head with grass" or "Put your nose hairs in a paper bag." You can make up some yourself, who knows, they might be the cure for cancer." -Jack Handey