Tuesday, July 8, 2014

MY FEET IN THE SAND: 2 Down 2 To Go and Still Fighting Like A Girl!

At this writing I will have conquered two more cycles of chemo with two more to go.  I also must say To God Be The Glory or in cyberspace language TGBTG! these rounds are far more palatable as chemo goes.

Me and Dr. Callahan
Photos courtesy of Expressions of You
My first round from November, 2013 until January 2014 was pure Hell.  I was supposed to have six cycles but my Oncologist stopped at four.  My body couldn't take it.  I was hospitalized three times in that time period and my chemo schedule had been thrown way off.  As I stated before chemo (Taxotere and Cytoxan) was debilitating.  Fatigue was unbearable.  And coming from a person with high energy, active lifestyle always on the go, the slow down was unfathomable.  The pain was excruciating and the side effects were some of the most extreme cases my Doctor had seen. 

My schedule, one week on, two weeks off was to allow my body to somewhat recover.  However, by that fifth round, I called the Doctor, there was no way I was making it in that Tuesday.  My recovery would take about ten days normally but in that two week period the chemo built up in my system wrecked havoc on my body.  So much so that fourteen days later, I still couldn't drive or walk straight.  During the conversation, just as I was to reveal that I was throwing my schedule off again, my Doctor advised no chemo this week that I'd need to come in for consultation instead.

me and Gilbert one of my fav infusion nurses
Tina took me to consultation that day.  The Doctor (along with Tina) checked my second, now healing abscess, and proclaimed healing well.  Then she sprung it on me, "No more chemo, your body can't take it.  It's time to go to the surgery phase..."  I lost it.  I couldn't take it and I broke down crying about how I wasn't ready. 

One would have thought including me, that I'd be happy but this only meant more debilitating decisions: lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy....What was a girl to do?  On top of the decision making, my scheduled top of her field surgeon was leaving the team for cold ass Chicago, yeah I said it....don't get me wrong I love Chicago in the Spring and Summer but that Winter and trade it for Los Angeles???  I digress...  So now I had to meet with another Surgeon taking over the team and all I could do was shake my head in FEAR.  Take A Knee Cadet.

Robyn, the clinic's amazing, and when I say amazing at her job and humanity, clinic couldn't run without her, assured me that I'd be great with the new surgeon.  After all Robyn had come to know me well in a short period.  And over and over and over again, Robyn was right.  From the first meeting with Dr. Kusske (pronounced like Husky) I fell in love.  She is strong, decisive and a compassionate listener who is not afraid to offer solutions and advice.

Dr. Kusske saw that I strained with the possibilities.  I still had less than a dime sized tumor remaining and she advised me not to go extreme.  I was BRACA negative (the test Angelina Jolie took, that $800 dollars later, my insurance didn't cover which can be a strong determinant in lumpectomy, mastectomy, single or double).  I was also a great candidate for a lumpectomy.  My fear: to not have to go through this again.  So why not get it all taken out and be done with it.  For some reason that didn't sit well in my soul.  So Dr. Kusske suggested that I get the cancer out of my body first and if I wanted to do more we could always come back.  That advice sealed my decision.  I chose the lumpectomy.

Surgery went fantastic.  No cancer in the lymph nodes, no spreading, and clear margins meaning no cancer remaining in the tissue.  Dr. Kusske is so skilled, I have no scar from the surgery and you can't tell the difference in my breast.  I have to point out the incision. 

 Now off to the third and final phase, radiation.  Off to another fantastic, wonderful physician Dr. McCloskey, the sweetest most compassionate Dr. you'll meet.  She explained the process, the risks, the precautions she takes with your heart and other organs.  At first Radiation is mentally grueling.  You must attend every day, Monday through Friday for almost seven weeks and it is very routine.  Some same side effects, fatigue, mild reflux, minor throat aches but the biggest side effect----THE BURNING BOOB!  Pure Aloe Vera--I later learned to place the actual leaf in the freezer for moments before applying, Calendula lotion and Aquaphor by Eucerin became my best friends to soothe and heal the skin beyond the most severe sunburn.

Midway through radiation, I go to see Dr. Callahan, my Oncologist for follow-up.  I am happy.  I am almost done and now I get to find out the maintenance phase, mammogram twice a year, yadda yadda, yadda.  I'm actually happy to see Dr. Callahan as I anxiously wait to hear those five-inch heels clicking down the hall to my closed door.  She enters, I embrace her but her hug is different.  I'm taken aback.

Dr. Callahan proceeds to explain that although surgery went exceptionally well, everything is clear and radiation is going well, I MUST consider more chemo.  The tumor board discussed the pathology of my remaining tumor and it was volatile.  In fact in every category, my tumor received the highest index.  In laymen's terms, the tumor and type of Breast Cancer I had is a very aggressive one.  And the Board and Dr. Callahan are concerned about any microscopic tumor cells that may have fallen off the breast into my body therefore causing high risk for re-occurrence anywhere in my body.  If cancer had been found in lymph nodes and/or margins, this repeat process would be mandatory, since not it is optional but highly recommended.  "I did not want to have to have this conversation with you...."  Dr. Callahan said.

I was stunned.  Here I was happy to see this, on a good day 4'11 dynamo and in this moment I want to kick her in her throat.  I campaigned every Doctor on my team including Sissy about whether or not I should endure more chemo, after all it was a stab in the dark--no guarantees and no markers as to whether or not this chemo would be effective.  The consensus was I should do it but the decision was up to me.  Dr. Callahan advised that I could be monitored closely but she feared, any reoccurrence would catapult me to Stage 4, I was Stage 2, and remember this was an aggressive tumor and Breast Cancer--triple negative. 

I had until May 15th to decide.  After much crying, running to therapy--which has been instrumental in my care--on May 5th I sent Dr. Callahan an email.  I'm doing it.

So today here I am.  Now enrolled in Carbo Platin to knock out what could be.  But this time it's better.  I am fatigued, however, not nearly as much.  I know how to combat the side effects and the side effects from the side effects--I am more skilled and less reluctant to take my meds. 

A partial regimen of my meds
Here I sit, at this writing with 2 rounds down and 2 more to go, more determined than ever to Fight Like A Girl!

Disclaimer:  These are my experiences with Chemo and are meant in no way to alarm you.  Everyone experiences Cancer differently even in the exact same category and/or use of therapies.  My sharing is to empower you to know that whatever your circumstances, don't give up, fight because you are a winner!


  1. blessings Toni;)

  2. Prayers and hugs sent your way lady

  3. Keep fighting the good fight my darling... you got this!!! XOXOXO

  4. Keep fighting!! You're a strong woman. Xoxoxo

  5. Strength in the mind and strength in the heart derive from strength in the soul. Your soul is powerful, just as your voice in the written and verbal form. Scream loud my friend, the world needs to hear you.

  6. Prays coming your way. You are a strong god loving person. He answers all prayers. Keeping fighting my dear friend. Love you Tootsie Roll

  7. Prayers!!! Prayers!! And more Prayers coming your way hang in there!!!

  8. Toni you are a strong woman - no "weapon", not even cancer, shall prosper. Through your writings you are blessing and inspiring many others. I stand boldly with you in this fight!

  9. I will keep you lifted up in my prayers! No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper!! Keep Fighting The Good Fight Of Faith!! ((((((HUGS)))))

  10. Healing touch, much love, unwavering faith

  11. I pray our Heavenly Father continues to wash and cover you in his blood!

  12. Kimberly Newton NicholsJuly 8, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    Keeping you continuously Lifted in Prayer..your strength and courage speaks volumes to your Faith...

  13. Jill Murrill QuilesJuly 8, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    God bless you Toni to guide you with strength and determination.

  14. Oh girl, I had no idea! Praying for you! Hugs and kisses.

  15. Looking good and I know God will get you through this,and God bless you.

  16. Prayers for victory!

  17. Victorious! Keep on pressing, Toni. We love you.