Back in the Saddle (for real this time)

As I was thinking of some inane, clichéd title for this post, ‘Back in the Saddle’ seemed the most apropos. But then it occurred to me that I had already used it. Sure enough, scrolling through the (brief) archives led me to discover that the first post on this blog was titled ‘Back in the Saddle’. Of course, we all know now that I took a rather long, circuitous route to get in the saddle. But, ah, here I am…standing next to the horse…ready to hitch a foot into a stirrup…

Enough with the riding metaphors. One of the few times I rode a horse in my life, I was thrown and ended up with a mangled face. Ask me about my plastic surgery and the time my little sister made me cry by calling me Scarface. Anyway. I saw my oncologist at PMH today. Have I mentioned how much I love her? That she is such an amazing doctor that she knew before I even told her that I had read a CT scan report and would have questions about what it said? Honestly, I can’t express how much I love this doctor. My friend Jen would tell me this is “transference” and I guess I’d have to agree with her a little bit. But only a little. My oncologist is really that great. You would love her, too.

Because everything is coming up Alicia in a somewhat sadistic manner, Dr. M. agreed with the Surgeon’s suggestion that I do chemotherapy. New information equals new treatment plan, in her opinion. Her thoughts on why the cancer is now high grade and not low grade are this: Either the original cancer was actually a mix of high and low grade, but only the low grade was caught in pathology and the chemotherapy I had with my first round of treatment knocked back the high grade cells for a tremendously long time, or the low grade has transformed itself into a high grade cancer. Whatever the situation, I can be pleased with myself for not accepting the first surgeon’s dismal “go home and do nothing” approach to treatment.

Dr. M. thinks in some ways this is the ideal situation since a higher grade cancer is actually responsive to chemo. And considering I’ve had more than six months without any measurable growth, it’s not likely I’m dealing with a highly aggressive cancer. Just a moderately aggressive one. I think my cancer is best described as “passive-aggressive”.

So this is the plan: On February 15th, I will go to Toronto Western Hospital where a port will be placed under my skin and inserted into my vein. I have crap veins and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to simply draw blood, let alone insert an IV. I got a port midway through treatment last time I did this, and it made my chemotherapy experience 20 times more tolerable than it had been without. So I requested I get one for this round. I’ll have my first treatment a couple of days later.

There are two reasons I won’t be starting chemo for a month. The first is that I need to have the port inserted. The second is that I need to give myself a couple more weeks to make sure this infection is cleared up so it doesn’t flare up when my immune system is compromised. I’m pretty happy to have the next four weeks to continue recovering from surgery. It’s kind of kicked my butt. Or maybe it’s the infection that kicked my butt. All I know is that I am tired and nauseous about 75 percent of the time. The most likely culprit is the medications I’ve been on for the better part of six weeks.

In total, I’ll be receiving six rounds of chemo. I’ll be receiving the same drugs I did eight years ago, carboplatin and taxol. Both have a slew of nasty side effects. Apparently once you reach eight doses of carboplatin–even if you tolerated it well in the beginning, even if the first six were eight years ago–you are at an extremely increased risk of allergic reaction. This could mean extra Benadryl, slower infusions, or even a change in drug. Hopefully a drug change won’t be needed. The back-up drug is a bit harder to tolerate than the carboplatin.

I guess I’m pretty happy with this turn of events, as happy as you can ever be about spending months bald and miserable (though some people spend YEARS bald and miserable, am I right, am I right?). I’m mostly relieved that Dr. M and The Surgeon agreed on a treatment plan. So much so that as soon as Dr. M told me she agreed with the plan, I started in with the inappropriate joking and laughing (don’t worry, I had Jodi, accompanying me, so I wasn’t just cracking up on my own). The nurse told us we were having entirely too much fun. I have a feeling I’m going to be everyone’s favourite patient. They seem to handle me better when I don’t cry during my visits.

And that’s it for now. I guess this is the time that people should ask any questions they have about chemo and how that’ll affect me. Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll try to answer what I can another day.

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About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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