Herceptin holiday

Oncologists can and do cancel chemotherapy treatments when the patient’s condition warrants a pause.

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I dragged myself (actually, was driven) down to the cancer center today, more than a little anxious because I was scheduled for my first Herceptin-only infusion. I felt nowhere near the “normal” I felt when approaching previous chemo treatments. I still felt tired and worn down, heavy-legged and short-winded. I was near tears at the thought of dealing with another round of as-yet-unknown side effects. Not to mention tomorrow’s appointment in radiology to start blocking out and preparing for my impending radiation treatments.

But hallelujah, I got a reprieve. The doctor checked me out and looked at my lab work, and decided there was no way he was going to hit me with another treatment today. My albumin is still pretty low, which means I’m still nutritionally behind the 8-ball and need to keep chowing down on lots of protein, along with good fruits and vegetables. Also, I’m still carrying lots of water weight because of all the fluid infusions (8) in the last month. My legs and feet are heavy and swollen with excess fluid that still hasn’t cleared. Imagine walking around with an extra couple of pounds wrapped around each leg. Your joints are stiffer, your movements slower, and the effort far greater, especially when walking up stairs or an incline.

So basically I was granted an unexpected vacation, with orders to rest a lot, eat well, and exercise very lightly — perhaps several walks a day of 50 to 100 yards (my estimate of halfway to the mailbox and back). Just take it easy and give my body time to get rid of all the excess fluid.

Even the radiologist was helping out. She ordered a PET scan today (which I very much want to see), and it couldn’t be scheduled until Sept. 23. The oncologist also ordered an echocardiogram. In other words, everyone has called a time out (as I’ve thought they should) to obtain and examine a battery of scans to see exactly where we are, what’s been achieved so far, and where we go from here.

The oncologist is particularly interested in seeing how my heart and lungs have fared with the chemotherapy (particularly since I’m still coughing a lot). He may postpone or possibly even cancel future Herceptin treatments, depending on what he sees. And both doctors want to see the PET scan to see what those nodes in my chest look like now. Will they still light up as cancerous/inflamed? The oncologist thinks/hopes the chemo has killed them. The radiologist wants to know if they have to be radiated; she’d rather not, since they lie so close to the heart.

So while the doctors wait for and then evaluate all those tests, I’ve nothing to do but rest and recuperate. And wouldn’t you know, this next week just happens to be high time for fall foliage in the high country …

9 thoughts on “Herceptin holiday”

  1. Ugh, fluid retention is awful. I feel for you with that, big time. There’s that stiffness you describe, and also this wretched feeling like the skin is stretched tight and something’s pulling on it. Walking will help, not only because it gets your blood circulating, but because it increases respiration. A lot of folks don’t know this, but when people lose fluid through physical activity, it’s not just through sweat. It’s through respiration, too. Makes sense when you think of the vapor we see when we exhale in chilly air. I hope you can enjoy the fall foliage. It must be beautiful up there.

    1. I knew all along walking would help, but don’t really have the strength to walk very far. Plus that worry of how far out is the point of no return. I guess for the first time in my life a treadmill would be really handy to have.

  2. That makes sense about the respiration and fluid. (So increased breathing at high altitudes and at the awesome fall in the mountains would be beneficial and doc approved?) Even sitting outside should have assorted benefits.
    Life becomes so complicated with cancer. Not only the adjustments with change in body behavior and strength being annoying and unpleasant, we hated having to live around treatment schedule, but hang in there – it all gets further and further apart as you go along returning a bit of feeling in control. Sounds like the team is keeping a close eye on you – and that’s very very good. Smart to adjust as needed (Not all are experienced enough to know to do that – good you’re in an area up to speed on treatments)
    Fall’s always been a favorite time for you? Maybe this one will be energizing and happy in new ways. Hoping it all goes well (and always interested in the information)
    How’s your dog doing? They get upset so easily and are so concerned when their person is out of the ordinary. It’s below 90 here, so Molly is going to get a chance to run in the field with a few friends. She perturbed with her food bowl not being as full, but with so much couch surfing, she’s putting on a pound or two.
    Big woofs and paw waves!

    1. Annie’s doing pretty well, all things considered. I think I’ve mentioned before that she knows all my habits and bases hers around mine. So when I’m eating at odd times, it throws her off. She’s used to eating when I eat. In fact, with dinner in her bowl, she still won’t eat until I sit down and start eating. And I think she’s getting more comfortable with the idea that I may leave the house at odd times and be gone for several hours — and yet somehow, miraculously, I always come back! (However, her concern has never kept her from surfing every counter and wastebasket in the house while I’m gone.)

      1. Annie sounds like Molly…finding ways to amuse herself.
        Annie eating with you gave me a smile. The German and her person apparently eat often in front of the TV on the couch. Here, she’ll grab a mouthful of food and wander over to the couch and sit and munch, then repeat the process. We try to discourage that …the crumb trail is annoying. SHe’s getting better – if we sit right by her bowl while she eats.

"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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