A Week Off

A Week Off

After last Friday’s second dose of Halaven, I am enjoying a week off.  This officially completes my first round of chemotherapy.  So far, it’s not nearly as horrible as I’d imagined.  (I’ve held off on posting that because I’m afraid my tune may too quickly change, and I don’t want to create some sort of jinx on my easier-than-expected battle.)

As far as long-term side effects go, I am pretty much in the week of truth; it seems like most of the longer-lasting side effects kick in around week three.  Although my nails have so far remained a normal color, and I can still feel my fingers and my toes, I did start losing a little hair last night and more today.  It’s nothing major (knock on wood), and it’s coming out evenly (knock, knock), and I have plenty of hair to lose (knock), but I will need to invest in a sticky roller sort of thing if my locks survive the weekend.

I am grateful to everyone who’s reached out.  I typically forget about the boob when I’m at work, but I am usually reminded the minute I get home and am able to rest.  Not having to worry about dinner has already been a blessing.  Mornings sometimes feel like I had a lot of fun the night before minus the “a lot of fun”.  Not having to worry about a lunch is a huge help.  When I feel a little out  in the unknown on my own, someone sends a card or kind message to remind me that I’m not alone.  Thank you.

(Another longer-lasting side effect of chemo is an incredibly soft heart and a particularly gushy vocabulary.)

Hemoglobin Help

Hemoglobin Help

The only side effects I faced after my first chemo treatment were a headache, fatigue, and a dry throat.  The headache only lasted a couple of days after the treatment, and the fatigue was more than manageable.  When I mentioned these to my nurse, she revealed to me that the headache most likely came not from the chemo but from the anti-nausea medicine.  Yesterday, she gave me a different anti-nausea medicine with my second round of chemo, and I am happy to report that I do not have a headache.  I am tired and a little nauseous, but it’s nothing major.  I can’t remember the last Saturday I spent reading and napping on the couch, so I really can’t complain.

I discovered that my fatigue is due to my low hemoglobin levels or anemia.  An average woman ranges from 12 – 16 g/dL, and I was at 11.8 yesterday.  That doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not at all something to worry about, but it is enough to make me tired.

Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in my red blood cells that transfers oxygen from my lungs to other parts of my body.

Here’s an illustration of red blood cells with red Volkswagen Beetles; you can see the hemoglobin because it’s what  makes the red blood cells red.  It’s not what makes the red Beetles red.



Here’s a picture of a bunch of red Power Rangers in a New York City subway.  They all have hemoglobin.  Given their obvious exuberance for red power, we can only assume their hemoglobin levels are just fine.


Power-Rangers Subway

I learned that I need to increase my iron, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, and folic acid intake to raise my levels.

CLICK HERE and HERE to see what I plan to eat to help my hemoglobin.

I enjoyed a kale and strawberry smoothie this morning, I had lentil soup for lunch, and I have beef stew on the stove.

Go Team Hemoglobin!

Entering the Unknown: My First Chemo Injection

Entering the Unknown: My First Chemo Injection

It’s official:  I am now in the hands of science.  And, in the hands of the somewhat unknown.  I am the first and only woman at the Red Rocks Cancer Center, and possibly in the state of Colorado,  to shoot up Halaven before any other kind of chemo. My oncologist and nurse are hopeful it will work as well or better than they’ve seen it work on women who have already had several other treatments, and they hope the side effects will be much less than the standard treatment.  But, they only know how it affects women who have already had many other types of chemo, so they can’t truly predict how it will affect me.

This will be a freakin’ walk in a beautiful flowery park, right?!

I had my first injection of Halaven on Thursday, and I was surprised by how easy it was.  I was only there for about 40 minutes.  My next injections will take even less time because the nurse will not need to explain as much to me, and I probably won’t have as many questions.  After consulting with my nurse, I began with a finger poke to check my blood, and then I had a 20-minute IV infusion of anti-nausea medication.  After that, the Halaven took less than a minute to push into my system.  My surgeon did a good job of placing my port near the surface of my skin, so the nurse didn’t have to hunt for it; you can easily see the tree little nubs that indicate where to put the IV without even touching it.  She froze the skin over the port with some sort of crazy freezing spray, and then she stabbed me.  The port has a thick plastic back, so the needle can’t go through it.  It didn’t hurt at all, but it was certainly weird.  I didn’t look at it.

The day of and the day after I felt a little foggy in the head like I’d had a few too many glasses of wine the night before.  I also had a slightly weird taste in my mouth.  I was a little nauseous last night, but it was nothing a glass of ginger ale couldn’t remedy.  Today is supposed to be the worst day, and I feel fine other than a bit tired. I imagine side effects will build as I get more injections.  I have another this Thursday, and then I take a week off.  I will do three more cycles after that of two weeks on and one week off.  I also go in one extra day at the beginning of each cycle to check my vitals and blood.

After Halaven for 12 weeks, I will move on to the hardcore stuff: AC.  From what I’ve heard and read, that’s going to be one scary chemical cocktail.  Not only for me, but also for my cancer, which is seriously going down.

(It’s crazy and probably completely psychological, but I swear I feel sporadically sharp pangs coming from my tumor.  I plan to ask my doctor about this the next time I see him.  How cool would that be if I can actually feel it suffering?!)

Knock on wood, but I’m not as nervous about going back to work as I thought I would be.  I think my next injection on Thursday will be a little bit more difficult to tolerate as the chemo builds in my system, but I am hopeful it won’t be as bad as I thought.  Keep them crossed, pray, do interpretive Mother Earth dances, meditate, send smoke signals to the stars, or do whatever else it is you do to give me good energy as I move through this.  My goal is to make it to the end of the school year without too many hang-ups.  After that, it can knock me on my butt, and I’ll have all summer to cope.

Cheers to science, ginger ale, and tumor pangs!



Hello, Halaven!

Hello, Halaven!

After many hours of research and several second and third and forth opinions, I decided to enroll in Dr. Kantor’s Halaven (eribulin) clinical trial.  (CLICK HERE if you missed it.)

Yesterday, I found out that I am in the experimental arm, and I will have my first hit of Halaven tomorrow afternoon.  Each cycle is two injections, one a week for two weeks, with one week off.  I will do this for twelve weeks (eight injections for four cycles total).

After that, I will have four cycles of AC, which will be one injection every three weeks for twelve weeks.

Halaven is a synthetic version of a cancer-fighting compound a couple of Japanese scientists found in a sea sponge in the mid-1980s.

Here’s a lovely photo of Halichondria okadai, the magical sponge:



Unfortunately, one ton of Halichondria okadai and his friends could only produce 300mg of the super fantastic cancer-fighting compound, so studies were halted.

Years later, Harvard scientists picked the study back up in hopes of creating a synthetic version of the compound, and they were successful.

CLICK HERE for more about eribulin, my new magical mystery cancer drug.

The hope for the study is that Halaven will attack the cancer cells in a way that will make them less likely to come back.  The side-effects of Halaven are believed to be less severe than those of the standard drug, Taxol.  I am hopeful that this is the case.  Another bonus of Halaven is its five-minute injection time, which completely trumps Taxol’s one-hour injection time.  As long as I am feeling up to it, I do not need to miss work for treatments.  Happy day.  And, happy Halaven!

Getting Ready for Chemo: Chapters 17 – 19

Getting Ready for Chemo: Chapters 17 – 19

I skipped chapters 14 through 16 because they are about surgery and radiation therapy, which I do not need to face for a while.  Not to mention, the pictures are terrifying.  I won’t even post them.  Thank you, Dr. Love.

Chapters 17 through 19 are about chemo and other systemic therapies, and I found the chemo chapter very helpful.  It does not  mention Halaven, my first round of chemo, but it does talk about the AC chemo cocktail that I will do after the Havalen. I plan to read 18 and 19 before the end of the week, and then the book will go on the shelf.   The last several chapters are about reoccurring cancer, and I am hopeful I will not need to crack those chapters EVER.

CLICK HERE to see my next Boob Book Club book!  This one is a lot lighter, and it seems like one any woman can get into regardless of her boob situation.

New Boob Book: Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy

New Boob Book: Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy

After Dr. Love’s book, I think it’s time to lighten things up.  I know that mastectomies certainly aren’t a light subject, but the book itself is quit buoyant at a dainty 195 pages.

Click on the picture to read more about Geralyn Lucas’s book.  I’ll start it later this week.  I hope some of you can join me!  (The first chapter appears to begin in a strip club, so that ought to be fun.)

why I wore lipstick

Oh, and there’s a movie, which we’ll have to watch after we read the book.

MUGA: Hide Your Children (Again)

MUGA: Hide Your Children (Again)

Today I had my first MUGA, or multigated acquisition, scan.  This is also know has a nuclear heart scan.  Yes, that’s right, nuclear.

I do believe this one took the cake.  The nuclear cake, that is.  Not only did the nuclear medical technologist draw my blood and mix it with a radioactive tracer, she then pushed my hot blood back into my body.  I positioned myself under something that looked liked an inside-out Tie Fighter; this was apparently a gamma -ray-shooting camera.   The gamma rays picked up the radioactive tracers as they rocketed through my body.  This all somehow let the radiologist know that my heart can handle chemo.

I am now supposed to drink a lot of water and urinate frequently to rid myself of any remaining radionuclides. As with the PET scan, holding babies is out of the question.  Again, hide your children.

(Do you think Professor X would go for the mutant name “MUGA”?)

CLICK HERE for more information on MUGA sans.




Cast Your Votes: Choose My Hair Adventure!

Cast Your Votes: Choose My Hair Adventure!

I’ve decided to cut my hair before I start chemo.  Yes, there is a chance it may not fall out, but that chance is very unlikely.  I’ve decided that cutting my hair short keeps this whole experience somewhat within my own control.  Overall, that will be far less mentally damaging than wondering “when” and “if” and possibly dealing with it actually coming out while it’s long.

So, I need your votes.  Which short hair cut should I go with?  I’m also considering messing with color; if it is going to fall out, it won’t happen right away, so I might as well have some fun.

Post your votes as comments.  Cast two votes: one on style and one on color.  Or, post links to other short cuts you’d suggest.

Tess and Katie A., if you see this, please let me know if any of these will not work well for my hair, which is fine and very full with some wave/curl.  Or, if any of these are actually the same cut but just styled differently.

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Nylon Magazine's TV Issue Launch Party

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Full Pixie Pixie Geldof

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2011 Summer TCA Tour - Day 9

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Textured Deep Parted Boycut

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Textured Front Push Pixie

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Vogue Fashion's Night Out Launches In Sydney

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Straight and Smooth Pixie Emma Watson

I like the front, but I’d go shorter/less full on top and in the back.

Ready For Professor X

Ready For Professor X

I’m fairly certain Professor Charles Francis Xavier, leader and founder of the X-Men, would like to recruit me.  Not only do I have radioactive sugar-vein powers, but I am also officially a mutant.  It’s only a matter of time before my true nature and purpose are unleashed.  I wonder what he’ll name me?  It’s too bad “Rogue” is already taken.

The results of my genetics test are in, and I have an Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA 1 mutation that I most likely inherited from my mother’s mother’s side of the family.  I am not surprised, and in some ways, I am weirdly relieved because now I know why I have triple-negative breast cancer at only 31 years old.  If I did not have a mutation, then I’d be even more of an anomaly.  At least now I’ll know my risks and odds, and I’ll also have a clear picture of future medical decisions and procedures.  And, breakthrough-hungry oncologists in big and dirty cities won’t want to study me. I was told that’s what happens to women my age who get triple-negative breast cancer and do not have a known genetic mutation.  That does not sound at all as fun as Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

This will not change my treatment, but it will change the way that I consider my post-treatment surgery.  I am meeting with the genetics counselor this Friday to get all of the details.  Thankfully, I do not have to make any surgical decisions until after chemo.

Apparently I am quite rare, so I’m sure Professor X will be knocking on my door soon enough.  Who knows, maybe he already has a new member of the X-Men who can cure cancer.  Or, maybe that member is me.

(Rayan’s convinced I can move things with my boob; I just don’t yet know how to harness my powers.)