Saturday, June 21, 2014

Winning the war

Yesterday was my last dose of FEC, as long as there are no more surprise revisions in my treatment plan.  I will have a major huzzah after I get through the FEC aftermath.

I have been fighting many battles over the last 24 hours.  FEC sucks, man.  The first battle I fought was that mysterious allergic reaction to one of the components of FEC (no one knows which one).  Dr. Oncologist's strategy was to prevent an allergic reaction by increasing my dose of steroid (dexamethasone) from 12 mgs to 20 mgs, and my dose of benadryl from 25 mgs to 50 mgs.  I should also say that I did my part by taking the anti-allergy drug Zyrtec prior to the appointment.  Despite these preventative measures, the allergic reaction started up again after receiving the F, the E, and 15 minutes of the C.  It felt like I had snorted black pepper.  The nurse stopped the dose of C, and Dr. O gave me another round of benadryl and 'roids, for a grand total of 100 mgs of benadryl and 40 mgs of steroid.  I asked her, is this legal?  She just laughed at me and said she could give me more if it came to it.  The peppery feeling completely went away after this, so we resumed the C.  Soon after resuming the treatment, the peppery feeling came back and got worse; it was the burning feeling you get when you get water up your nose.  The nurse stopped the C again and waited with me for a bit.  The good news is that the allergic reaction never got worse.  My throat never got sore, my skin never flushed, and, most importantly, my lungs never tightened.  After a few minutes Dr. O came back into the room, assessed where I was, and asked me what I wanted to do.  I said I wanted to finish the C!  As long as my lungs remain clear, bring it on!  I therefore received the full, final dose of C, with little more than a peppery feeling in my nose.  Boom.  Huzzah!

I was more of an innocent bystander in the second battle of my day and night.  This battle was between benadryl and dexamethasone (the steroid), fighting for control of me, aka Side-Effect Hill.  Benadryl quickly gained control of my eyelids, but dexamethasone had a stronghold on my heart.  The dex hunkered down, commandeering my heart to pound out the drumbeats of war, all night long.  Benadryl made numerous offensive strikes, claiming an hour or two of sleep at a time, but overall the strikes were unsuccessful against the entrenched dex.  I finally dragged myself out of bed at 9:30 am, only to go downstairs and take another dose of each drug (as ordered by Dr. O).  I only have to take the benadryl while I feel the peppery nose (yep, still peppery) to prevent the reaction from worsening, and I only have to take dexamethasone one more time tomorrow.  The Battle of Side-Effect Hill will likely continue for at least another night or two.  Damn side effects.  Damn peppery nose.  Good thing I have a comfy couch for epic resting.      

The battles are tough, but I am winning the war.  The FEC has done it's job:  the breast cancer seems to be completely gone.  The tiny lump that Dr. O and I can feel could simply be scar tissue from the biopsy, that's how small it is.  My previous drugs (TCH+P) reduced the cancer substantially, but the FEC has obliterated it.  The most noteworthy fact, in my opinion, is that I had one lymph node adjacent to the cancer that felt swollen throughout all of TCH+P treatments.  In contrast, I can no longer feel this lymph node after three rounds of FEC.  In summary, let it be known that I am grateful for the FEC and remain humbled by its cancer-fighting powers.  But good lord am I glad that the havoc it wreaks is almost over.

Finally, I have an appointment for a PET scan on Tuesday, July 8th.  This is three days before resuming three more rounds of the TH+P-C treatment.  I normally hate PET scans because I frequently have false positives (I know they are false positives because I've had to go through the explorative procedures to prove it).  This one, however, excites me because we will see that nothing is glowing in my lungs.  I never felt like I had lung cancer, and I definitely don't feel like I have it now.  Dr. O did not say anything about the results of this scan changing the course of my treatment.  I am not even allowing myself a glimmer of hope about that.  But I agree that it's a good time to assess what's going on in those lungs.  I am quite curious.  Quite.  Again I say, bring it on!  Huzzah!

I'll end with a public service announcement.  I wrote this post while listening to Ray LaMontagne's new album ("Supernova") on Spotify.  Wow, it's excellent.    


  1. Yay for FEC. Boo for side-effects. Just strap on those boots to get over that hill!

    Ok lungs... Time to cooperate.

  2. Holy shitstorm! Yay for tiny lumps. Yay for winning battles. Yay for you my friend.

  3. This post is amazingly thorough and lucid. Would that be another side effect of the Dex? You seem in great spirits and attitude to get through the torture of the next weeks.

  4. I think I have a peppery nose from reading that. Could you be a dear and pass me the salt?

  5. Could you please just give up science and take up writing full time? I laughed, I cried, I once again bow to the divine in you!