Next Stop on the Chemo Train

Today is Chemo #6.  It was supposed to have been my final dose; however, since I reacted so horrifically (yes, I am UNDER exaggerating it), my oncologist has changed my regimen.

Changing a patient’s chemotherapy regimen is not done very often.  It’s not an ideal situation, though it’s not the end of the world. Generally, the way to think about  it is if a person has “standard, frequently seen breast cancer” (i.e., nothing particularly rare), then standard protocols are done. If that person (like myself) reacts poorly (I’m clearly into UNDER exaggerating – again), then a custom regimen is created.

The truth of the matter is that medicine is as much of an art as a science.  Each of us is uniquely different and, therefore, we react very differently to all kinds of things, not the least of which is chemotherapy.

So, we have done two things:

  1. Stopped the Adriamycin and Cytoxan doses last week (after 5 doses).  I’ve had several consulting opinions who agree that this is the right decision and that NOT having the 6th treatment (as planned) will not change my long-term prognosis.
  2. Replaced the Taxotere with Taxol.  Today, I am having the first of four doses of Taxol.

Taxotere and Taxol are in the same class; however, taxol tends to have fewer side effects, which is why we made the switch. Why, you ask, did we not start on this originally?  Well, so much of decision making depends on the clinical data (i.e., research) that supports a choice. All clinical data (pathology reports, margins, size of tumors, etc.) pointed to Taxotere.  However, my body was too sensitive to the Taxotere. Therefore, we are switching to Taxol, which is in the same class of drugs, but is less toxic.

Taxol  is a comparable type of chemotherapy drug that is given for breast cancer. It is part of the drug class taxanes (as is Taxotere). A drug is usually classified by the chemical type of the active ingredient or by the way it is used to treat a particular condition. Each drug can be classified into one or more drug classes.

Taxol is called a mitotic inhibitor. As I’ve mentioned before, cells grow by a process called mitosis (cell division). Taxol is a mitotic inhibitor drug that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body. Since the cancer cells are prevented from dividing into new cells, the FBC can’t grow and metastasize (Silver Lining).

Taxol is administered intravenously (through my port-a-cath).

 

I was fascinated to learn that Taxol is made from Yew trees.

 

Yew Tree Image. The leaves of the Yew are what are used to make Taxol.  

 

Interestingly (at least I think so), the Yew is a remarkable tree for many reasons.For example:

  • There are about 10 different species of Yew in the northern temperate zones of Asia, Asia Minor, India, Europe, North Africa and North America.
  • The Yew is considered to be the most potent tree for protection against evil. So cool.
  • In the past they were used as landmarks, because of their size and longevity, and their dark branches would make them stand out in the landscape.
  • It has always been held sacred and understood as a link with death and rebirth. Death heralds the ending of something. It may be a physical death (though I am NOT referring to my own right now), or the death of our old selves, an old way of life or an old way of looking at things. Each end, each death, is a new beginning, hope, future and transformation. Sometimes things need to end or die before the new can begin, and understanding rebirth always requires seeing beyond our limitations.
  • The yew is a loner. It’s isolated occurrences have peaked interest over the years because solo elements in nature are unique and often granted special study.
  • The evocative and dark twists of the yew gives it an unparalleled presence.
  • New yews are born from existing systems.
  • A single yew has untold lifetimes under its belt. The oldest yew is known to be at least 3,000 years of age.
  • Yew was used by early man for making weapons, tools of death, and now thousands of years later it is providing a possibility of averting death for cancer patients.

The flesh of the berries can be used as a laxative and a diuretic.

 

The side effects of Taxol include:

  • slow heart rate (Had it.)
  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness (Already had ALL of them.)
  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms (Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.)
  • white patches or sores inside the mouth or on the lips (Check and check.)
  • numbness, tingling, or burning pain in  hands or feet (Uh huh.)
  • increased blood pressure; headache, blurred vision, buzzing in ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats (9 Yes’s.)
  • warmth or redness under the skin (Indeed.)
  • joint or muscle pain (Absolutely and positively.)
  • mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (Mmhmm. Another understatement.)
  • hair loss (So done.)
  • seizure (The one thing I HAVEN’T had. Oh dear heavens, I hope this doesn’t happen!)

Now the Silver Lining of this list is that (with the exception of seizures), I have had every single one. This is a SL because I know what to expect. Most people say, “Oh no one has ALL of the side effects.”  Well, I’m here to prove those naysayers wrong.  And I’d never think to tell someone that they “couldn’t have all of the side effects”.  Because it is possible.

As I’ve said many times here before,  my philosophy is to: Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

So, I’m hoping and preparing.

My Oncologist is hoping that with the lower dose of Taxol given more frequently (every week), that the side effects would at the least be mitigated. Hoping. Again.

As I always do before chemo, I look at it and express gratitude for it.  Appreciation and gratitude for the job it’s doing to evict FBC from my body.

This gratitude leads me to more gratitude.  There were a lot of sick people in the clinic today.  I know this sounds odd.  All of the patients are ill, obviously.  But there is “sick” and there is “SICK“.  And you know what one of the “SICK” people talked about?  Attitude.  How attitude makes all of the difference.  Such a whopping Silver Lining.

Bath time with our daughter (a/k/a Finally Five) was especially special tonight.  Probably because I was glued to the chair (and couldn’t move).  I soaked in (pun intended) every moment watching her play with a little rubber duck.  Her preciousness was exceptionally tangible today, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Brookside Bath

 

Playing Red Light-Yellow Light-Green Light around the rim of the tub.

 

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope.

~Author Unknown

 

 

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Comments

  1. maureen baker says

    Dear Holly,
    So happy to have discovered your site…your writing inspires me so much! Was diagnosed in March.(triple negative …one tumor..no spread to lymph ..thank God!) .had surgery and now am halfway through the chemo…starting Taxol next week..Please know how wonderfully reassuring your sharing is…getting your book tomorrow…
    Healing Blessings,
    Maureen

    • silverpen says

      Thank you so much, Maureen! So glad that you were able to find a silver lining of your diagnosis (no lumph node involvement!).
      Were you able to pick up the book? I sure hope that it helps.
      Feel free to email me anytime. hollye@thesilverpen.com
      All my best wishes to you!!!
      Hollye

  2. says

    I'll be thinking of you today and hoping you don't have as many symptoms with Taxol as with Taxotere. Sending good thoughts your way. Claudia

  3. Jill Nida says

    Ah Hollye. I am praying for you and your family. I love your silver linings and your beautful photos of your daughter – what a silver lining she is!! You are such an inspiration to us and you show such strength and diginty through it all. I walked by a shop in downtown SB yesterday and saw such a "Hollye" outfit that it just made me smile [SL]. Love, Jill

  4. Kim says

    God bless you today and fill your heart with endless hope. You can do this. I hope your medications help you with the side effects. Hold on to those silver linings.

    Kim

  5. says

    I'm thinking about you today as you make the 6th stop on the chemo train. Believing with all my heart this round will do it's job on FBC and not on you!

    What did you wear today? :-)

    Love and a big ole leg hug to ya!
    Diana