Pre-Chemotherapy Testing

Chemotherapy begins on Monday, the 27th.  3 days. FFS (For F**k’s Sake).

I’m feeling a little anxious.  Scared, I’m not.  I’m anxious about how my physical body is going to react to the medications.

There are several things that I have done this week to prepare for my first dose of chemotherapy:

#1. The first of which was an appointment with my Palliative Care Team.  Why do I need to see them (some people will continue to ask)?  Well, because THEY were the ones who brilliantly attacked and solved my relentless pain and outrageous constipation issues.     …and THEY are part of the team!

As a Palliative Care Nurse myself, I’d like to reiterate exactly why I have Palliative Care as part of my team.  The goal of palliative care is to relieve the pain, symptoms and stress of  any serious illness, including FBC.

Additionally, palliative care strives to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of the disease, side effects caused by treatment of the disease, and psychological, social and spiritual problems related to the disease.  The Palliative care team (of doctors, nurses and social workers) works in partnership with my primary doctor.

Hellooooooooooo?  Who WOULDN’T have Palliative Care as part of their health care team?

Ok, so now that the question is hopefully settled once and for all, we can move on to the description of our meeting.

We dealt with two issues:

  1. The first issue is the heightened, alarm-like state that my lady lumps are constantly in.  This is explained clinically as Neuropathy. When a nerve is damaged (as mine were unavoidably so during the surgery), the changes in the remaining part of the nerve result heightened sensitivity (which is a bit of an understatement.  To pass a Q-tip across them is excruciating!).  My physician used this analogy: it’s like having repeated seizures in my lady lumps. The best way to articulate in words  the way my lady lumps feel right now (What? No more grimacing or just plain old moaning?) is as if they are on edge, incredibly raw and outrageously tender.  Therefore, I am going to be taking a drug called Neurontin to offset these totally unacceptable “seizure-like” activities.  A SL to this drug is that it can also be used to treat and prevent hot flashes (for anyone who doesn’t know what a hot flash is-who in the world doesn’t know?- it is a sudden strong feeling of heat and sweating) in women who are being treated for breast cancer.
  2. The second issue we discussed is my Wellness Program. (Yes, for all those naysayers, Palliative Care DOES do Wellness Programs!)

LEFT CIRCLE: Disease & Symptom Treatment; RIGHT CIRCLE: Enhancing Wellness

  • We discussed the concept of two overlapping circles (see image above). Both circles impact and interact with each other.
  • The Left Circle is about treating the FBC and the symptoms resulting from the medications. This is the part of the treatment program that includes medications, medical interventions as well as the people involved in the delivery of the treatments such as doctors, nurses, etc.  Everything in the left circle comes from the OUTSIDE.
  • The Right Circle is about enhancing wellness, including my innate healing capacity. Everything in the right circle comes from the INSIDE. In other words, I will tap into MY potential to heal MYSELF. Which was a SL (silver lining)reminder that I have a big role to play in this healing process.  I have the opportunity to step up and and be fully engaged in this fight to eradicate FBC from 0ur life once and for all.
    • When identifying ways of  enhancing wellness, we look at three components:  Body, Mind and Spirit.
      • Body:
        • Yoga. I’ve never been a yogi.  Ever.  Tried it multiple times and nada. In a yoga class, I look like an awkward Midwestern teenage farm boy (not that there is anything wrong with them!  Heck I grew up with them!).  However, this is clearly a message to try it again because (as the rest of the world seems to know), yoga provides huge healing and wellness benefits.
        • Supplements. I have a huge silver tray right next to my bed lined with all of my supplements (pun intended).  I’ve been taking them since diagnosis (will do a separate post on those).
        • Nutrition. This piece is huge. FFS (For F**K’s Sake), this is probably my biggest challenge right now, considering my lack of appetite! However, I know. I know.  I HAVE to eat!
        • Reflexology. I’ve been doing reflexology 3 times/week since surgery and I have had tremendous benefits from it!
        • Acupuncture. Scheduled. On the books.  I’ve done Acupuncture in the past and find it to be absolutely fabulous!
      • Mind:
        • Therapy. I am a huge fan of therapy.  As I have always told my patients, we are not born equipped to deal with all of the challenges that life throws our way.  Fortunately, there are therapeutic tools to help. These tools include dream work. Did you know that in the early temples of  Greece people who were ill would go and sleep?  Their dreams were the beginning of the healing process.  
        • Mindfulness Meditation. Meditation falls under the same category as yoga…which means that…Yes. Ok. Fine. I’ll try it with 100% commitment.
        • Intellectual. This, to me, means reading, learning and growing my brain as much as I possibly can (about everything, including FBC).
      • Spiritual:
        • I am to ask myself the following questions:
          • What is most meaningful in my life?
          • What connects me most deeply?
          • What makes me feel most awake and alive (aside from Bergdorf Goodman, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera)?
        • These are great, great questions.  One thing I know for sure is that every one of these questions is answered for me when I hike.  I am the most connect, awake and alive.  Everything has meaning on a mountain. I swear that I’ll drag an IV pole up the mountain if that’s what it takes to stay on the trails!  Below are photos from this morning’s hike. Get it?  (By the way, I have no idea why this font is so much bigger than the rest of the post.  Still learning…)

Santa Ynez Mountains

Overlooking the Channel from the Trail

Wildflowers on the Trail. Yes, I stop and smell them all!

Buzz, my constant companion. For a kid from Detroit, he’s catching on very quickly!

It occurred to me that each of the components of the “Palliative Care Wellness Program” is something that I could have done without FBC.  So, I’m finding a SL in  being strongly encouraged to move in the direction of fueling my “Right-Inner-Circle” because, I’m hoping, the skills that I develop through this Wellness Program will stay with me long after FBC is Gone. Gone. gone.

#2. I also had an Echocardiogram, which is a heart ultrasound. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause temporary damage to the muscles of the heart, which may change the rhythm of the heartbeat. In most people this will go back to normal after the treatment has ended.

An echocardiogram (sometimes called an ECHO) is a heart test procedure that uses a probe (called a transducer) to send high frequency sound waves into your chest. These sound waves bounce (or, echo) off of your heart. A computer uses the “echo” sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart. This procedure is painless. SL (silver lining).  Another SL is that my heart is NORMAL.

This is a sample image of what what a heart looks like on an echocardiogram:

#3. The morning of chemotherapy, I will have my blood drawn to ensure that my blood counts are within the safe range to deliver the chemotherapy.  If they are not in a safe range, treatment may be delayed.  Let’s hope they are so we can get this FBC-ship moving to its next port.

So, I have three days in which I am going to enjoy my family, friends and Christmas (remember, we celebrate ALL holidays!)!

Wishing you all a day filled with SL’s!

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  2. diane says

    I find the question of palliative care very interesting and plan on looking into it further!
    My thoughts are with you this weekend and of course on Mon.
    You'll do great, you've done the work, have your team together…now its just making it through. You. Can. Do. This.
    xo Diane