Chemo – getting sicker to get better

So in order to get really better, to chase down any of those icky cancer cells that may be lurking in my body looking for another place to take hold, I have to get a lot sicker so that in the end I’ll be better. So – deep breath – on May 3 I’ll start chemo. (This next week I’ll have to go get a port installed, which is a minor surgery. It’ll save my veins, but still, yikes.)

The chemo for my invasive cancer is AC ± T – Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) with cyclophosphamide (brand name: Cytoxan), and then Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel). The drugs sound terrible, with potentially awful side effects, but I have to tell you this: my naturopath was glad that I decided to do it. She sees too many cases of cancer coming back, and that’s even more miserable.

Chemo treatment looks like this: every two weeks for four cycles, I’ll get Adriamycin w/ Cytoxan. After that’s done, every two weeks also for four cycles, I’ll get Taxol. I’ll sit in an infusion room on Thursday afternoons, and on Friday for the first 4 times (I think) I’ll get a shot called neulasta, to boost my white blood cell count. I may feel amped up because of the accompanying steroids, but then the neulasta shot will likely lay me flat. So Thursdays may be ok if the nausea is kept to a minimum, and Fridays will be slow, and Saturdays may be a pajama & movie day. If things go well, I’ll be back to work by Monday or Tuesday, albeit slowly, and by May 10 will be feeling better we hope, and then May 17 it’ll start all over again.

I’m told the A/C combo will cause me to lose my hair, so by May 13 or so I’ll be bald. When I first heard this, I burst into tears. Understandably so. And then the next day the lightbulb turned on: “Wait a minute, I won’t have to buy shampoo! Or conditioner. Or blow dry my hair! Woohoo!”

By the time I turn 40 in February of 2008, my hair will be a few inches long, and likely curly. In the meantime, I’ll wear a lot of hats and scarves and may even put on a wig now and then.

I was feeling pretty freaked out about all of this until I went to the Young Survivors Coalition meeting last night, and met 12 strong and beautiful women in various stages of breast cancer treatment, and they all rocked. Most were in their mid 30s. Super bright, accomplished go-getters who in some cases had had to really advocate hard for themselves in the face of docs who had dismissed lumps. Even bald, they were still incredibly gorgeous. With really good taste in hats and scarves!

So, if you have super-cute hats or scarves lurking around, send them my way. Just remember that I have a big head — LOL, of course you all knew that. 😉 I don’t like things scratchy or itchy, so soft is good. Cotton is good, washable is good. In terms of colors, think summer (greens, browns, apricot, light blues), things that go with linen. The treatments will last 16 weeks: May, June, July and the beginning of August. In September my hair will start to grow back.

For anyone who is sad or freaked out by chemo – I was too until I met these incredible women last night who’ve already gone through this and are doing great. Also, because we had my tumor tested by Rational Therapeutics, we know that the A/C & T combo is one that my cancer is sensitive to. This WILL help me get better – and avoid the cancer cells ending up in my liver, lungs or bones, which would be really really terrible. I’m really lucky this cancer was caught early, when it was just in the breast and one lymph node.

The stats from adjuvantonline, as I understand them, given that my cancer was stage 2 (early), grade 1 (or 2, depending on how you read the path report), ER/PR+, her 2 neu -, IDC, etc. are – and hey wait a minute, stats can be scary; remember that this isn’t me, these are just stats and mine will be better, ok? big hug -:

without any therapy at all, a 17% mortality rate; with therapy (chemo & hormonal therapy), 6%;

without any therapy at all, a 36% relapse rate (meaning the cancer shows up in liver, lung or bones, or if you’re lucky, breast); with therapy, 10%.

That’s with the #s run interpreting the grade of the tumor as grade 2. With grade 1, the stats are better. And my personal stats will be even better, because of the Rational Therapeutics sensitivity testing – the above stats are for women who may or may not have been responsive to the A/C + T chemo, and we know that I will be responsive to it. Plus, the adjuvant online #s don’t include radiation at all, and I may go for radiation as well, though that remains to be seen.

Anyways, when I got the news on Thursday I stomped around and had my own personal grumpfest on Friday as well, and then I’ve gotten progressively cheerier since. It’s only 4 months! 4 beautiful months here in Portland, and my friend Mariana will be here for two of them, so that’s great.

And hey, anyone who wants to come visit and take care of me, you are more than welcome!! Come take me to chemo and watch movies with me while I recover.

The dates when I will need care and want company are:

#1 May 3 -5

#2 May 17 – 19

#3 May 31 – June 2

#4 June 14 – 16

#5 June 28 – 30

#6 July 5 – 7

#7 July 19 – 20

#8 Aug 2 – 4



Filed under breast cancer, chemo, hair loss, support

4 responses to “Chemo – getting sicker to get better

  1. Sam

    Hey Babe,
    You know that if I lived there I’d be with you like a shot. I will be watching your progress and looking forward to photos of you looking glamourous in summer hats and scarves.
    Lots of love

  2. Amanda,

    I had no idea! I am so sorry but in great Amanda fashion, you sound as if you are handling the big “C” with strength, humor and gutso. You go get’em girl.

    My prayers will be with you as you experience Chemo. If I had some pretty scarfs to send you, I would. I couldn’t help but think of Haley V. when you mentioned no hair and scarfs.

    Prayers, and postive thoughts!

    Laurie, Ashley’s mom on C.L.A.S.S.

  3. Jen


    May 3rd, huh? It is a fabulous day. That is Meghan’s 3rd birthday. So how about looking at 5/3 like it is your rebirthday…a day to bring alive normal cells inside of you and kick any roaming cancer cells out. Meghan had to fight her way to stay alive from May 3rd until she was released from the hospital at the end July. Just an idea for you to mull over, but know that we’ll be thinking of you from May 3rd on out.

    Also, I have several friends with Alpha-1 who are adults. Most of them have ports for receiveing their infusions of Alpha-1 (through blood products). I haven’t met an Alpha yet who doesn’t love, love, love their port.

    Thanks for sharing your journey here. I turn 35 this year, and plan to ask my doc for the old “slammo” as my dear old mom calls it. hehehe

    Jen, mom of Grace & Meghan

  4. Pingback: This is how we live « Imagine Bright Futures II

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