I can say with all certainty that 2006 was not my year. I had a miscarriage in March and in September I found out about my diagnosis. It is pretty standard that if you have breast cancer and your treatment includes chemotherapy + Tamoxifen and you are at your prime for childbearing then you should/must see a fertility doctor.
I don’t remember having another option. I just ended up in this office filling out a bunch of paperwork that truthfully I couldn’t care less about at that moment.
I got the spiel from this doctor who had nothing to do with my treatment. He was just there to offer me the hypothetical opportunity to be a mom…. In six years! No, thank you.
How could I think about being a mom when my own life was at stake?
The pathology from my tumor indicated that the type of cancer I had was estrogen receptor positive meaning that it grows in response to the hormone estrogen. Now, why would I want to inject more hormones into my body? No, thank you.
It was my personal decision not to pursue fertility treatments and to start chemotherapy ASAP. Being a mom, a healthy one, could wait.
This was my checklist of things to do prior to starting chemotherapy.
Get a port-a-cath. A port-a-cath is a small medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. In my case, this was key because my treatment was going to be a bit long.
Fill a prescription for anti-nausea medication.
Pay a visit to the dentist. This was going to help avoid mouth sores down the line.
Get a pixie haircut. I will explain this later on.
I started chemotherapy as planned on a Monday morning. I showed up bright and early to my first treatment. At MGH a nurse is appointed to you and will be your chaperone throughout your treatment. The drill is pretty much the same every time – weight check, blood work then treatment.
The first part of my treatment consisted of two chemo agents: Adriamycin and Cytoxan.
The first one is referred to as the red devil because of its bright red color and it is administered via a huge syringe right into the port. At this time the nurse is wearing what looks like an astronaut suit. She is pretty much covered from head to toe.
The second one is administered just the way an IV drip is.
My experience for this part of the treatment taught me to:
- Drink a lot of water. A lot! This is going to help you eliminate the toxins quicker.
- Take the nausea medication. I took Emend and Decadron religiously. The others, not so much. Zofran gave me a headache, so I only took it once. You may go through some trial and error to find out what you need.
- Rest a lot when you get home after your treatment, your body will thank you.
- Eat something light the evening of the treatment.
I made dramatic changes to my diet. I started eating fruits rich in antioxidants. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries were an every day, twice a day occurrence. I gave my vegetable consumption an oomph and tried to eat some animal protein other than fish to keep my iron levels decent even though I am normally a pescatarian.
This is the time when most women at 31 are thinking about starting a family and taking care of someone other than themselves. I had to do the opposite if that was even going to be a possibility. And at the time, I wasn’t sure of what the outcome would be.
I didn’t want to squander what I might learn from this experience, but first I needed to figure out “why was this happening to me?”