Living with Metastasis: When Boring is Good
The thing about writing regularly about living with breast cancer metastasis, is that when the illness is well managed and one responds well to chemotherapy, the well of interesting stories can dry up pretty quickly.
My first few months post diagnosis of liver metastasis (in late 2006 and early 2007) were a real roller coaster, as my body adjusted to new medications, and as my symptoms were brought under control.
Gradually, though, the symptoms (a badly swollen abdomen due to fluid buildup, nausea, diarrhea, and lots of pain) disappeared completely. Then, in June 2007, I had my first, miraculous, clean scan.
And that one was followed by three more.
I have chemotherapy today. It will be a long day but, one that, hopefully, will hold few surprises.
At 10:00am I will have bloodwork done through my portacath, a little gadget inserted just under my collar bone that saves my poor collapsed veins (chemotherapy does this) from being poked too many times. If all is well, my white blood cells (I inject a drug to keep them high), red blood cells (we have to watch for anemia) and my liver functions will all be close to normal. I expect that my red count will be a little low but everything else will be just fine (I still hold my breath a little before I check out my liver functions).
A couple of hours later, I will hop onto a bed for treatment. Over the next few hours, vinorelbine (a chemotherapy drug) and Herceptin (a targeted therapy for those cancers that overexpress a protein called Her2) will be administered, along with a steroid, an anti-nauseant and a dose of Demerol to mitigate side effects. At some point, I will fall asleep.
When I am done, I will crawl off the bed a lot more slowly than I climbed onto it and my friend will take me home. For the next few days, I will feel like I have the flu. As my physical symptoms improve, my mood will worsen. By Friday, I will have to keep reminding myself that my rage and my sorrow are temporary.
And then Saturday will come and I will feel (more or less) like myself again.
If all goes well, things will continue like this over the next few months. Chemotherapy every four weeks. Clean scans every few months. And my echocardiograms will show that my heart still beats strongly and with regularity.
I am left with little to tell about my life as a cancer patient that is earth shatteringly new. But, as my spouse is quick to point out to me, when you have metastatic cancer of any kind, boring is very good indeed.