Neulasta is a drug that helps your body make white blood cells after receiving chemotherapy. It is a commonly used drug and is sometimes needed due to chemo or prolonged use of chemo. Now if you hear me say this word you probably would think I'm talking about the sleeping med. This is because I really don't see how their names are different. (My mom said she took LUNESTA)
I was at chemo on Thursday when I was told I needed to get the nasty shot again because my blood counts dipped to low again. My anxiety spiked but I knew there was no getting out of it. I know what to expect and I'm not looking forward to it! Today after chemo, I will get a somewhat painless shot device put on my arm and then the waiting game begins. At first, after I had my first shot (right before we left for Florida in January), I thought, oh nice -- NO side effects. Yaaaaaaaaa, hmmmmmm boy I was wrong!
My hip was starting to fail, but I knew bone pain was a side effect. Most people would rest, but I was getting to that Macy's in City Place. We get there, I'm struggling. I try on bathing suits while getting Hulk punches more and more. Finally we picked a bathing suit, checked out and tried to walk back to the car -- which, of course, we lost. I'm starting to cry because for some reason my Avengers weren't coming to my aid. It's remarkable how you can be almost collapsing and no one says anything.
That night I cried in pain for hours and hours but it was not going to stop me from visiting our friend Steve in Naples. We took Alligator Alley to get there, which brings you from one side of Florida to the other. I of course focused on being in Florida, oh how nice, and not taking a deep breath in hopes I wouldn't get a back spasm. My sour face continued for about three days, which is better than if it lasted four or seven days. I called it my sour face because I noticed whenever I had a mild spasm I looked like I was eating sour patch kids. Other times I just tried to hide it. I think I did well. While we were out with everyone I felt safe because my friend brought four nurses, so I couldn't have been in better company.
Well, I could go on and on about my marvelous time in Florida, but mostly I'm giving you my prequel for when my pain starts to kick this weekend after my latest shot
Happy Birthday Martin!
On Sunday my husband turned 31! We always make birthdays or even random weekends fun! Originally, we were going to take a road trip down south but my surgery (which was originally scheduled for Jan 30, 2017) got canceled right when it was about to begin and rescheduled for Feb. 10. That threw off our plans. Instead, we decided to go to Foxwoods. Since my birthday is Jan. 19 and his is Feb. 19, usually one of our birthday celebrations ends up being at Foxwoods Casino, either because we want to, or it's very cold and snowy. If you haven't been to Foxwoods Casino it’s like an indoor city. They have everything you might possibly need under one roof.
Since on my birthday we had gone to see my dad and visit other friends in Florida, we weren’t too bummed that we didn’t make it anywhere too far away for Martin's birthday. It's always hard to plan my mini getaways or what I like to call 'my cancer vacations' because so many aspects come into play. Before now I never even thought about travel insurance, but now it's a necessity for anything we wish to do! When Feb. 18 came, I woke up and felt like I wanted to puke for more than half the day. I so desperately wanted to crawl back in bed and turn on netflix but, like many other days, life and time do not communicate with cancer, they do not speak lol! Since I love Martin, and creating new memories is crucial, I got up and prepared myself for Martin’s birthday at Foxwoods.
I used to be the life of the party! I loved going dancing (I still do) but it's very different now. Going to crowded places becomes my real life battlefield, planning on how to avoid people from bumping into me! My hip gets weak after a prolonged period of standing. Then my chest still hurts and boy it would suck if someone bumped into me. Dancing is a challenge but I was definitely dancing in my imagination! I am usually secretly tired and it's a constant struggle to continue to remind myself to hold on and love each moment. My biggest change, though, is that I used to LOVE to drink my glass of wine or a vodka soda. I bartended for 7 years and now I can’t drink. Between chemo and my liver, which is covered in metastases, it's just not a good idea anymore. Now water is my new best friend.
Over-all, our night was a hit! My husband and I had a great time. I got to see people I haven’t seen in awhile and I got to celebrate another birthday with my husband. Feb. 19 was his actual birthday and you would have assumed I was hungover, but the night before was so physically tiring I barely wanted to move. People remind me often that I am still healing and I need to relax or take it easy. I’m very bad at this, very. When I regained some of my mobility after my hip almost broke, I grew a new love for life and having the ability to get around. So I am driven to be as active as I can because I know that one day I won’t be able to.
Me before Martin's birthday celebrations...
I would like to introduce you to my "hot mess" phase of breast cancer lol...
What would hurt more the liver biopsy or the reconstruction? Neither one is the answer but the reconstruction feels similar to my double mastectomy. Like every time I move it feels like a snow blower is cutting into my chest. I'm also sick to my stomach or its all the pain meds and I basically feel like crap. And I'm two days away from chemo, which will make all this feel much worse.
Its times like these during my cancer journey your thankful for your support team (or I would be stuck helplessly in bed talking to myself). I don't want to imagine the idea of ever doing this alone.
Today is my final reconstruction surgery & an another liver biopsy. As I wrote “final” hesitantly because surgeries just like chemo can be life long reoccurring tasks with metastatic breast cancer. This surgery has started off bitter sweet. In defense of the doctors they truly tried to schedule and plan a double surgery to make it less of a burden to me. But then again most everything with cancer doesn't go as planned because everyone's journey is so different so we are all stormy unpredictable disasters at times.
Let's get down and personal. Every time I approach something like this I think, should I just stare at Martin incase it's the last time? Did I update my will? I really hope my celebration of life is huge! I'm tired... I hope he knows I love him... augh my hip might be fractured again it hurts to move... maybe practicing Zumba yesterday for an upcoming fundraiser wasn't the best move! Oh hello collar bone, why are you acting up again? I'm hot! Brrrr I'm cold. Am I sick? Can I handle getting sick? I hate chemo but I can't wait to go back Tuesday. Ok all of above just flowed through my head in less than 2 mins waiting to head into pre-op at 6:00 am this cold morning. But I'm a firm believer of the power of thought so immediately I say "It may not be true for some, but it is true for me. I always prosper no matter where I am, or whatever is going on."-- Louise Hays
My first liver biopsy luckily happened when I was in the hospital last year and I'm lucky again for them to accommodate me here again. At the hospital they can at least help me manage my pain but their reason is because I'm metastatic; I'm a little bit unreliable. I love being one of a kind 😏. I'm curious (in a nervous way) what will hurt more my liver; which I know is extremely painful or my final breast reconstruction. My friend had her "final" breast reconstruction last year and she swears it was one of the easier surgeries and she now has to undergo another surgery for it. But everyone handles everything different. I do at times get jealous of others who go through treatments that end. I would love to get surgery, recover and be done. But that is not my case or the case of many of us living with metastatic breast cancer.
Just like a ride at 6 flags, here goes nothing!
**written after coming off anesthesia
Quick update to what I was originally curious about, which procedure would hurt more. Reconstruction hands done is extremely painful and keeping me awake! The doctor warned it would be painful if I needed sutures and I did end up with them. So the winner of which one is more painful is "drumroll" lol reconstruction.
With all the awareness that is out there and how common breast cancer is, most people have no clue what Metastatic Breast Cancer is! At least once a week I meet someone who has never heard of Metastatic Breast Cancer. People hear of woman dying from breast cancer but usually you see the emphasis on “survivors”. People think that breast cancer is a scary phase of someones life, which it is but you will ultimately overcome it. And boy do I wish that was my case.
Most people who talk to me say, “You will beat this” or “How much longer do you have in treatment” or someone who was once close to me said, “well you look healthy so you must be”.
Now to defend everyone.
Almost everyone (except one person I have encountered) truly do not mean to be insensitive. Its just that breast cancer awareness focuses on prevention and lower stages like stages 0-3. You hear stories of from survivors that they had a lumpectomy or a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and hormones. All of this is exactly what I believed too! All of which I thought would possibly be in my future. I thought the same thing. I too have survivor friends and that’s what I witnessed. I really believed that maybe all I needed was a double mastectomy where they chop off my boobs and I’ll be fine. Who doesn’t want fake boobs!?!
This is where awareness has failed many of us! Many awareness champions don’t explain that 30% of survivors will still become metastatic “stage 4” at some point, some woman like me are DeNovo which means they have always been stage 4 since their diagnosis and why & how is breast cancer deadly.
Let’s see if I can make it simple. Stages 0-3 means the cancer has not left the breast. Which means you will live, you get to do some or all of the steps I listed above and you become a survivor. (Sorry survivors if I made your struggle sound easy. No one’s journey no matter what stage it is is easy).
Stage 4 “metastatic” means your breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of your body. When it spreads it becomes much harder to control and can ultimately become deadly. And it also means that at some point you WILL die from this damn thing called breast cancer, or an infection or from treatment related side effects. Well actually it really just means you have a much higher risk of dying from it, I could still die from getting into a car accident, plane crash or choking like everyone else. But medically i’m grouped into the terminally ill classification because there is not a cure.
When I first learned of metastatic breast cancer, I was told to compare it to diabetes. They are in no way similar. The only thing that is similar is that you will be in constant treatment for the rest of your life trying to keep your disease stable. What is “stable”? Stable means your tumors are not growing. And if you’re really lucky you can see them shrink and in some cases go NED (No Evidence of Disease) which is everyone’s goal.
Long story straight is that instead of battling chemo for something like 6 weeks, i’ll be on chemo possibly indefinitely which was really hard to process. Or another type of treatment with tons of side effects if my chemo fails which will be for another blog post!
***I am not a expert and is my way of breaking it down when I tell people about metastatic breast cancer
Larissa Podermanski-- Metastatic BC Thriver