Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oncologist Appointment

“Let's take the good times as they go, and I'll meet you further on up the road...”Bruce Springsteen (Happy 61st Birthday Bruce!)

Today I had an appointment with the oncologist. I saw the physician's assistant, Desiree. I really like her and I find her to be very thorough and she always answers my questions. They drew blood, did a physical exam and then she met me if the office to discuss things.

We discussed the bone and muscle pain. I told her that I have been having this for some time and that it is particularly bad in my right hip. She said that it is unlikely for the cancer to recur while it is actively being treated but that she still wanted me to have xrays of my hip and lower back. She said I could go right down to the radiology department after my appointment and have the xrays just after my appointment.

We discussed "chemo brain" and my loss of cognition since the chemo. She said this is really common. I asked her why this occurs when the chemo does not cross the blood-brain barrier. She said she was not sure. I have this and it can be really annoying. I have trouble with word retrieval. I have trouble with names. My work partner Mike says I can have a conversation with him about a project we are working on and then have the same entire conversation with him later with no recollection of the first one. Strange for me, but certainly annoying to others.

Desiree said some people have it really bad. They get lost. Some are unable to work. I guess I am lucky because mine is not that profound. This phenomenon occurs with a lot of chemotherapy, but is particularly common with breast cancer patients. My stepmother Betty, also a breast cancer survivor who had chemo, said she had this too. She said hers lasted awhile, but now eleven years later she feels it has resolved. That is nice to know.

It has been six months since I finished the chemo but I am still getting the herceptin. My blood counts are normal. My tumor markers (blood) are normal. They have never been elevated since I started treatment. I still have neuropathy to my hands and feet. I still have facial twitching although it has gotten substantially better. I still have the chemo induced menopause. They are going to do blood work on my next visit to see if they think that is permanent. I still have extreme fatigue. I still have muscle, joint and bone pain. I still have hair!!!!!! I did lose some around the hairline. I didn't even notice it was gone until it started coming back. It is about an inch long on the edges. It is coming in white. They told me it would come in white if I lost it. I can dye it soon.

When I started all of this I thought I would bang out the chemo and move on. I figured I might be sick during the chemo but it didn't occur to me that there would be such lingering effects. Desiree said the drugs are all cleared from my system but they leave lasting damage. She said it is not unusual to have fatigue and other symptoms for 18 months after finishing the herceptin. I must admit it is somewhat disheartening.

I went down after my appointment and had my xrays. I will not find out the results for a few days.

I am of for the next three days. The weather is supposed to be nice and I am hoping to do some fun things with Julianna. Tomorrow we are going to JC Penny for pictures. I haven't had any professional pictures taken of Julianna since Easter. We might go to the beach or the playground too.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement!!!!

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