Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Hi Everybody.

Well, I promised to tell you about the “Little Mean Red Devil”chemotherapy. But first a couple things that happened the week before I started Chemo.
I had what they call Chemo training at my ocologist offfice. Chris (the chemo nurse) answered all my questions and gave me many tips to help make the treatment go easier. One was to go ahead and cut my hair (see photo above) as it will be coming out in clumps probably about the 10th day and it might make is less traumatic if I cut it now. We made it a positive event by cutting it really short, Military style. I have never had my hair this short before and Lordy, what a difference!!

I went back into surgery and had a dual mediport installed under the skin of my left shoulder/chest area. I feel every day that a new part has been added or taken away from my body. Sometimes it feels like it is just too much!! The pain was worse than I expected and I have had problems sleeping. Right side, Mastectomy, Left side, Port. OUCH!!! and I can't sleep on my back. I have little pillows everywhere trying to help. Well, to my chemotherapy treatment!

" Little Mean Red Devil"
It comes in these great big huge horse syringes (I got 2), and if I was a horse and saw them coming at me I'd run. However, I could not run from my first chemo treatment. It was a week ago yesterday, and the young lady who gave me the treatment first started off to giving me three different nausea medications to help me take the chemo easier. This was on top of the 3 nausea medications I had to purchase before starting my chemo. The nausea medications can actually make you a little nauseous in themselves. I sit in a recliner, IV hooked up to my Mediport as Lisa orders my chemo medications. The Chemo medications come up and she says it's called the "Little Red Devil", because it's a really nasty. She gives me a couple of information sheets on the drugs I will be receiving. The name of the drug is “ADRAMYCIN” and it kills cancer cells, which is what you want it to do but, it also kills good cells, one of the side effects. Some of the side effects are: decreased white blood cell count with increased risk of infection, decreased platelet count with increased risk of bleeding, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, sores in mouth or on lips, irregular heartbeat, heart damage, and darkening of the nail beds and skin creases of hands. I was also given the chemo drug Cycloposphamide last Monday and some of the side effects are: thinned or brittle hair, darkened or thickened skin, acne (now I never had an acne problem as a teenager and I really do not want one now), mouth blistering and fatigue, cough, congestion, fever,dizziness, chills, shortness of breath, sore throat, swelling of feet and ankles, nausea and vomiting, and rash. Sounds like lots of fun doesn't it. One of the nausea medications also gave me terrible hot flashes on my face, it felt like my face was on fire.

While undergoing chemo, your Blood Counts will be checked often. Low Blood Counts are VERY serious! White blood cells, red blood cells, you platelets and your doctor will be checking all of it now. You will be very susceptible to infections, especially 7 to 10 days after the drug is given. Yesterday was my seventh day. The average white blood cell count is between 4,500 to 10,500. They don't even consider giving chemotherapy if you're below 3,000. Well, my white blood count was 600. With the White Count of 600 you are very, very susceptible to any type of infection. Which would put me in the hospital!!

It's really upsetting when you walk out of the doctor's office and the nurse gives you a prescription to take to the hospital saying at you are a chemotherapy patient. It's almost as if they're expecting you to go to the hospital. Any type of infection, any type of fever, (anything over 100.4 is considered a serious fever when you're on chemotherapy), a sore throat, a scratch mark , a bug bite, anything at all can become a major problem. You have to keep your strength up, but you're tired. You're exhausted. I cough, just from a fan blowing across my face, and coughing irritates my throat, making it sore. I have to check my temperature four to five times a day just to make sure that I'm not getting an infection. The fear of getting sicker is almost paralyzing. They give you a little face mask to wear if you go out because if someone coughs on you, you could end up in the hospital. You aren't suppose to go out in the yard (bugs, scratches, etc). Your body is holding you prisoner. Forget fast food, you won't want to take a chance. I have gotten a horrible taste that does not want to go away. Skittles candy helps. You should not touch fruit or vegetables, have someone else clean and peel them for you.

Sometimes it seems the precautions the nurses and doctors give you seem so absurd. You are not helpless. You can sometimes actually can feel pretty good. But then I turn and look into my husband's eyes and see how helpless he feels, I have to realize that if I do something stupid, I am not hurting just me, He and I are in this together and I have to do my part and not take stupid chances.

Well, my head is tingling (which the nurse says is the hair folicals being disturbed by the chemo) and I am not suppose to rub or scratch it. So I think I will take a shower and just let the water beat down on it. I will write again soon.

If your mastectomy area gets tight, I suggest the ACS booklet : Exercises After Breast Surgery. These exercises have helped me a great deal with the tightness/pain from the surgery. Be sure to check with your Doctor before starting any exercises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Under the Knife!!

Hi Everyone, Sorry it has taken so long for my next entry but I have been really busy.

To continue bringing you up to date, on June 14th I had a Mastectomy of my right breast. As a person that had been fairly healthy all her life and never had any type of major surgery before, the experience was daunting. I went into the same day surgery area at 8:00 am, got into my little gown (actually I am thankful that they had a big gown, as I am almost 6' tall and not a little girl), and waited. The nurses were wonderful as my husband and I were pretty nervous and scared about the whole thing. I was sent down to surgery about 10:00am and back to recovery by 11:45am. I was given morphine in the recovery room to help with the severe pain and it knocked me out for a while.

We had to wait for a room since the hospital was very crowded that day, and I got to my room about 5:00pm. I was surprised that it was not more painful (after that episode down in the recovery room), but I was not going to do a lot of moving to see how far I could push it! I really am not into pain! My poor husband slept on a little pull out chair bed in my room that night and I think he woke up in more pain than I did. I went home on the 15th at around 4pm. I was very pleased with the care I had gotten. I was surprised that I got to go home so soon because originally, I was told it would be a two to three day stay. However, I was glad to get home. My husband took wonderful care of me. I would be lost without him.

I would like to thank the young lady for the American Cancer Society "Reach to Recovery" program, Kay Camp, that came by to see me at the hospital. She was very helpful in answering all my husband's and my questions, bringing booklets that gave me further information on what would be going on from here. I found the information gave me answers and also questions to ask my doctors. I understand that all the "Reach for Recovery" women have been through breast cancer surgery so they know first hand what you are experiencing and you are free to ask them anything. Kay was wonderful.

On June 23rd I went back to the surgeon's office to have my surgery checked. He took out the drain. My comments on the drain are:
1. Be sure you are careful not to pull on the line. It is sutured into your skin and will hurt if you pull on it, OUCH!!!
2. The "Reach to Recovery" pack has a little sack that ties around your neck for hanging the drain at a comfortable height so you do not have to pin it to your clothes. This works pretty well but can make you neck tired.
3. Be sure to hang it low enough that you get good drainage. I was getting 75-100 cc for the first 4 days then it started tapering off to just 50 cc.
Dr. Smith took the drain out on this visit. When he pulled the tube that extended under the skin out it hurt quite a bit.(again OUCH!!!!!!!) He also took out about 2/3 of the staples. I think I was more scared of this than having the drain out because I could just imagine a big staple remover like I use in my office pinching the staples out. Fortunately, except for a little pinch on some of the staples all went well. I went home with 22 staples still in and a bandage over the tube hole.

The "Good News" that came from this office visit is the lymph nodes that were tested by pathology came back clear. They took out two lymph nodes at surgery (I forgot to mention the blue radioactive dye they shoot into your breast about an hour before surgery so they can find the sentinel nodes with a geiger counter. This also makes you pee green for a couple of days) and did a frozen test to let the surgeon know if all the nodes had to be taken out. Mine did not. This means I will be less likely to have Lymphedema (numbness in the arm, swelling, dry skin, fluid backup, problems with fingernails and more due to the circulation of the lymph fluids through the arm) problems in the future.

I AM determined to be upbeat about what we are going through. I WILL NOT let this beat me. I will fight it tooth and nail. I had an appointment with my Chemotherapy Doctor and will go into that in my next entry.

I want to thank my sister, Dedie, for coming to the hospital to sit with my husband, visit with me, and for coming to the house and visiting so he could take a nap and run errands. We have had a great time playing cards (canasta) and backgammon. We really appreciate her help during this time and always.

Please keep your well wishes coming and your prayers as they are greatly appreciated.

If you think you may have a lump and you are not sure what to do-GO TO YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. Do not hesitate even a week as it often takes some time to get into the doctors office. If they give you a hard time about seeing you, Tell them it is an EMERGENCY, that you think you have found a lump and you need it checked now!! If you still can not get in to see the doctor within a reasonable time then it is time to find a new doctor!!!!

That's it for now! Next time I'll go into my experience with the “horrors” of the “red devil” and the rest of Chemotherapy.

I hope you will check back as I update this blog with reports on My treatments, My prognosis, My feelings, Information I have learned (that hopefully can help others as well as myself), and anything else that comes "Popping" into my mind.

Any comments, information, or thoughts are welcomed.

P.S. Because we are some of the millions of Americans who could not get Health Insurance, we are asking anyone who may desire to do so to donate towards our ever increasing medical costs. Go to http://www.fyitoday.com/cancer/donate.html

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ambushed by Breast Cancer !

by Leigh Ellis

The thought that I might get Breast Cancer was not something I thought would ever happen. None of the women in my family had ever had breast cancer and I felt I was fairly healthy. I am a little overweight and should exercise more. I take my vitamins and do my breast checks ( if not every month at least every couple months).

I was working in the yard around the end of April and trimming some holly bushes when a bee flew down my shirt and bra. I thought I had been stung. I have terrible reactions to bee stings so I went inside and took an antihistamine. The right breast started itching and swelled up a little. I put some benadryle gel on the spot. Over the next couple of days the swelling started going down but I had a little lump there. I sometime react to bee stings and bug bites this way so I did not think too much about it. But it did not go away. It did not hurt but it did itch occasionally.

Around the middle of May I had to find a doctor in the area in order to get a new prescription for thyroid medicine. (I may not have mentioned we were new to the area and did not have regular doctors yet). The doctor I saw asked if I would like a referral for a GYN. I said not yet, Thank you. When I got home it made me wonder about the lump in my breast and I told my husband about it. He suggested that maybe I should have it checked. I thought about it for a couple of days and we decided to go back to the doctors office to see what they thought.

Well, to say the least, May 23rd was the start of a new battle ahead that would turn our lives upside down. The doctor immediately arranged for a mammogram and for me to see a Surgeon for a Biopsy. The surgeon did a 3 Needle Biopsy on May 30th. We got the results of the biopsy on June 6th. I had Breast Cancer !

I am trying to bring you up to date with the effect this has had on my body, mind, spirit, and psyche. Also the effect this has had on my husband, family, friends, neighbors and everyone around me. Cancer is insidious and the very word is scary as Hell! It grows and affects every part of your life. We have fought it twice with my husband's Mother and Father and lost both times. This has thrown us for a loop to say the least!

I hope you will check back as I update this blog with reports on My treatments, My prognosis, My feelings, Information I have learned (that hopefully can help others as well as myself), and anything else that comes "Popping" into my mind.

Any comments, information, or thoughts are welcomed.

P.S. Because we are some of the millions of Americans who could not get Health Insurance, we are asking anyone who may desire to do so to donate towards our ever increasing medical costs. Go to http://www.fyitoday.com/cancer/donate.html