Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fighting Breast Cancer, Chemo Treatments

Hi everyone, another month is almost over and I have been somewhat“under the weather”. The reactions I have been having to my Chemo treatments have been getting worse with each treatment. The Adriamycin (Big Mean Red) and Cytoxan have made my body reject my body. I have had 3 treatments so far with only 1 left. I hope I can make it through that last one.

My 2nd treatment caused blisters, mouth sores, dizziness, and my hair finally fell out the day before my 3rd treatment. I had a strange reaction to either the Chemo or the Neulasta. My neck/jaw swelled out like a grapefruit. It did not swell inside my throat, only on the outside. It felt as if my jaw joint locked up and right below my ear became terribly swollen. It started only on the right side. The swelling started going down after I took an antihistamine. After sleeping on the right side that night the swelling went to the left side but was not as pronounced. It was 2 days before the swelling completely went down. If anyone else has ever felt this please let me know because my oncologist has never heard of anything like it before. Since that time I have had less severe reactions like it about 4 times. Sometime my jaws just ache but I get no swelling.

My 3rd treatment was going fairly well until the 8th day after Chemo. I was standing in my kitchen (not doing anything strenuous) when I felt like someone stabbed me in the chest, kicked me in the back and pain ran up the right side of my neck. I have never experienced anything like that before and I will be honest and say it scared the heck out of both my husband and myself. Since it was after office hours, we went to the Emergency Room. If you are a Chemo patient and go to the ER, wear a mask and protect yourself as best you can because, as much as they may try, the ER staff can not protect you from being exposed to other sick people in the emergency room. After a EKG and blood test we were told that I had not had a heart attack. But they wanted to do a CT Scan to rule out a Pulmonary or Cardiac Embolism (blood clot). Now that really scared us. I had the CT Scan and thankfully it came out negative. At this point I was told I would be admitted for the evening so that they could do a stress test the next morning. (talk about being stressed). I have a mediport. I was told it was for the Chemo treatments and also that it would make for easier access drawing blood if I went in the hospital. Well, I might think it would be easier for them but in the future I might want them to take the blood out of my arm as every time they took it from the port they had to take 1 tube of waste to clear before taking the tubes they needed for the test and then another tube of waste after the blood for the test (which I did not really understand why they had to take one after they drew the blood). So after having had blood drawn 6 different times in a 12 hour period, I turned out to be anemic(low red count). Can't understand why! My oncologist ordered a shot to help bring up my red blood count and ordered more blood work. My white counts were just starting to come up, from 500 on Monday, 1100 Tuesday, to 2000 on Wendsday.

After I had my Stress Test on Wendsday morning , 8am, my admitting Dr. said I would be able to go home after the Cardiologist read it and the test was negative. So I waited and waited, with nurses telling me they had seen the Cardiologist in the hospital but sometime he does not read all his test until later in the day. So I waited and waited. Nurses telling me the test was in his box. So I waited and waited. If it was so important that I stay in the hospital over night to have this test, why had it not been read. Now I have no insurance and if this test was not an emergency, could it have been done on an outpatient basis. All day we have been asking about going home as I was told I would be and did not want to keep accumulating charges for just sitting and waiting. At 10:00pm the nurses said they guessed it would be the next day before the stress test would be read. Well, I guess it was not an emergency!! At this point, talk about getting STRESSED!!!, that was me. I was MAD!!! Finally at midnight a nurse came on duty that could tell something needed to be done to get me released. She got the Stress test read, it was negative and I was allowed to go home. They never did find out what caused the pain and symptoms I went to the ER for.
I slept for 6 hours straight and felt so much better when I woke up. Since then I have had hot flashes, rashes, my jaw hurting, and aches all over. Tomorrow I go to the oncologist to have my blood counts run and hopefully they will be high enough so that I can have my last “Big Mean Red” Chemo treatment on Wendsday and stay on schedule. I want to be done with “Big Mean

The Chemo nurse, Lisa, has been great and informs me that the next set of chemo treatments, 12 weekly treatments of Toxal, will not be as hard on my system as these first 4 treatments. It can affect my blood counts, heart, and my hair won't start growing back until I finish but this means I may get a little of my hair back by Christmas.
I have to keep looking to the positive when I can find it.
Please let me know if you have ever had or heard of a reaction like the swelling in the jaws or the chest/back/neck pain and feel free to comment.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Cancer Chemo Side Effects, Doctor Bills

Hi Everybody, a new entry to my Cancer Blog has been overdue. Sorry, I have been a little under the weather. My white blood counts came up to above 4,000 on Fri. July 27th which allowed me to stay on schedule with my Chemotherapy treatments. I went in on July 30th for another “Big Mean Red” treatment. It took a little longer to get my treatment this time, around 3 hours. I seem to be having more side effects this time. Some nausea (not a lot due to the 5 medications to prevent it), dizziness, heart palpitations, higher blood pressures, and my hair is coming out. Today, as we speak little pieces of hair are just floating off my head. My hair is about 2-3 inches long so it is easy to see. I did not think it would make much difference but I wish it would hurry and come out so I did not have to watch it come out little by little. I am worried about my white blood count dropping since I am already so tired. I go back on Monday to have my CBC check.

Now, my gripe of the week. Doctor bills, Doctor bills, Doctor bills. I do not understand how the doctors, hospitals, assorted doctors of who know what service, pharmaceutical companies expect a private pay person to come anywhere close to being able to cover some of the ridicules charges that get added to bills. $20.35 for a bottle of Chloresptic throat spray when on the bottle the price is listed as $2.85 with insurance and $1.84 without insurance. I arranged payment for the anesthesiologist for my surgery and now I get a bill for a CRNA Anesthesia Service that I knew nothing about. If he is a Nurse Assistant then why is he charging the same as the Doctor. How do you dispute these charges? You sign anything they want you to, because your life is at stake and in their hands. You are at their mercy or lack of mercy. Sometimes it feels so helpless and frustrating.

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