The Stacey Report

July 12, 2006: Chemo Treatment #5

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on July 12, 2006

So, don’t get me wrong. The Chemo Cafe is a lovely place, delightful ambiance, great service. But eight hours is a little too long to spend anywhere except the bed, and yep, you guessed it, that’s how long Stacey was there.

Actually, the entire treatment sucked up around 20 hours, because she had to start the pre-meds the night before. The main course of this treatment was Taxol, a very nasty but helpful antitumor drug, which requires two doses of steroids, one the night before and one in the morning. The steroids come in 4 mg pills, and you have to take 20mg per dose, so that’s five pills. Question: why do they not come in 20 mg pills? Answer: we do not know.

The Cafe treatments start with intravenous Benadryl, which they give you because some people have an allergic reaction to Taxol (incredible, I know, but true). The Benadryl comes in three or four little bags. (Question: Why does it not come in one big bag? Answer: we do not know.) Then on to the Taxol, which takes three hours (drip, drip, drip) then the Herceptin, which takes one hour (drip). The chemical name for Herceptin, by the way, is Trastuzumab, which would be a great name for a band. Or an intergalactic bad guy.

Getting more Herceptin is a good thing: this is the drug that TFDB started Stacey with before the chemo proper. She reacted very well to it, which is to say that the tumor shrank and the swelling went down and she wasn’t deathly ill. So why hasn’t she been getting it all along? According to Stacey: “Apparently, they don’t give the Herceptin with the Adriamycin because it causes cardio badstuffiness, which we don’t want, but it’s ok to give with the Taxol.” Rock on! After the chemo, she’ll also be getting more Tamoxifen, which is also given for hormone-positive cancers. The idea is that hormones tell these cancers to keep growing,and they listen extra hard because they have all these handy receptor sites all over them. The drugs look like hormones, so they fit into the receptor sites, but they don’t act like hormones: instead of telling the tumor “Grow, grow!” they say “Shut up! Roll over! Die!” which is a much better thing to say.

Herceptin is a weekly treatment, weekly meaning forever. This is not a huge price to pay for forever, especially as it seems to be having a wonderful effect on Stacey’s complexion! Hey, life hands you lemons…

Notes from the checkup with TFDB: Stacey’s blood pressure is up a bit, probably an effect of the steroids. Nothing to worry about at this point: TFDJ (The Fabulous Dr. Johnson, Stacey’s primary care doc) has always gone by Stacey’s “normal” as opposed to the world’s “normal,” which indicates just how fabulous she is.

Also, Dr. Browne checked Stacey’s liver and found no swelling, which is nice, and of course all of the blood tests have shown totally normal liver function. No Neulasta this time (so that’s minus one needle stick) because most women don’t have trouble with their white blood cell count with this batch of drugs, and Stacey’s has been high right along, so they will just be tracking it and see how it goes.

So far, Stacey has been feeling ok after this treatment. She felt a little queasy right after; when I saw her yesterday, she was weary but working on the laptop her company gave her. A few days ago she decided to shave her remaining hair, and is pretty happy she did. The little bit that was left kept crawling out from under her head wraps and bothering her, and that’s just adding insult to injury, no? Also, after the initial nausea-induced weight loss, she did figure out what she could eat without gacking, and has gained back what she lost. A mixed blessing, possibly, but this is probably not the greatest time to get skinny.

We’ve had a report from friend and co-worker Denise (also getting treatment right now) that her first Taxol treatment was unevenful, but later she started getting muscle aches and tingling in her fingertips and… uh… toetips? Anyway, we shall have to wait and see. In the meantime, her hip continues to improve, and her gait is less fancy (less side-to-side required.)

One bit of completely random but interesting information: when I was looking up the drug names on Wikipedia, I noticed that on the Taxol page, the link for Monroe E. Wall showed up on my screen in red type instead of blue. For the non-Internet-addicted among us, I will explain that a red link is a “visited” link, which means that at some point in the past I visited the page for Monroe E. Wall. Now, I’m sure that Monroe was a fine gentleman, and I’m grateful that he helped to isolate the compound for Taxol, but I am mystified as to why I should have visited the page about him…

Ok, that’s not actually very interesting. Forget I mentioned it.

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