My Chemo Buddy

My favorite chemo buddy, Gem, accompanied me to my Herceptin infusion on Friday.

We also brought along a horse (of course), and some coloring materials.

I made several attempts at taking a picture of us together where I didn’t look stoned or have my eyes closed

no luck.

but this picture just cracks me up – what WAS she looking at?  And my chins could be used for counting lessons.

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We piled string cheese, cookies, apple juice and magazines together and had a picnic right there on the bed.  If you have to get chemo, and hopefully you don’t, a picnic in the middle of the bed is not a bad way to spend the time. (Also, don’t try to take your kid to chemo till you’ve had several rounds of chemo and know what you’re getting in to and how much your child can handle. SCCA, where I get my treatment, provides individual rooms for patients rather than bunching them all into on big room.)

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About the Herceptin: If you are confused because several months ago I triumphantly proclaimed that I was done with chemotherapy, that’s understandable.  Technically I am done with chemo. Herceptin is actually a biological agent, and (thank goodness) doesn’t have the debilitating side effects of regular chemotherapy. But I still call it chemo, because it’s easier than describing the difference. It’s administered the same way and by the same people as the chemo treatments..

The type of cancer that I have is HER2+, which is an extremely aggressive cancer with a high rate of recurrence.  The one good thing about HER2+ cancer is the development of the drug Herceptin, which is able to specifically target the HER2+ flagged cancer cells, meaning there’s no wholesale assault on the body. Herceptin does not leave me nauseous, or fatigued, or cause pain like the other forms of chemo.

The big downside to Herceptin is that it is hard on the heart, so hard that I have to have a MUGA scan every 3 months to measure my heart functions.  I just recently re-started the Herceptin after having to take a break because of reduced heart functions.  The work of the medical oncologist seems to me as much art as science –  a delicate balance combined with trial and error. It’s really amazing what they do.

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