Yesterday was September 9, 2020. It marks the first day of chemotherapy for the second time. As it turns out, September 9th was the ONE year anniversary of my first chemotherapy infusion, my chemoversery! If you don’t believe me, scroll on
back to that fateful post from September 9, 2019. That was the day that I first met the dreaded red devil and received my first infusion.
Now, I have to pause and take a deep breath. Never in a million years did I think I would have a recurrence of cancer in such a short time. I expected to be in the midst of planning the final stages of my breast reconstruction – you know – the one where the doc finally makes me look like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model. Instead, I am back on the chemo train. It is like groundhog day, but with lopsided boobs and short brown hair.
I’m ok with the brown hair. Heck, it’s hair and it’s growing and it’s mine. I’m actually surprised that I don’t have more gray than I do. Don’t fret, it is only a matter of time before I magically lighten it to blonde. And the lopsided boob situation, well that really is all it really is – lopsided boobs. At this point, it is the least of my worries. I mean, how bad is it when I haven’t worn a bra in 15 months?!?! (I know, contain your jealousy). That’s pretty darn good! The silver lining to endless Covid Zoom meetings is that no one pays attention below your face.
So, as Jamie and I embarked on Round 2 of chemo, it was a bit of a different experience. It began on Tuesday the 8th. Jamie and I had to be at the Mayo Clinic for an echocardiogram. Cancer drugs are so good at staving off cancer that they sometimes destroy a little muscle along the way. And, since our very own beating hearts are muscles, they need to document a baseline and measure the effects.
Afterwards, we met with the the infusion nurse to understand the side effects these new cancer fighting drugs would have on my body. We also learned that my chemo cocktail of three drugs has not been fully approved by my insurance company. My doctor had to write an appeal, and that is in the works. We are hopeful this will be resolved shortly. We know that 2 out of the 3 are approved, but I need all three together to work its magic on brain mets.
Yesterday (September 9th), Jamie and I had to return for a second day at the Mayo Clinic. It involved blood work (1 stick only – I’m so winning!!), a doctor’s visit, and then off to the infusion center to begin my “once every three weeks” visit to have the Herceptin injected. It’s not really Herceptin, I mean it is, but it’s not. Herceptin is given through an IV infusion. But in 2019, a new formulation hit the market: Hylecta. This version of Herceptin (Hylecta) is given subcutaneously.
FDA approves new formulation of Herceptin for subcutaneous use. On February 28, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved trastuzumab and hyaluronidase-oysk injection,for subcutaneous use (Herceptin Hylecta, Genentech Inc.).
So instead of using a PORT to have drugs administered, it was a shot…in my thigh. It was a little more involved yesterday as it was my first time receiving this new drug. First, they gave me Benadryl and Tylenol, observed me for 30 minutes, then slowly gave me the shot over 5 minutes (it’s a slow push), and then observed me for another 30 minutes. This was all in precaution of an allergic reaction. It was truly an uneventful event. Jamie managed to bring out his laptop and work for a bit. Going forward, it will be a much faster visit.
As far as side effects, we hope these are fleeting with the Hylecta. I had the usual sore leg, which is totally manageable. I went to bed early but awoke around 1AM with a terrible bout of insomnia. I couldn’t get comfortable. Through the night, I either had shivering chills or a raging hot flash. I finally fell asleep around 5am. We are very hopeful that it was only because it was “injection” day and that I am getting used to a new drug. Other than being tired from not sleeping, I have felt good all day.
I must digress on the Mayo Clinic. My only experience of an infusion room is at Atlanta Cancer Care. This Infusion Suite consisted of private rooms with a large screen TV and a comfy couch where your loved ones could relax. I don’t know how many private rooms they have, but I was in Room 42, and there were many after my section. If you must have cancer and are required to receive infusions, I highly recommend the Mayo Clinic. It was plush! My chair even had an automatic massage and heated seats.
Since I am straying off topic, I can’t help but share. It was late in the afternoon when we were waiting to be called back for my injection. It was probably 5:30 or so. Most infusion and radiology centers have the traditional “cancer” bell for patients to ring on their last visit. It is a very momentous accomplishment. As it turns out, this very sweet lady, surrounded by her family, proudly rang that bell. Everyone around clapped exuberantly and loudly. Jamie and I joined in the celebration.
When the clapping had finished, I couldn’t help myself. I looked at Jamie and said, “wow, I’ve rang that bell. I rang that bell 9 months ago, when I thought it was the end of my chemo. I thought it was my time to celebrate.” Oh, the irony of it all.
The truth is, I am celebrating. I am celebrating every minute and every day that I have left on this earth. Every snuggle and warm embrace is a celebration. It is a celebration to be alive!