A birthday & plans for chemo

Four years ago today, I was in Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida. At 12:48 PM, I gave birth to Joey. It was quite a day. Joey weighed 10 pounds, 9 ounces and was the biggest newborn baby I’d ever seen. Today, exactly four years after he was born, I was in the hospital again — this time at Shands in Gainesville, Florida. It was also quite a day.

Today I learned that I will begin chemotherapy in about one week. I have been prepared for this step in my breast cancer recovery but I was still secretly hoping a doctor would come along and tell me that I don’t actually need this treatment. But I do. And soon it will begin. First I need to get a chest X-ray. This will indicate whether or not there is any spread of cancer to my chest. Chances are good that nothing has spread but it will be done anyway. Then I need to have tests done on my heart for a baseline reading. One of my chemotherapy drugs can damage the heart muscle so this will allow for comparison as I undergo treatment. Then I will get a port, or central line, surgically inserted into my chest. This is how the drugs will enter my body each time I go for treatment.

My treatment will include three drugs — Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxotere. I will go for “infusion” four times, every two weeks for eight weeks. Initially, I was told I would go every three weeks but this is a new protocol which speeds up the process (the other would take 12 weeks) and will allow me to get radiation sooner, once the chemo ends. But it’s more aggressive (with just two weeks to recover between treatments) so if I cannot tolerate it, I will switch to every three weeks. Each treatment will take about four hours (each drug takes a certain amount of time to enter the body) and I can read, eat, listen to music, or watch TV during the process. I will sit in a room with other patients who are also receiving chemo.

Prior to the start of chemo, I will meet with an oncology nurse who will prepare for what to expect with chemo. Side effects vary with each person. I may be tired and will be prone to infection. Nausea and vomiting can occur but there are drugs to prevent these side effects. The only pretty certain side effect is that I will lose my hair. People have recommended that I shave my head once I notice my hair falling out — it can be traumatic to watch it fall out in clumps — so I think I may have Joey shave it for me. He always wants to help me cut his daddy’s hair and I never let him. I really don’t want to lose my hair and I think Joey can help me bounce back from this experience. He has a very simple approach to life right now. When I was wimpering and whining about pulling off my bandages after surgery, he said, “Pull it off — you’re not going to die, mommy!”

Speaking of death, I do not think I will die from this cancer. Besides the statistics which are on my side (I have an 85% chance of survival), I really believe I will be fine in the end. I feel positive and confident and really only worry about how the treatments will affect me. I’m not good at giving up my routine. I want my family to function like it always has, and I may have to give a little. That makes me anxious. But I plan to take one day at a time.

I also plan to keep reading and talking to others who can share cancer experiences. I plan to look into complementary therapies (such as diet, exercise, natural remedies, relaxation) and I plan to keep writing.

Mostly, I plan to enjoy my new four-year-old and his little brother — and my family and friends and all that is good in my life!

Jacki Donaldson