Thursday, May 17, 2012

Operation fuck kancer: Chemo begins

Getting prepped for chemo round one.
So yesterday I got the big middle digit.

My cancer was sent to California a couple weeks ago for Oncoltype DX testing, which basically tests how likely it is your cancer is going to return. This was all part of a study that I was offered to take part in because tests showed my cancer was estrogen-receptor positive, and it was present in less than three lymph nodes (two, for the record).

Anyway, the test revealed a couple things:

  1. My cancer is not estrogen-receptor positive. 
  2. My cancer is pretty fucking aggressive, enough that when I saw the score (45 out of 100), I said, "Fuck!" to which my oncologist replied, "Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought." If my cancer was estrogen positive, my score would have needed to be 25 or less to continue in the study, so mine is well above that bar.

The positive

The good thing is now I know what I'm dealing with. Plus I won't be given estrogen-blocking drugs which would be completely useless for me, not to mention a burden on my very basic extended health benefits (which will probably be depleted by the time I'm done the drugs that are supposed to help me through chemo).

Because my surgeon diligently removed all visible signs of my cancer, chemo is my insurance that the microscopic cells that could have been missed in all parts of my body will be annihilated. It will cut the risk of my cancer recurring in half, to about 20-25%. So that's a 75-80% chance it will not come back (glass 3/4-4/5 full)!

So, as I said to my oncologist, "Chemo me." 

The ugly, aka fear

Chemo brings with it a lot of fear. Fear of looking like I have cancer, even though technically I don't (at least not any that modern technology can see). And this is because of one of the many, many side effects I have been told about by my oncologist, the nurse at today's chemo teaching session, and my nurse at the chemo unit. 

The side effects are plentiful, and terrible. Actually, even though it will make me look sick, I'd rather lose my hair than experience vomiting, mouth sores, increased risk of infection, potential heart damage, and the list goes on. 

I'll actually be nipping the hair thing in the bud by visiting my hairdresser for a shave. She's one of the first people I called after yesterday's craptactular news. My middle digit right back at the situation.

Why I might not answer the phone

It likely didn't help that the woman next to me in the treatment room told me about her terrible side effects. She basically got them all, plus one weird foot-pain one that only 5% of people get. 

I was wondering if I should tell her I didn't want to talk about it when she said, "But you're a lot younger than me. So you're stronger, so you might not have these problems." I get that she was venting, but man. Here's hoping she's right.

So if you're my friend in the offline world, and I don't answer the phone, it's because I really don't want to talk about it right now. In particular, I don't want to talk about side effects, the chances I'm going to die before my kid is out of kindergarten, and all that heavy stuff. Right now, going there serves no purpose to me. Writing about it, on the other hand, is a bit easier.


  1. Thinking of you Lori. Yes this is crap (in case you needed another opinion). I applaud the proactive head-shaving, very warrior-like, and encourage you to wear some war paint too. Thanks sharing with such honesty.

    1. Thanks, Kelly. The hairdresser is a friend of Tracey's and a beautiful cancer warrior. I'd considered seeing whether it actually started going out, but with the mixture of drugs I'm on, it's inevitable. She told me to call her when it was time, and said from talking to other women who have been there (she didn't do chemo), she feels like the proactive approach is the best. Hmm, the war paint gives me an idea...George and I are going to do a series of photos and that could be one of them.

  2. Hey Lori - I'm sad to hear the news that you can't partake in the study. This is pooh.

    I think you're attitude is incredible. You are going to beat this, and you're going to beat it well. You are one of the bravest, most mature women I've ever met...which means that you will not only succeed, but succeed with GRACE and POISE during this battle.

    Stay strong. If you want to power walk around Lost Lagoon next week, or need a friendly face at your next treatment, I'm just a phone call away...and if you see my number on your phone, it will only be to ask you if you want to go out for cupcake or a walk or a random neighbourhood cat pat.

    No talk of the treatment, side effects, and the rest.


  3. It is pooh! Yes, George just got his work schedule so there may be potential for me needing visitors during some of my treatments. We figured out that one session is just long enough to play a game of cribbage.

    I just find it really hard the few days after a ton of appointments or a treatment to talk about it all. It's too exhausting. Then I feel bad because I know people just want to know I'm okay. It's all a gigantic mind-fuck.

    1. Oh, and I'm allowed max 2 visitors at a time, in case anyone is interested!

    2. Please! That's what they say...but I'm sure that you can cram at least 5 or 6 humans in there at a time. :-)

  4. I look forward to your Mrs Potato Head angry eyebrow collection.

    1. Oh yes, I'll be working on that! I'm thinking I could rent myself out for people going to contentious meetings. Bring the angry-eyebrowed cancer lady. Because nobody messes with her!

  5. Lori,
    This goes without saying: you're one of the strongest people I have ever met. A warrior without doubt. I know it won't always be easy, fight off those fuckin' demons, and embrace the positive energy and love generated from your multitude of friends and loving family.

    1. Thanks Carrie - the energy and love is a great thing. Weird how it takes something like this for someone to truly appreciate it.