I have been getting a lot of treatment lately. As mentioned in my last post the Kadcyla chemo failed quickly, meaning that tumors continued to grow inspite of receiving the chemo, and I have had to move forward to a new chemo. We selected Navelbine along with herceptin.
Of course, you can read up on Navelbine on sites like this one. And, you will read about common chemo side effects; hair loss, joint pain, constipation (being on chemo means you will forever be either constipated or have diarrhea), neuropathy (numbness in fingers and toes) and low blood counts.
Navelbine is a tough-ish chemo. I have only had one cycle of treatment, but this chemo isn't one that you just forget when the treatment is over. It left me very tired and suffering intensely with digestive issues. The digestive issues were among the worst I have ever had and I tried a lot of remedies.
For those of you reading this because you are facing the same troubles here are things that ended up helping me: Natural calm which can be found at Sprouts or Whole Foods, magnisium citrate was helpful for a few hours at a time and can be found at Walgreens or any drug store - it is very inexpensive and has been very helpful in the past but wasn't the best help this time, and fennel seeds for bloating and pain. The other thing it took was TIME - just time for my body to work through it, and that was aweful. Remedies that worked in the past (stool softeners, warm tea, a heating pad on my stomach while resting and beet juice) provided little relief, so I will need to be better prepared for the next treatment. I have to be better hydrated and will stocked on fiber in my diet in the days before treatment.
Another side effect was a lack of appetite, but that could be the chemo or the digestive issues. Again, I will just have to see if I can provide preventive treatment this time. My Onc Nurse mentioned that other patients have experienced more nausea after the second or third treatment, but the anti-nausea meds were adequate to control it so I will have those in hand when I go to treatment.
My plan to prepare for the next treatment is to focus on my hydration and nutrients more that I have in the past few weeks. It's amazing that radiation, a treatment with few physical marks causes such total exhaustion. It really knocks you out. Because of this I have just been getting to and from appointments lately (oh, and getting the house painted and carpets cleaned, and the fridge repaired, but I didn't do it myself). The next few days will be filled with juicing and water. I will also spend time in meditation and positive reinforcement with mantras and journaling - as my brother would say - my hippie stuff.
Additionally, I am preparing for surgery, so I should focus on getting extra protein to build up my body to heal itself. I am going to have ablation treatment on my liver. This will be a less invasive surgery requiring only one night in the hospital and a week or so to get back on my feet. I feel hopeful about this surgery and the success we will have. The surgeon explained to me that the chemo drugs used for breast cancer are less effective on the liver. It's all chemistry. I don't understand it at a micro level, but I understand the concept that some chemical compounds are going to cross over to some cell types better than others, like bone over liver.
So, I keep doing what I have done for years. I pray that the Lord will direct me to doctors who are competent. I pray for my doctors and their staff to be inspired by the best options for me. And, I pray to know when to trust them and when to let me research push me to ask more questions so I either understand better or so we select a treatment that feels right.
My approach in coping with and treating my cancer has grown in scope over the years. My first defense has always been in trusting God that He is in control. I have not always been as faithful in this as I want, but it is what I believe in and it is my foundation. Secondly, I find a medical team that I trust and feel good about. I also need to know things, so I research and education. I try to use a combination of "scientific" base websites from hospitals and cancer.org as well as reading blogs to see what other patients are experiencing. And, I take it in knowing that every cancer patient is different and so are their reactions. I have also found a lot of success with adding holistic and homepathic treatments to my traditional/western medicine. You have to use caution and be in complete communication with your whole medical team about any of the treatments you are considering. Some treatments, while naturally occurring in nature, are not a good mix with some drugs. Think on grapefruit juice, many types of medications are not effective when you also drink grapefruit juice. Also, antioxidants, when overly abundant while receiving chemo can actually have a negative impact on the effectiveness of chemo. I don't want to minimize the effectiveness of one treatment by adding another that cancels it out. I believe emotional health is a vital tool in strengthening physical health.
The body and spirit are connected - that is what gives us life. Learning to have our body work in harmony with our spirit is vital. This is why I think yoga, meditation, spiritual worship and other activities are often habits of people who are successfully managing their chronic or terminal illnesses. So, I try to be kind to myself (this can be really hard) and I try to live a Christ centered life practicing love, forgiveness and charity in everything I do. I am the recepient of more charity and giving than I could ever hope to give back - I am overwhelmed by the many offers of help with meals, housekeeping, child taxi services and more that continue to be given to me. I want so much to be giving, but have spent years receiving the help from others. All this help comes with such love and care it is a healing force in my life. Many times the love that has accompanied the service has been more powerful in healing and strengthening me than the gifts, meals etc. have been. After all, isn't service just a mode of delivering love?
Sending my love and hope for your journey--