Chemo 10/12

Last chemo of 2011!

I started off the afternoon with a routine visit with Dr. Semien.  She asked how I was tolerating chemo and whether I was suffering from any tingling or numbness (neuropathy) in my fingers or toes (thankfully, no).  While doing a breast exam, she noticed the sore looking ends of my abdominal incision and their proximity to the likely culprit:  my jeans.  She suggested wearing dresses to prevent irritation.  (Hmmm, since I own maybe one or two winter dresses, this is practically a prescription from my oncologist for clothes shopping, isn’t it?  Talbots, Gap, Nordstrom Rack, here I come.).

She also looked at my right underarm in the general vicinity of lymph node removal during the mastectomy.  I have been feeling a small amount of soreness there; thankfully, she didn’t palpate any lumps, so I’m guessing the discomfort is due to a slight change in my backstroke.

Upon noticing the red rash all over my face and neck, Dr. Semien asked whether I’d like to be seen by a dermatologist.  I assumed that she meant writing out a referral for one.  I hemmed and hawed until I realized she meant I could be seen by one right then.  She left the examination room for about 5 minutes and sure enough returned with a board certified dermatologist!  He looked at my face briefly, I told him I’d had problems with eczema since childhood, and he surmised that I was suffering from a really bad case of eczema, perhaps brought on by the chemo, perhaps not.  He said the area I had assumed was prematurely aging was in fact lichenification, a thickened area of skin which can develop after lengthy periods of irritation.  The dermatologist reassured me that it wasn’t permanent (hurray!) and prescribed a mild topical cortisone cream to apply until the eczema clears up.

After finishing up with Dr. Semien and the dermatologist, I headed down a short hall into the adjoining infusion clinic.  Despite my champion sized veins, the conscientious but unlucky nurse stuck me twice with no success.  The needles are fairly small so they only sting a little when going in and, as usual, I distracted myself as much as possible by reading or drinking. When it was obvious the 2nd poke had missed its mark, I silently swallowed a groan and consoled the nurse who I could tell felt much worse than I did.  Upon the latter failure, she immediately recused herself and flagged down another nurse who got me on the first try.  (If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen. — Caddie Woodlawn)

Thankfully, the remainder of the appointment was uneventful.  It was time to set up my last two Taxol-Herceptin appointments in January and the first Herceptin only appointment the following week (which in future would be repeated just once every 3 weeks).  To my utter delight and surprise, I learned that once I finish the Taxol, I will no longer need weekly blood tests.  Furthermore, the Herceptin only appointments will take only one hour vs. 3-4 hours for Taxol-Herceptin (not to mention the additional 4 hours afterwards of Cold Cap therapy).  I will no longer need Cold Caps, mouth icing, electric blankets, dry ice, or cumbersome coolers. Freedom!

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