I am convinced that my positive attitude and approach to chemo made everything more manageable.
For people that know me, they know I don't tend to do things by halves! Cancer was no different!
There are different types of receptors in breast cancer, these are proteins that hormones or a protein called HER2 can attach to and encourage the cells to grow. You have a biopsy to test for these receptors, Most women who get breast cancer have either a oestrogen receptor-positive (ER) which is then rated 1 -8. There is also a progesterone receptor (PR), again scaled 1-8; and some breast cancers have too much of a protein (receptor) called HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) on the surface of their cells. This is called HER2-positive breast cancer, which about 25% of breast cancer patients have. So me being me, of course I had to have all three and categorised as ER8, PR8 and HER-2 positive!
Add to the mix, that I was grade III (so quite aggressive cancer) I needed a pretty intense regime of drugs. 17 rounds of intravenous drugs every three weeks to be precise.
Firstly one bag of Docetaxel, the hard core chemotherapy, to hopefully reduce the size of the tumour and tackle the ER; 1 bag of Trastuzumab for the HER-2 and 1 bag of Pertuzumab for the PR. This meant a whole day each time in hospital. I was extremely fortunate to have this treatment in a private centre where I had my own room and where the care team went over and above looking after me. It certainly made it more manageable. I also was lucky enough to have my husband join me for each of the rounds. We would always stop off at Costa on the way to get a coffee and millionaire slice! If I have caffeine and sugar, I am happy! We also then distracted ourselves with work; both working from our laptops with the odd chat and additional food consumption!
The picture you can see above, is my first round (note the Costa cup!) and I had a canula inserted into my hand. As I was due to have so many rounds for the remainder of the year, an implantable port (portacath) was inserted in my arm, which meant it was easier to pump me with drugs. See the picture to the right (left), literally hours after having it implanted and right (right) my second round of intravenous. (oh and another Costa cup!)
Generally when we think of chemotherapy, it paints a daunting and haunting picture in our minds. But I can confidently say, it is not as bad as you think. I am not
going to lie, it isn't pleasant, and I don't want to have it again, but it is absolutely manageable. It is definitely manageable if you have the right mindset, support and distractions around you. I worked throughout my treatment, as an interim MD for a video agency; Knowing I had to get to the office, manage the business and motivate the team was a great incentive. I loved it. The company and team were so supportive and thoughtful. It was another way of me showing cancer who was in charge and that I wasn't going to let it rule my life.
With chemo you need to be aware that there are certain days when you are going to feel rougher than others (usually day three to five) and that you need to be extra careful not to expose yourself to more germs and bugs as your immunity is shot on days seven to ten. To help me manage this I created a tracker in a spreadsheet with all the key dates. I also created another worksheet for all my blood trackers so I was monitoring my haemoglobins, platelets, blood count etc. Again, my way of taking control.