Today I started my new chemo. Twelve weeks of taxol, derived from some sort of yew plant. Rather than sacrifice yews now though, I think they create taxol through stem cells or something (guess it’s ok if it’s plant stem cells, of course).

Anyway, taxol is one of the most beneficial drugs against metastatic breast and other cancers. Not that I really think I have any metastases. (Note to self, remember the correct spelling of that word). The idea is, however that this will seek out and kill any potential metastases. Like a met-seeking-missile. I’ve really been watching too much NCIS, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace and etc. But it’s still not a war, and I’m not a survivor (read previous posts if you don’t get this).

Back to the chemo… I’ve had a tough week. My cells bottomed out (this is a good thing, I am assured), leaving me susceptible to infection(not a good thing), so we had to deal with that. One of the side effects of low counts is that I’m just tired and with that tiredness comes depression and lethargy. Of course when I’ve just on chemo I have a prednisone head buzz. And the anti-nausea drugs make you constipated. Lots and lots and lots of different side effects, each annoying in their own way. However, each is predictable and relatively short-lived. And there are lots of strategies for minimizing side effects – starting with when you receive chemotherapy itself.

For the taxol, I’m getting what’s called “dose-dense”, and that means that every week I go in for an infusion. Exposure rather than the magnitude of the dose is most important.The major mside effects of taxol are an allergic reaction to the drug itself, and neuropathy (pain in fingers and toes). For the neuropathy I have vitamin b6, and for the allergic reaction, prior to the taxol infusion, I receive an infusion of prednisone, an anti-nausea drug and two different antihistamines. Then the taxol. Today it was fine… we just have to wait and see for each infusion. The prednisone taper is shorter too… just 3 days so far, and I have to take anti-nausea drugs for two days. For twelve weeks, I will go each week for this treatment – I’ve just finished the first, so 11 more to go.

The anithistamines make you sleepy. I feel asleep during the infusion – and made an embarassing snore, waking myself up. Then I came home and went straight to bed this afternoon, forgetting a call I scheduled. But I’m going to bed soon here….

I talked to my oncologist for a while today about how i feel. This was quite helpful. I appreciate that to a fairly large extent, side effects are somewhat predictable and time – limited. I realize that they are not entirely predictable, however, and my oncologist is quite honest about that. He’s also incredibly supportive and confident but not in an arrogant way, and the nurses in the office are all very competent and caring. The idea is generally that one should live as normally as possible, but still take care to avoid tiredness and infection. But I feel like I’m in a good place and receive good care. Still, I have my ups and downs and occasionally when I look in the mirror, I’m not sure who’s looking back at me. A few ghosts to exorcise. There’s still quite a bit of anxiety bubbling forth, too.

Every day, there’s a bit of a struggle between remembering and associating with the past too strongly, fearing the future, and living in the moment. Living in the moment is what I want to do most of the time. Writing helps, so I’m glad I’m now in a writing mood…………