Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend pre-chemo prep

As word gets out, I started to hear from a lot of friends and former athletes (much overlap in that Venn diagram) which is truly heartwarming. I'm going to have Kate Woll (katewoll AT gmail dot com) manage any meals and rides if it gets to that only because there have been so many, many kind offers. As my oncologist said with a smile, take advantage of it while you can, though she was probably referring to the warm blankets and massage offerings during chemo. Who am I to argue with that kind of logic?

This weekend was great and I feel like a got a huge amount of personal things done as I look forward to chemo part-1 tomorrow. Number one involved rowing. It was, as always, butterflies in the stomach, semi-nausea induced by watching my freshman race. Facing Delaware was nerve wracking after last year's near-drubbing, so it was very gratifying to see the 1F come out on top by open water. The whole squad decided last week to wear pink socks as their gesture of support - remarkably, it didn't make me cry even though it is the kind of thing that is right up my alley for the waterworks to begin. Regardless, it was moving. I also picked up my anti-nausea drugs for days 2-4 following chemo. The rest of Saturday was pretty quiet - yay!

On Sunday, the taper for the Boston Marathon officially began! I ran 12.5 miles on the treadmill (too much rain, wind, and cold for me outside) with my friend Amelia who is also training for it. I'll find out in a couple weeks if my oncologist will let me run, her worries involve me getting to run down and dehydrated which is really bad for the kidneys. Normally, she said she wouldn't allow it, but after meeting me said she would see how I tolerate the first round of chemo and possibly reconsider. Since I'm not running for time, maybe I can Jedi mind trick her into it.

To close out the weekend, I went to a USRowing referee clinic. It's always fun to catch up with my friends who also sport the light blue shirts and navy blazers, and keep the races running. And, somehow, I managed to squeeze in a quick haircut to test out a pixie-style do. I figured, literally, what is there to lose? Seemed like the best way to test out a new hairstyle given that in a few weeks, it will fall out anyway. The front is a little shorter than I would have wanted, but now I know and can get it right when it comes back.

Friday, March 28, 2014


OK. Here I go. With the arrival of my very own sharps box for my Neulasta self-injections, this all just got very real. If you're reading this, you probably know me and know that I am nothing if not irreverent, not to mention, unrelated, but equally important, tough as nails. Therefore, dark humor is bound to make an appearance. Again, if you know me, you will not be surprised, hence the title of my blog. It's based on a comment one of my relatives made when I first shared this news. Seemed like a good way to.

Long story short. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma on Friday, March 14, 2014. After a routine mammogram three days earlier turned up a suspicious lump, which was confirmed on an ultrasound, the whirlwind of visits and exams began. Another mammogram and ultrasound the next day at MGH after meeting with my breast surgeon, followed on Thursday by a biopsy. Beyond that, a breast MRI on Saturday, March 15, revealed that the lump in my right breast is indeed 3cm.  That's right - 4 days of tests in a 5 day period, not because it was dire, but because they could. I was glad I didn't have to wait long for answers!

Long story long. The pathology report revealed it is estrogen and progesterone sensitive (ER/PR), but not HER2.  This is good as HER2 sensitivity is more aggressive.  The cells are grade 2 which means they don't look totally out of control and actually resemble the cells that are supposed to be there. This is not a Stage. The lymph nodes look good based on physical exam and ultrasound, but I won't know for sure until the two sentinel nodes are removed and checked. There is no history of cancer of any kind in my immediate family, and a small lesion (7mm) that showed up on the March 15 MRI turned out to be benign based on a breast MRI biopsy yesterday, March 27.

Here is how things played out, and this is mostly so I can keep track. The bottom line is I feel extremely fortunate to be in Boston and for the amazing medical care that is available to me, not to mention the wonderfully supportive friends I have and community I belong to.

March 11 - mammogram and ultrasound, meet with PCP
March 12 - meet with surgeon at MGH, mammogram and ultrasound
March 13 - biopsy via ultrasound
March 14 - no tests, but the phone call confirming suspicious finding to be IDC in right breast
March 15 - breast MRI
March 20 - meet my cancer team
March 26 - breast MRI biopsy, learn about chemo session
March 27 - lesion in left breast benign
March 31 - chemo begins
April 1 - Neulasta self- injection (yikes!)

On Monday, I'll begin a 16 week course of chemotherapy with a treatment every 14 days. It's called dose dense, in the parlance.  For 8 weeks, I will be on an Adriamycin Cytoxan combination. Adriamycin will turn my pee red and works on destroying cancer cells and other fast growing cells. Cytoxan blocks cells from making DNA and stops the cells from growing and dividing. It will also be the likely culprit in terms of causing my hair to fall out.  Oh, well.  I was glad my high school and college biology allowed me to understand mostly how this all works.  Who knew I'd ever be referring to mitosis given my line of work. For the last 8 weeks, same protocol, but I'll be getting Taxol, which according to my paperwork, stops cancer cells from growing and dividing. I like the second line even better, "This causes the cancer cells to die."

The next step in the plan will be a lumpectomy followed by 6 1/2 weeks of radiation (5 days a week, about 20').

That's it for now. Our racing season begins tomorrow and I am a little anxious and nervous for my team as usual, but mostly excited for what they've been training for since September to finally be underway. I feel remarkably similar about Monday for myself minus the prep since September, of course.