Aftermath – First Chemo

On Monday, October 15th, Dana and I went over to Scalped Salon and Spa in Prince Frederick to meet with Margaret the owner of Scalped.  She teaches a class called “Look Good Feel Better” through the American Cancer Society. She was very friendly and happy to help. She brought out a bag of make-up from the American Cancer Society and a little booklet of instructions.  She showed me how to apply the make-up to make me look healthy.  She also explained what I should do if I lost my eyebrows!!! Yikes! After she “fixed” my face, she looked at the wigs I had taken home the last time.  Margaret decided that the donated wigs were too big for me.  She picked out a few more to try at home. One of them was pretty blonde with bangs.  Not quite me!  I made an appointment for Friday, October 26th to have a wig fitted and to have my head shaved – because my hair was expected to fall out almost exactly 2 weeks from my first round of chemo.  Too hard to imagine at this point!!! Then we were off to lunch at Panera.  I am so blessed to have a stay-at-home sister nearby to share in all my “adventures”!!! Makes a lot things easier to bear.

The next day, I started my new job at Leisure Travel.  I showed up around 9 am to find a sign on the door saying they were closed for the day! The door was locked and I wasn’t sure what to do.  I called my director and he called the building and someone came out to let me in.  My new supervisor was out of town, so my new co-workers didn’t know I was coming.  They were very gracious to me and started to show me what types of things they did.  I started to help straightening up and refiled monthly statements.  I enjoyed having an hour lunch, but by the afternoon I was really tired.  (At my “real” job I only get 30 minutes.)  I just assumed it was because I hadn’t worked in a while.  Wednesday was my first day with customers, so I started to learn the procedures for taking payments and learning the prices of various tickets, vouchers, passes etc.  I also started to answer the phone – most of the time not knowing the answer to the customer’s questions!   All in all, the first two days at my new job were uneventful and pleasant.  I was grateful for the chance to work at a new job while undergoing treatment and my new co-workers were friendly and accepting of me.  I also went  over to my school on Wednesday afternoon.  They gave me a shirt that said, “Even Heroes Need Heroes” from the Fort Meade Fire Department and were holding a Breast Cancer Awareness event.  I was able to see some co-workers and receive some hugs and words of encouragement.  My Facebook status that day said, ” Thoughts for today…A bad hair day is still a “hair” day.  I have the most awesome family, friends and co-workers!!!  And Parenthood does an excellent job portraying what it is like to find out you have breast cancer.  Thanks for all the love, prayers and support!”

On Thursday, October 18th, I had my first blood test to check to see what my white blood count was.  First S. asked me how I felt, and I said that I had been struggling with my allergies since I had switched to Claritin instead of Zyrtec.  She asked me if I was tired and I said just a little.  Then she dropped the bombshell – my white blood count was only 1.1!  The normal range is 4.0-11.0.  Neulasta, the shot that I had on Friday was supposed to keep me from dropping that low.  I told her that I had been having trouble eating in the morning since I went back to work.  She said that I had to eat something -even just a little yogurt!  She also said that I needed to go home and rest because it was dangerous for me to be out and about while my immunity was low.  She told me to switch back to Zyrtec and to call the office immediately if I had a fever of 100.5 or higher.  I was a little shaken up by this news.  I had been hoping to go to my high school – Elizabeth Seton’s 1st Homecoming on Saturday.  It was disappointing to know I was going to miss out.  I also had to call work and tell them I wouldn’t be back til Monday. Oh well!

That night I had a slight earache – but I didn’t want to take Tylenol because I read that it can lower your WBC, as can antihistamines like Zyrtec and antibiotics.  I had a really hard time sleeping and finally gave up and took the Tylenol – after I took my temp to make sure it wasn’t 100.5 or higher.  When I got up in the morning, I called my oncologist’s office at 9 am and told the receptionist I had an earache and that my eardrum had perforated last year and I was worried.  I didn’t have a fever, but I was in pain.  She said the nurse would call me.  I waited a couple of hours and then called back.  I was afraid I didn’t give the nurse my number.  I left another message for the nurse and made sure I gave her my info.  I waited a while longer and I was starting to get a little frantic.  Finally the nurse called me and she said she would call me in a prescription for antibiotics.  I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon at 1pm and Earle was coming home from work to go with me.  I had him go get the prescription and meet me at the Dr’s office. I took my first antibiotic at 1pm and while we were talking to Dr. E. my eardrum popped!  Double Yikes!

Anyway, Dr. E. was very nice and explained the procedures for reconstruction after the bilateral mastectomy and showed us what everything looked like.  It was interesting and a little scary!  He would start the reconstruction right after the surgeon finished the mastectomy so I would only need one surgery.  He also said that I have a “very good anatomy” which made me a little happy!  Then he said he wanted to check my ear.  He was extremely worried about my Neutropenia (low white blood count).  He didn’t like the way my ear looked at all.  He had his nurse call over to my Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and arrange for her to see me right away without waiting in the waiting room.  He also gave me a mask to wear!  We headed over to the other Dr.’s office and got taken back immediately.  She looked and my ear and conferred with Dr. P. ,my oncologist.  They decided that I was on a good antibiotic, but she decided to also prescribed ear drops.  I told her that I was beginning to get a sore throat.  She looked at my throat and said it looked fine – but it was lower down than the back of my throat.  She also said that Dr. P. said to call the hospital to get a hold of her over the weekend if I needed her.  She said next time to keep calling back every half hour if I am having trouble.  Hopefully there won’t be a next time!

Earle got me a Steak Salad from Outback for dinner to get me some extra protein.  I enjoyed eating the salad but I felt like I had a lump in my throat after eating it.  I had been coughing off and on for the last week – seemed like it was being caused by post-nasal drip.  Late that night I started coughing and it caused me to be sick for the first time.  I actually felt much better after I did.  I was glad that it had been almost 11 hours since I took the first antibiotic and I had waited to take the second one!  My ear, of course, felt much better once it popped.  On Saturday, I got a phone call from Dr. E., My plastic surgeon, checking on me!!! What a nice surprise.   Saturday and Sunday, I rested, and took all my medicines and tried to eat right.  All of the sudden, I had trouble swallowing and had to be really careful about drinking citrus juices and eating things like tomatoes.  Boo!  I started to gargle with salt water.  It seemed to help some. Eating was becoming a chore. Looking forward to next week -back to work!


4 thoughts on “Aftermath – First Chemo

  1. I watch Parenthood and find myself thinking of you and Earle. I am so sorry you both are going through this. Let me know what kinds of things you like eating and I will send a dinner home with your hubby once in a while to give you both a night off from cooking. Stay strong and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  2. Hi, I know this post was a while back, but I wanted to commiserate with you a little! I had breast cancer also (I guess you already know this b/c you read my post!) and was always cheered and encouraged by the people taking care of me. It takes a special kind of person to care for a cancer patient. They are generally very nice!

    • Yes that is so true! I am having my next chemo on Thursday, but it will be at a different Infusion Center. It is brand new and next to my Oncologist’s office – but there will be all new nurses and routines…kind of sad.

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