Tuesday, 18 July 2017

'Recharged' and back on the chemo ward

In  light of my last blog post on my fatigue I thought it was best to give you all a bit of a general health update. 

I recently saw my oncologist to discuss my ongoing side effects due to my past chemotherapy and Herceptin treatments and my on-going hormone treatment.

My fatigue and general aches and pains are not improving – unfortunately there is no magic pill for this. My oncologist thinks this is due to the chemotherapy and reminded me it can take two years to get out of my system. She also thought it could also be my Zoladex injections causing the pain. We discussed the possibility of using different hormone therapy to limit my fatigue and pains but we  both decided that  because Zoladex means there is less  chance of reoccurrence for me I'm going to stick with it – and also who doesn't love a bit of on-going pain!

My oncologist suggested complimentary therapies such as aromatherapy, Reiki etc to help me with the fatigue, aches and pains. I think this is what is suggested when the oncologist has run out of medical options.

I'm happy to give it a go though. I recently had an Oncology massage and that was great. We agreed I would ask at the Cancer Support Yorkshire centre and at The Haven to see what they can offer me and see if this helps before my next appointment. 

We also discussed different bone drug options. I currently take Risedronate (a type of bisphosphonate) once a week to protect my bones from the strong hormone therapy, which is known to cause bone loss. We decided that I'm going to switch drugs to an infusion of Zoledronic acid. This is stronger and has shown, in recent studies, that it not only protects the bones but can also prevent secondaries in the bones.

I'm recharged.

Is ‘recharged’ the opposite of ‘discharged’? No. Probably not. I’m readmitted. I prefer ‘recharged’ though. Feel like I could do with a little recharging after all this cancer treatment.

At Christmas I wrote a blog post about being discharged from Oncology and how it was the best Christmas present ever blah blah blah.

Well after my recent visit to Oncology my Oncologist decided that due to my ongoing side effects of my past and current treatment she wanted me to be readmitted so that I see her on a regular basis approximately every three months.

Some people might think this is a massive step back in my recovery. I did at first too. But now I think I actually prefer this. My GP is a ‘jack of all trades’ so to speak. He doesn’t specialise in cancer. I’m not saying he doesn’t know much about it. (Although he did try to move me to a different drug recently to ‘save his time’ as he could get a nurse to administer it rather than him - but that’s another story) He just doesn’t know as much as my oncologist…or me…probably. 

So I actually feel quite happy that I’m back seeing the lovely Dr R on a more regular basis.

What I wasn’t so happy about was heading back to the chemo ward for the Zoledronic acid infusion me and Dr R had discussed me changing to. 

Why oh why does it HAVE to be on that ward.

So a couple of weeks ago my mum and I  headed to Bradford Royal Infirmary  to have my first infusion of Zoledronic acid. Going forward I am going to have this every six months. As I said above this is to help keep my bones strong as the hormone treatment I currently take is so strong it damages my bones, which can lead to fractures. I already have Osteopenia because of this. New research recently came out that suggested that Zoledronic acid not only helps protect your bones but can also help to prevent secondaries in your bones. The bones are one of the places that secondaries are most likely to occur after breast cancer so this drug has two major benefits for me. I feel I would be a fool not to give it a try.

As with all drugs it has some pretty frightening side effects. The most common side effects are flu-like symptoms and increased pain – I already have lots of pain anyway so I guess that doesn’t matter. 

One of the most severe side effects is Jaw Osteonecrosis. This is where the Zoledronic  acid causes the tissues in the jaw bone to die. Yup you read that right. That’s not going to be pretty is it. Thankfully I’m told that’s quite rare. So I’m going to the dentist every three months and other than that just not thinking about it AT ALL. 

I had to have a blood test before my Zoledronic acid infusion so that meant a two hour wait at the hospital waiting for my bloods to come back. 

I hadn’t seen the BRI since the refurb and my god isn’t it looking phenom! I definitely got cancer at the wrong time hey?! There’s a Costa, M&S food and a nice little outdoor bit. Thankfully the day I was there it was a really hot day so after my blood test mum and I  had a little picnic outside and we both got quite the tan ;-) Who needs a holiday when you can just head over for an infusion at the BRI.

When it was time to go over to the chemo ward I was very nervous. There’s just something about the chemo ward that fills me with fear. I think I always thought that if I went back to the chemo ward it would mean I’d have secondary cancer and well that just doesn’t bare thinking about. 

There was a bit of a wait and then it was my turn to get plugged up to the machine. Literally there was only one chemo nurse left who I recognised from last time. I’ll call her Nurse S. Nurse S is quite young and we always got on really well so it was nice to see a friendly face to put me at ease a little.

I’d had a cannula the day before for a minor operation so my already piss poor veins on my chemo arm where pretty sore and damaged but thankfully Nurse S managed to get the cannula in and got the infusion going. Ever so slightly stingy on the way in – but I think that’s just because my veins are so damaged. I had a juice and a chat with one of the lovely volunteers who I recognised from last time I was there and 20 minutes later the Zoledronic acid had been administered and I was good to go. 


^ Look at that hand. Look how Brown! #BRIvacay

I’m not going to say I felt particularly well after it because that would be lying. I felt pretty awful for probably a good 4 or 5 days. Very, very achy and like I had a bad case of the flu. I thought I’d got used to all this fatigue and aches and pains but I definitely felt I’d had quite a knock. 

But hey it’s only every six months so I’m going to keep going with it for now. I also heard  the first one is the worst one so hopefully next time it won’t be as bad. 

Still got that tan as well! ;-) Silver linings people!! X




** You can find out more information regarding Zoledronic acid here: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/treating/supportive-and-other-treatments/bisphosphonates/zoledronic-acid.html

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