Red Devil Enters the Ring

For the past four months I have been 🎶 wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’, plannin’ and dreamin’🎵 that my cancer would be in full retreat by the completion of this first treatment phase. So, I was devastated to learn that I had experienced only “a response” to the often taxing 13-week chemotherapy regimen. The ultrasound showed that some of the masses and lymph nodes had shrunk, but not by much. Of course, “limited” is not the response description any cancer patient wants or expects after months of harsh, weekly doses of chemotherapy and an immunotherapy drug that has reportedly produced “phenomenal” results in others. Diagnostic testing results, (an MRI with contrast and ultrasound), were delivered to me by my surgeon, Dr. Teshome, at our recent follow-up appointment. As I sat atop the table, exposed and vulnerable, I apologized for crying. “It’s ok to cry,” said Dr. Teshome as she held my hand. “I’m just really disappointed,” I said in a soft voice, as I tried in vain to hold it together. As Dr. Teshome laid me flat on the table and began performing her physical exam, she reassured me constantly. “I don’t want you to feel discouraged,” she said. “You had a response. That’s what matters. What we don’t want to see is a complete lack of response, or metastasis.” She continued, “You still have the “AC” (Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide) treatment to get through, then we’ll take another look,” she said. “And, the true picture of how well you responded to chemotherapy can only be determined by the pathology report after your AC treatment and mastectomy.”

Since completion of the first regimen, and my recent progress report, AC treatment had come to symbolize for me a “last chance.” As the first round had produced only “a response” and not a “phenomenal response,” the advent of AC treatment carried greater weight and gravitas, at least in my mind. What I have since learned, repeatedly, from my entire medical team is that “a response” is a good thing, indeed, and that AC chemotherapy is far from my “last chance” for recovery. Surgery and radiation will deliver the final 1-2 punch.

Stupid cancer…thinks it’s so tough…Well, it may have put up a pretty good fight in the first round, but the “Red Devil” jumped into the ring this past Thursday, and there’s a brutal beatdown ’bout to go down.

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Adriamycin, the “Red Devil”

Now 4 days post treatment, the side effects of the first “Red Devil” infusion have been only slightly worse, so far, than the prior regimen’s. I had been quite anxious about how I would respond given that I was already weakened by the first treatment phase. But, the IV anti-nausea meds, of which I was given 3 this time, have performed their job well. I transitioned to oral Zofran on day 2 post treatment, as advised, just to be safe. While I still have to force myself to eat, I am able to keep food down. I had been experiencing intermittent nausea and occasional vomiting the week prior, despite a one week break in treatment. But, oh…the fatigue. It never seems to lift. I am tired all.the.time. And, I am achy, achy all over.

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What fatigue looks like for me. 4 days post-chemo.

The severe achiness is a side-effect of the white blood count stimulator, Neulasta. Following prior infusions I had to return to the hospital for 2 consecutive days in order to receive Neupogen, a different medicine injected in the stomach for the same purpose. The Neulasta, however, was automatically delivered 27 hours post treatment via an on-body injector, saving me another trip to the hospital. Nurse Saly applied the device to my stomach, triggered the syringe, and sent me home. At 12:50 am the following morning, the device began to beep, then injected the medicine. On a scale of 1-10, the pain was between 3-4, so I’m certain it would have awakened me had I not already been awake anticipating the event.

Despite my fears and concerns, I was somewhat eager to embark on this next part of the journey. AC chemotherapy commencement meant the starting bell had sounded, the fight had resumed, and I was still on my feet. In my corner, the MD Anderson army of cancer fighters, dear family, devoted friends, and most importantly, G-d. In cancer’s corner some previously beaten and battered cells. Yes, entering the fight means I, too, will sustain some damage, but side-effects will reportedly begin to dissipate some 3-5 days post treatment. Then, I’ll have about 2 weeks to strengthen and recover before the next infusion delivers a combination of jabs and punches designed to put my opponent on the ropes. We’ll duke it out for a total of 4 rounds before I earn the privilege of ringing the victory bell. Barring any delays, my final chemotherapy treatment will occur on 12/28/17.

More diagnostic testing will follow the completion of AC treatment, along with a 4 week recovery break. Surgery is unscheduled as of yet, but is predicted to occur in late January given there are no delays.

My dear friend, Janice Gerson, whom I have known since we first met some 22 years ago while participating in RIE parent-infant-toddler classes, traveled from Los Angeles to visit me. Along with sisters, Sally Jo and Jenny, Janice accompanied me to my first AC infusion. Generally, I do not feel an inordinate need to have someone sitting with me in my infusion suite, as I’m not always up to providing good company for my companion. And, while I understand that no one expects me to “entertain” them, it can feel awkward and rude to not be somewhat interactive. I usually read, use my iPad, or watch television. And, my nurses are at my side with such regular frequency that I am never completely alone for very long. It was comforting and reassuring, however, to have these thoughtful and supportive women surrounding me for this milestone. I am truly blessed with some amazing allies.

Like Houston’s beloved Astros, I feel as if I’ve finally made it to the World Series (of treatment)…albeit a little beat up. Both of our teams need to battle it out and win the prize in 4. And, while I knew the first phase was just a start, or trial study test, I was still hoping for a shut out. Short of that, my team is still ahead at the top of the 9th, has the momentum, a tough starting line-up, and possesses formidable “closers” in AC treatment, surgery and radiation.

At least that’s the current game plan.

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Paper weight from my friend, Mimi Nagatani

 

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11 Responses to Red Devil Enters the Ring

  1. Jill jmaeff says:

    Prayers and healing sent to you. I’m going through the same treatment IBC. I fly weekly to MDANDERSON from Tulsa Ok. I’m praying and believing. May Jesus heal you by his stripes. Love hope and peace. Jill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Hi Jill! OH MY GOSH!! I think we may be destined to meet!! I was recently mistaken for you at MDACC!! You know how they call out our names at the door? Well, when the nurses’s aide tried, but could not pronounce your last name, she just called out, “Jill.” Normally they check our wristbands for our MRN # first, but this time, she just walked me straight back to the vitals room. When I sat down in the chair, she DID immediately check my armband then checked her file again, and said, “That’s not you!” I was confused until she said, “There’s another Jill here today, but her last name begins with jm and I have no idea how to pronounce it!” She went ahead and checked my vitals and put me into my infusion room, so we never crossed paths that day! Thank you for the kind words..I truly do appreciate it. And, I am sending back to you that sincere faith and belief for a complete healing…two Jills with IBC embracing one another in prayer…Pretty powerful, I’d say! I hear stories like yours all the time at MDACC..i.e., travelers who cross long distances to seek treatment here in Houston. I can’t imagine what that trip must be like on a weekly basis…If you would like to talk in person, send me an email at jflyer@roadrunner.com. We can exchange contact info there. I’d love to hear how treatment is going for you and determine if there will be an opportunity for us to actually cross paths at MDACC!

      Like

      • Jill jmaeff says:

        Hello. Jill. Yes. I️ have been praying for you I️ will email you. I️ would love to meet you. I’ll be there this Wednesday. Yes this cancer is a bitch but we will get through it and win. Blessings Jill jmaeff @ Gmail.com. That is funny that they called my name and t I️ was there in sane room

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Squires says:

    How difficult it is to keep from feeling discouraged, because you have never fought this battle before. Keep fighting and believing your caregivers will succeed in defeating this cancer. Try to stay positive.
    Love, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Yes, exactly, Linda! It’s very hard to stay positive ALL the time…I don’t think it’s even possible…at least for me. I am, however, mostly encouraged and optimistic. It is good counsel to keep believing in my caregivers. “This ain’t their first rodeo!” as it’s said in Texas! 😀♥️

      Like

  3. Ginger Hawkins Parker says:

    Matzoh ball soup is amazing and was also the only thing my Mother
    could eat through chemo. Jill you are in my prayers. You’re such an inspiration
    to me and so many others. I love reading your entries. You’re a phenomenal
    writer.
    Love and prayers!
    Ginger

    Like

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Thank you, Ginger. I appreciate your kind words…I truly do. I know, because of my own sons, how hard it must have felt watching your mother go through this. And, as a mom it can be heartbreaking to see your kids, and other loved ones, filled with so much worry and fear. I’m sorry your mom and family had to go through that. I don’t wish it on anyone! Thank goodness for matzoh ball soup!! It’s saved a lot of lives! 😉😉

      Like

  4. Julie says:

    Thinking of you my friend. Stay strong. 🌺❤️

    Like

  5. Della says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your set back. But sometimes you gotta take 1 step back before going 2 steps further. I hope and pray for you everyday. Seriously I do. And just like you’re fighting this out WE your friends are fighting it out with you. Hand to God if I lived closer I would be visiting you alll the time. And I’d bring you the 1 medicine that cures all and that’s CHICKEN SOUP 😋. Get some soup in you girl friend. Isn’t there a deli near by that serves it up? As I mentioned earlier expect a little something from me. I kinda had a small setback but, it’s been rectified. Love you and miss you. Beat this cancer and then let’s plan a vacation together.
    ❌⭕️❌⭕️❌⭕️
    All my love and prayers,
    Della

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Thank you for the prayers, my friend. Kenny and Ziggy’s Deli here in Houston makes some awesome matzoh ball soup, Della, which has been a mainstay of my diet! In fact, I ate it so much, I had to take a little break from it! Sending all my love to you and the family. I hope this finds you all healthy and happy! ❤️

      Like

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