Breast Cancer Blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Today Sue and I along with Gregg and Cheryl attended a chemo class at the Coborn Cancer Center in St. Cloud where Sue will be having her chemotherapy. The class is designed to answer general questions about chemotherapy and cancer, how the chemotherapy treatments are given, how to manage the side effects, how to eat right to feel better, and how to share your feelings about the cancer with others. They gave us a packet of information to take home to read. The information was general in nature because there are different types of chemotherapy treatments that depend on the type and severity of the cancer. We did get some of our specific questions answered, such as questions about wigs, the blood issue, fingernails, and how many people can be in the treatment room with the patient during the procedure.

We also learned that if there is any type of allergic reaction to the drugs, it will happen during the treatment. We don't have to worry about that happening after we leave for home. She may experience some of the side effects at home, but they have drugs to counter those. They are available 24 hours, 7 days a week for us to call on the phone if the drugs do not help with the side effects. They said they have many options in treating the side effects, so we are to speak up when something doesn't feel right.

After the class, Sue had an appointment to see the plastic surgeon for an after surgery follow up visit. We were disappointed to learn that her incisions are not healing as well as we thought. Everyone kept saying things were looking good, but the doctor today said the edge of the skin next to the incisions was dead, leaving small gaps that would take six to eight weeks for new skin to grow and heal. He was concerned because she cannot start chemotherapy until the incisions heal, and he didn't know how soon the Oncologist wanted her to start with chemotherapy. The incisions have to heal first because chemotherapy compromises the immune system, making her more vulnerable to infection.

The solution is she needs to have a skin graft over each incision. They take a small shaving of skin from her upper thigh and graft it over the gaps, which should heal in about a week. We have another appointment set up for next Wednesday, and then a tentative appointment set up for next Friday for the actual procedure. It will be done on an outpatient basis, but it is another surgery that Sue has to go through. Obviously she is unhappy about that news. If everything goes well and the grafts heal properly, she would be ready to start chemo probably by the second week of November.

After visiting with the plastic surgeon, we went back to the cancer center to meet with the nurse who is coordinating the clinical trial study. Sue decided she would like to participate. The clinical trial is designed to test the new drug's effectiveness in adjuvant therapy and does not replace any of the standard treatments. Sue will still be treated for her cancer the same way she would be treated without being on the study. The only negative to the study is it will take longer at her chemotherapy sessions because it is one more drug that has to be administered. The positive is that she has a 50% chance she will be receiving the new drug (as opposed to the placebo), and if the drug does turn out to be beneficial in treating her type of cancer, she will receive that benefit. The nurse went over all the information with us one more time, and then had Sue sign the consent forms. Information about the clinical trial can be found at this government website.

There is a time limit for Sue to start her chemo. If the skin graft takes too long to heal, it is possible that she would be disqualified from participating in the clinical trial. However, that is the last thing we are concerned about. Her treatments take priority over participating in the clinical trial.

The nurse also answered questions about having a port or a pic line for administering the chemo. Sue has decided she would like to have a port put in so that she doesn't have to be stuck by a needle each time she goes in for her treatments. The port will be another outpatient surgery that she will have to do prior to the start of chemo.

Even with today's setback, Sue is still positive. We are very thankful for all the love, support, and prayers we have received from friends and family. We are blessed to have such a wonderful support group helping us through these difficult times.

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