The week after round 5 is the worst yet. I think the cumulative effect of the poison has started to catch up with me. I'm so tired I just cry all the time. I don't like relaxing and don't like feeling lazy. Even though I know I'm neither relaxing nor being lazy, it's incredibly difficult for me to be so inactive. I barely exercise other than my 2 Pilates sessions per week (minus chemo week) and I sleep a lot. Boris is amazing as usual and lets me sleep in in the morning while he takes care of Miles. He usually stays at home until our nanny arrives. I should have shut my mouth about not being nauseous, because now I am. But only when I go to eat, so it could be worse. I could feel like throwing up all the time. But I don't. And I still manage to eat. But with the nausea, I want to eat like a pregnant person, not a cancer patient. Protein and vegetables are revolting. I want bread and pasta and Cheetos and Sprite (I really want Coke but not enough to drink caffeine). The nutritionist at Tower always comes to visit with me while I'm there and I tell her that I've been eating far more carbs than protein. She tells me it's fine to give into my cravings as long as I have protein with them. Proteins are must. "You just have to eat them," she insists. Ugh. And yuck.
My second day of hydration is brutal. Russell is my date (and has been for several of my hydration sessions). He's a reformed lawyer, too (that's how we met) turned talk show host/blogger (www.popsquire.com). He's perfectly content to compute for a few hours with me and not at all phased by the treatment center. We wait for an hour because all of the chairs are full. Annoying. I see Darcy who I haven't seen in a few weeks. She looks tiny and tired and has a thick wool cap on her bald head. I ask her how she's holding up. She gives the routine "I'm hanging in there" response that I give when I can't deal. I've noticed it's the most common answer that I hear the young people at Tower give. "It's really tough," she says. I know. I know. We chat for a few more minutes and then I'm told that she's about to leave and I can have her chair. I bring over my belongings but when Darcy goes to stand up she's so sick and weak that she sinks back into the chair and looks like she's about to cry. She slowly peels off her sweater and says she can't move. I leave. As I'm walking back to the waiting room I start to cry. I see Anne and she wants to know what's wrong. I tell her that I just saw Darcy. "She's going to be okay," Anne says. "I'm going to get her a snack. Please don't worry." I'm not sure how Doritos will help the situation, but there's nothing I can do. I tell Russell that sometimes I forget that I'm dealing with cancer and how sick people get from chemo. I've been so lucky. I try to get my good spot in the treatment center where I see and hear very little but when I can hear other patients describing their side effects and problems and when I see how sick they are, it's unbelievably sad and terrifying.
I'm exhausted when I get home. I play with Miles a few minutes and then have to nap. Boris comes home early because pre-cancer, I had bought tickets to see Kathy Griffin. Some friends and I go to see her every time she's here and even though I feel like shit, with Clay Aiken coming out and Britney's "comeback", I'm really looking forward to it. But when it comes time to actually get dressed and go, I'm so tired I don't know how I'm going to survive the night. Plus I'm still traumatized from seeing Darcy. I start crying to Boris that I just don't know how I can do this. I hate being so tired. He reminds me that I should sleep if I don't want to see Kathy and that I can do this. I can do anything. I go. The last few shows we've gone to we somehow end up sitting in front of drunk, white trash who are so not Kathy's demographic. They're loud and can't help but keep a running commentary of their thoughts and feelings on everything she says and are incapable of containing their alcohol in their cups. One year I turned around and asked them to be quiet and a woman with bleached, permed, trailer park hair kicked my chair and threatened me. Weird. This year though, we are surrounded by Kathy's peeps (women and gay men) and so I'm able to sleep through the entire show. It was the first time my friends saw me struggling and they repeatedly told me we should leave, but I assured them I was content to sleep and they should enjoy the show. They did.
The following week I meet with Dr. McAndrew. She's just returned from a national breast cancer conference and tells me there were numerous lectures on triple negative tumors. Though currently all of the studies involve metastatic disease, she is optimistic that those of us with triple negative cancer will soon have a preventative drug in our arsenal. I show her a study I found in a medical journal about a new drug called trastuzumab that doctors have been using in an adjuvant setting. It doesn't directly speak to triple negative cancers, but I ask her if I can take it. According to the study, it reduces recurrences and overall survival tremendously. She smiles and tells me that trastuzumab is Herceptin. Crap (and a little embarrassing, but that's part of why I love her madly because she willingly reads all the studies I bring her, doesn't belittle me for doing so, and doesn't make me feel stupid for asking if Herceptin may help a tumor that's not receptive to Herceptin).
We also spend a long time discussing the timing of my remaining treatment. I had recently spoken to the young woman Hilary Swank introduced me to (who is being treated at UCLA) and she told me that 17 weeks elapsed between her chemo regimens in part because each scan she had was ordered separately and she had to wait a few weeks for results before receiving the next scan. I am not a doctor, but thought it sounded absurd. I want to know how quickly I can have my scans and when I have them. I don't want to have unnecessary time gaps between treatments. Dr. McAndrew explains that while UCLA is an incredible facility with some of the best doctors in the field, they are primarily research doctors at a research institution and things work differently. There's a lot of bureaucracy. She assures me that I'll have all of my scans and results back within a few days. And I can have the scans during my second course of chemo so they won't impact the timing between treatments at all. It's also good news that I won't have to get the scans immediately after I deliver. I can have my 2 weeks to just be a new mom and not a cancer patient. She does say that the results from the scans coupled with the pathology from the mastectomy (scheduled for early June) will determine the timing of my radiation. If everything is clear, I may have more time between chemo and radiation which is preferable for my reconstruction. If not, I'm not sure what happens to me. I'm too scared to ask.
At the beginning of week 2 post-chemo, I start to feel much better. My energy is back and the nausea is gone (phew). Amazingly, I have no mouth sores (I'm hoping I didn't just curse myself) so all things considered, life is pretty good. When I'm not at doctors' appointments, I'm able to enjoy my time with Miles who gets more amazing every day. His vocabulary is (in my unbiased opinion as his mother) phenomenal (he has well over 60 words which I think is impressive for a 15 month old boy) and it's so much fun talking with him. He points out everything in his world so we spend hours running through the park saying "bird, tree, bark, bow wow, swing, dirt, shovel," and naming his various body parts. He has also fallen in love with his friend Abby and so we spend a lot of time pining away for her. He woke up this weekend at 620am, said "Abby, Abby, Abby," then went back to bed. Each night before we go to sleep, Boris and I tell each other how much we love the other and then we talk about how much we worship Miles. I share with Boris all of the hilarious things he did that day. Much to Boris' horror, my most recent story involved Miles' love of Britney. We were listening to Womanizer in the car and as soon as it ended, I hear Miles say "more." I play the song again. It ended and Miles says "more, more." I ask him if we can listen to the next song but no....he likes Womanizer and apparently wants to listen to it over and over. A man after my own heart. Boris, Miles and I were in the car the next day listening to the song and each time it ended, Miles asked for more and Boris looked suicidal. Good times. Miles now says "Britney" and a huge grin spreads across his little face each time he hears the chorus.