Hi everyone! I’m sorry that it’s been a while. There has a been a lot of activity in the Potwin household. I start blog entries but don’t finish them, and by the time I’m ready to continue another update happens! I will separate this entry into two parts so I can update on both my fertility treatments and my upcoming radiation treatments without mixing the information together.
I started my injections last Friday. I was so nervous about my very first injection that I literally had dreams about it, practicing exactly how the doctor showed me over and over in my head (we practiced on water filled syringes). Of course it doesn’t help that I have a needle anxiety. Even though I have been poked a 1,000 times during my cancer treatments, it never gets easier. I have come across a “bad nurse” twice (she didn’t do a good job drawing my blood and it hurt like hell). My husband offered to do the IVF injections for me, but I initially wanted all the control. The first morning, I did about 10 practice swings to my belly before I just shoved it in. And it wasn’t that bad! Phew! After showing Alex how to mix the viles of hormone medicine and do the injections (just in case I need him to do), he now thinks it’s the coolest thing ever and wants to do all my injections for me. I gave in and let him do it the last few times. I guess I should let Alex have any little pleasure he get his hands on, because the side-effect label reads:
May include Abdominal fullness and discomfort, Breast tenderness, Headaches, Visual changes (temporary), Irritability and Insomnia.
I can already be an emotional basket case because of the cancer, and now this! Poor Alex, lol!
I had my first ultra sound on Thursday, the day before I started the injections. Everything looked good to go, so I was very excited. I’m so proud of my uterus! She’s been through so much and pulling through beautifully for me so far! I have second ultra sound next week and I am curious to see if my body is responding to the medicine like it should. I have high hopes, but at the same time I was told that it may fail due to my hormone levels being wacked out from chemotherapy. I would love if my husband and I could freeze our embryos, but I also understand that if it doesn’t work than that it ok, too. This is our path. If I had to guess the turnout based off of my instincts … I feel in my gut that this is going to work. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
I also want to say that I have a great team of fertility doctors at OHSU. They are so emotionally supportive, caring, professional and knowledgeable. I am so glad that they hooked me up with Fertile Hope, a LIVESTRONG foundation which paid for most of my IVF medicine. Fertile Hope provides support and funding for cancer patients who are seeking fertility treatments due to their illness. I would not have the opportunity to explore embryo freezing without them. What a total blessing. You can read more about their organization here. I knew that LIVESTRONG was a brand, but I had no idea that it actually changed people’s lives! Now whenever I see the logo I beam with pride. I feel so incredibly lucky to work with such amazing people!
Radiation Treatment – My First Consultation
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting my radiation oncologist for the first time. He was specifically recommended by my cancer oncologist who I totally respect and adore, so I was excited for my consultation. My radiation doctor is funny, warm and super super smart. He walked me through my radiation plan and drew a ton of pictures on his white board for me. He answered all one million of my questions. Radiation therapy is no joke. It’s the icing on the (cup)cake of cancer treatments, the actual thing that KILLS the cancer cells for good. Radiation therapy is extremely powerful and can potentially harm the human body, which is why cancer patients go through chemotherapy and surgery first. This way, the cancer is shrunk down to ideally a microscopic size and can receive enough radiation to kill the cancer without damaging the body. My tumor, once the size of a tennis ball, is now completely gone thanks to the chemotherapy. But we know that there must still be cancer cells there because chemotherapy cannot kill cancer.
My treatment plan will be more on the aggressive side. I didn’t know what to expect because different cancers require totally different radiation treatments. I have heard people having it just once a week or every day. Well, my plan will consist of external and internal radiation 5 days per week for six weeks. External radiation is when you receive the rays on the outside of body through the skin, which is the most common method. Since my radiation will be distributed in small amounts around my sides, front and back, I will not have any burning or peeling. But I will have dot tattoos on my mid section indicating where to point the laser beams since it has to be PERFECT every time. Prepping for radiation is actually the longest part. Internal radiation is when you receive radiation on the inside of the body. Yeah … this is will be fun. I get to be on Morphine and receive a radioactive rod up my hoo-ha for 20 minutes. Yaaay!!! Kill that cancer!
Here is how it breaks down:
• Week 1: 15-20 minutes of external radiation (2 hours spent at hospital in total for prep).
• Week 2: 15-20 minutes of external radiation.
• Week 3: 15-20 minutes of external radiation.
• Week 4: External and internal radiation.
• Week 5: External and internal radiation.
• Week 6: External and internal radiation.
I will also receive a small amount of chemotherapy medicine during radiation therapy because it makes the radiation more effective. However, the small amount of chemo is not nearly as bad as full-on chemo. My oncologist is contemplating possibly putting me through more full-on chemotherapy to kill off any surviving cancer cells that radiation therapy might have missed. We still have not decided yet.
There are short term and long term side-effects of my radiation therapy. Short term side-effects are fatigue, diarrhea (greeeeat), loss of appetite, nausea, and cramping. Long term effects … I will lose 25% of my kidneys to the radiation beams, but that’s ok. Humans can easily live off of 75% of their kidneys. I may have some scarring on my bladder, which means I might pee more often. And, of course, infertility. Nothing will be salvaged. But this also means no more periods or birth control! Yipee!! As you can imagine, the husband is accepting this silver lining pretty well.
I am having a CAT scan done this Wednesday. My radiation oncologist will use this scan to “map out” where he wants to shoot the laser beams. Then once we do egg retrieval process of IVF, we move right onto radiation. It’s very scientific! Or should I say, scien-TERRIFIC! I love science! I love you too Mother Nature, but I am definitely rooting for Team Science. Science is allowing me to kick cancer’s ass and to potentially produce children without having a functioning uterus.
On a side note, I was a little displeased to hear that my doctor does not want me to lose weight during treatment because it could throw off the mapping system he is creating. He did, however, say that a healthy diet and exercise is highly recommended to keep the body strong. This throws a wrench in my weight loss plan, but I guess this will be a good opportunity to forget about weight and just focus on being healthy. After the six weeks are over I am definitely going into Bikini Preparation mode!!!
On another side note, my hair is finally growing back! I feels like it’s growing fast, but it’s probably growing normal and just seems fast. I can actually use shampoo now and create a LATHER! My mole hair reappeared on my face and plucked that sucker out! My eye brows and eye lashes are growing very quickly. I lost only about half of those, so my lashes are a weird mix of short and long. It’s a little funky looking. And my brows have been given the ultimate second chance! I plucked and shaved them into oblivion when I was teenager, and I only started seeing a professional waxer in my twenties. I never thought I would have natural looking brows again and TA-DAAA! They are becoming full and beautiful, about to become ever brow waxer’s dream! I am very excited.
The next few weeks are going to be hectic, but I am up for the challenge. I have wonderful family and friends, and an amazing husband by my side. We laugh every day and count our blessings. Thank you for your continued love and support!