Monday, August 24, 2015

The advantages of neoadjuvant chemo

I was chatting with a friend this morning about how I'm feeling really good right now, and I'm happy because the tumor feels a little smaller than a few days ago--and way smaller than when chemo started. I've definitely responded and made a lot of progress, which makes me happy. My doctor pointed out last time that there is a psychological advantage to doing chemo before surgery ("neoadjuvant"): you can see and feel progress. When you have chemo after, you don't get that.

When I'm on a weight loss or fitness plan and I suddenly notice a pair of pants fit that didn't before, or a top looks better on me, etc., it's rejuvenating. Dieting and training are hard, and getting that reward for your efforts really helps keep you going. Same thing with's hard to know I have to go in on Wednesday for infusion #4, knowing I'll feel like blech for a few days, especially after feeling so good the last few days. But feeling that tumor last night and realizing it's even smaller and softer? Hell yeah, let's go. Let's see how much smaller it can get this time. This will be the last of the adriamycin/cytoxin, then it's on to taxol which is much easier for many people. Plus, this is the longest part of the treatment plan, so it's nice to get it out of the way.

I resisted joining any support groups because I didn't want to hear a bunch of horror stories. I did finally join a couple, the Cancer Survivor Network and the discussion boards on, mostly so I can compare notes on side effects with a large group of people. I've gotten some good info, but of course I've gotten the horror stories, too--more so than hearing the stories of people like me who don't have it so bad. I don't know if I'm extraordinarily lucky to not have horrible side effects, or if people only post when it's bad so you don't hear as much from the lucky ones. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

So I've been reading mastectomy stories and it's got me a little scared. Not about dying or anything so dramatic, but the week or two after surgery sounds like it's absolute misery. I am not looking forward to it. Of course, that's still about three months off, but I try to think about it, and the resulting changes to my body, from time to time so I can get used to it and not be so upset when it happens. I'm trying really hard not to read about radiation or reconstruction, because that's really far off and I don't need anything else keeping me up at night.

One thing I have to figure out for surgery is how I'll sleep for the next week, because it sounds like sleeping in a bed is not a good idea/painful (maybe because of getting up and down? not sure.) Some women sleep in an easy chair, but we don't have one, nor do I really want to get one. We're going to look into some kind of wedge-type thing that can prop me up, and maybe that with pillows will work. Thoughts, anyone?

Had a really good weekend. Went out shopping and eating and played games and didn't crash, which was nice. The fatigue didn't really last any longer this time than it did for #2, which is excellent because I was expecting it to go on longer based on what I've been told. We'll see what happens this time.

One thing I learned during marathon training is that you need to fuel and hydrate your body starting a couple of days before the event for the best effect. So since I tend to slack on the protein and liquids after the fatigue is gone, I'm making sure to get back on it starting today so my body is strong and hydrated and ready to fight on Wednesday. I have my outfit all picked out and everything. Not looking forward to being sick, but I can't wait to see more progress!


  1. Happy to hear it is shrinking. I think you could do the pillows or even couch cushions if they pull off. A thrift store might have some big cushions you can use- just see if you can wash them first or put on a good clean cover over it.

  2. I have a giant foam cushion I use for lymphatic massage, should work well for 'sitting up sleep' . I will grab it tmw at work and get in touch!