The Cross Cancer Institute (CCI) is Northern Alberta's cancer hospital. You can get your chemo locally, but if you have to have radiation therapy you have to come to Edmonton. Needless to say, it is a busy place. When it first opened it was referred to as the W.W.Cross, after the man who started it. I am not sure when they started to refer to it as CCI & dropped the WW, but my first experience (many years ago for a friends son), it was the WW Cross and in my tiny mind, it still is. Especially as the college I went to was CCI. Change when you are this old, is hard!
Yes, I'm getting there.
To recap a bit though.
- May 15 Mammogram
- June 5 Lumpectomy & Sentinal Node Biopsy
- July 5 Axial node surgery (lymph nodes under right arm)
July 26th, I had my first consult with my Dr. This is where I learned about the type of cancer I had and the treatment plan. I had hormone positive breast cancer, a 1.5 cm tumor was removed from the top of my right breast, they gave me a 2/3 grade rating on the severity. The sentinal node was 1+, 2.5mm, which is what determined they would take out the lymph nodes, but of the 6 nodes they took, none had any trace of cancer.
So, the plan was to be as aggressive as possible to try to make sure it doesn't come back. I was to get chemo, radiation and then have my estrogen killed. Six to nine months of treatments.
I had a muga the next day (some kind of imaging of the heart) to make sure I was fit enough to have all this abuse piled on me. Then I had appointments for classes on what to expect from chemo and what to expect after it started. I was given pamphlets and information sheets on dry mouth, eating right, soft foods, how to manage my energy and anything else they could think up. They do a very good job of making you feel comfortable there and making sure you have all the information you could possibly want.
The actual treatments didn't start until August 8th (mom's birthday), when I had my first blood test. The 9th was the first of six chemo treatments. My sister came with me for my treatments, the first one, the nurse told us all about what she was doing, that I could walk around if I felt like it, but that I couldn't leave the room. I couldn't leave the room, because if for any reason the toxic chemicals they were pumping into my veins spilled outside of the room, it would result in having to shut down the floor and evacuate and emergency services would have to come and its hazardous waste and the world as we know it would come to an end. Or something like that.
So, of course, both of us being a bit nervous (well, me anyway) and leery of the whole process, got a bit carried away and we are a sarcastic, witty pair at the best of times. But the nurse played right along with us. Talking about steel gates crashing down around us and lights & bells and action movie heroes. Well, anyway, we had a laugh. Then it got boring. It takes about four hours to pump all that crap into a body. We had each brought books and sis brought along a crossword puzzle book, which we managed to involve the woman in the bed next to mine. Four hours later, we were let go, so we went shopping. It was a bright sunny day. I now tan really easily in my face! Oops!
Well, the next day, I was okay, a bit tired, not a lot of nausea, but, didn't really eat a lot. I had to inject myself for seven days and take certain drugs at various times and durations around the chemo dates. It was about the third day after chemo, sis had gone home already, when the pain struck. Every muscle and joint in my body ached, I felt like I was 900 years old and it was an effort just to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, I had plenty of ready to eat food on hand. I love living alone, but, this is one time when it would have been nice to have had a husband. By day 5 I was in agony, then it got better, in total the body aches only lasted about 5 days. I was very lucky, I was not vomiting, I was able to eat, I didn't have much appetite, but, it could have been so much worse. I got fungal infections in my throat, so wound up with a very disgusting mouthwash. Other than that it was not a horrible experience.
I lost my hair after the first treatment, just a week or so before the second treatment. I went in to the Cross as they have volunteers in a hair salon and they shaved it off for me and lent me a wig. I had my (very bad) shave Aug 30th. Sis, eventually gave me a clean shave, but, I seem to no longer have the photo on my 'puter. Oh well, it felt much better, as the stubble that was left from the first shave, would poke through head scarves.
Having had the lymph nodes removed, limited the chemo to one arm, so by the last appointment, the nurses were having a bit of trouble finding places to put the needle. One time, I bruised as soon as she put it in, so she had to move it, then I bruised from the rubber tourniquet!
I will post later on the radiation treatments. As for the chemo, it was pretty much the same, six times, fine for a couple of days , achy for 5 or 6 days, then fine again. As I said, I was lucky.
P.S. there is no proper website fro the Cross, but for those that are interested and like links, here is one for the Alberta Cancer Board, they have a link to the Cross's Patient Guide and how to get there & contact info etc. (all in pdf )