Taxol 1 (Part 2)

After the disappointment of having my treatment delayed, I took opportunity to use the week to take care of myself. I went to a sunset yoga class with 5 Under 40 (5under40.org), did acupuncture, took a Pilates class and celebrated Father’s Day feeling great.

Day 1, Treatment Day (Tuesday): On June 18th, I walked into NYU feeling healthy and ready (and also a little anxious). I quickly had my bloodwork and then waited to meet with my oncologist. My oncologist was happy with the improvement in my blood work and I was cleared to start chemo (Yes!!!). We discussed the side effects that I should expect with the Taxol and the decision to add Carboplatin to 4 of the Taxol treatments. Overall, it seems like the Taxol should be easier to handle than the AC but we’ll see!

My favorite nurse was waiting for me in my chemo cubicle. She explained to me that even though the Taxol side effects will be easier to manage, the actual treatments will feel different. I will be getting Benadryl with the Taxol which will make me feel very sleepy during the treatments and I need to make sure I have someone to bring me home after.

The actual treatment was shorter than the AC but I slept almost the whole time. I hated how sleepy the Benadryl made me feel and was anxious to get into my bed when the treatment was over.

I stayed in bed for the rest of the afternoon but was able to come out of the bedroom to help get the boys to sleep, have dinner with Matt, and hang out. Matt and I got into bed at the same time but I wasn’t feeling sleepy yet so I started to read. Without realizing, I read straight until 4:30 in the morning. I guess the strength of the steroids outweighed the Benadryl! I probably should have taken an Ativan at bedtime to help me sleep, oops!

Day 2 (Wednesday): Since I didn’t get any sleep the night before, I was exhausted in the morning. I spent most of the morning in bed resting but by the afternoon I felt pretty good. I went out for lunch, got my nails done and felt really normal. No other side effects other than mild fatigue.

Day 3 (Thursday) and beyond: Overall, it seems like the first Taxol treatment was extremely tolerable. I left on Thursday morning for my friend Lisa’s bachelorette party in the Hamptons. I only stayed for one night but I was happy that I was able to go at all. I couldn’t party the way that I wanted to, but it was nice to celebrate my friend and spend time with all of the important people in Lisa’s life. Over the weekend, Matt, the boys and I went to our friends’ beach house on the Jersey Shore. Aidan and Cooper had a blast playing with their friends and I was so happy that I was able to witness it.

Chemo Status:

1 Taxol down, 11 to go!

I know that the treatments are supposed to compound and get worse over time, but if this first treatment is any indication, I think I’ll be okay.

Acupuncture & Chemo

How I came to acupuncture actually started with Aidan. I have always been a little skeptical of all alternative medicines and have leaned more towards western medicines when I am not feeling well. Matt is the opposite. He rarely takes any medicine at all, even when he is feeling awful.

Aidan would get sick pretty frequently as a baby. He had a lot of ear infections and eventually had tubes put in. He would also get really high fevers and wheezing coughs that would linger. We were frequent visitors to the pediatrician’s office for albuterol nebulizer treatments and oxygen checks. It was obvious that there was something going on but it wasn’t until Aidan turned 3 that his pulmonologist used the word “asthma”. Matt and I were not surprised to hear that word, but we were shocked at how the pulmonologist wanted to treat his asthma – with twice a day steroids and a rescue inhaler.

The thought of Aidan having to be put on regular medicine like that didn’t thrill me but I was willing to comply with the doctors orders in order to make sure that Aidan was able to breathe. Matt insisted that I look into an alternative approach before agreeing to let Aidan start the steroids.

The mom of a former student of mine suggested that Aidan try acupuncture and told me that she was able to control her two children’s asthma with diet changes and acupuncture. I was extremely skeptical but decided to give it a shot.

Since Aidan started acupuncture in January he has not had a single episode where I considered using the nebulizer or inhaler. He began going to acupuncture twice a week and now goes every other week for maintenance. He is not on any medication to control his asthma. He has had 1 cough that cleared up quickly. I was blown away. I believe that acupuncture works because Aidan has no clue why he is getting the treatments so there can’t be any placebo effect.

SO when I got diagnosed, my oncologist suggested that I try acupuncture to boost my immune system and help manage the side effects that come with chemo. I really appreciated that the doctor saw the value in incorporating acupuncture along side the chemo.

I started going to acupuncture at least once a week and have found it to be really beneficial. The actual treatments are very relaxing and I feel immediately better afterwards. Each session is different depending on how I am feeling that day. Kirsten, our acupuncturist, does a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and Chinese herbs during the treatments. I believe that acupuncture is a huge part of why my side effects from chemo haven’t been so horrible.

Taxol 1 (Part 1)

“We are not going to treat today”

These are words that I dreaded hearing. Since starting chemo I have felt like a train, going full speed trying to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. Resigned to the process but anxious to move through it.

My fourth AC session left me feeling worse than the first three and I developed a minor cough over the weekend leading up to my first Taxol treatment and even though I felt fine, the cough wouldn’t go away. The morning of my first scheduled Taxol treatment, on June 11th, I knew that I wasn’t feeling 100% and was still battling this cough but was eager to get this next phase of treatment started.

After having my I.V. put in and getting my blood work done, I met with my oncologist. She asked how was I feeling and looked over the blood results. She said that my white blood cell count was too high and that they were not going to treat me today. I looked over at Matt and I started to cry.

Of course, I know that my doctors know best. Logically I understand that if my body is not up for it, I should not be getting chemo. But, it was extremely disheartening to hear that now everything is delayed. I had been mentally preparing myself and was ready for this next stage of treatment. Now, I would have to wait another week to get started.

Up until this moment, everything about my treatments has been really smooth. I haven’t felt horrible physically or mentally. This delay definitely hit me emotionally but after a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself I got over it. On the bright side, now I get to have one more week of feeling good before Taxol begins on the 18th.

Cancer Sucks.

There is no denying that cancer sucks. It has completely altered everything in my life. Treatments are time consuming, annoying and make me feel awful for days. I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it. I am completely bald. Already, I have missed dinners with friends, bachelorette parties and haven’t been able to get excited about the upcoming summer because I can’t predict how I am going to feel. It sucks.

BUT, I keep reminding myself that it doesn’t suck ALL the time. I have been so lucky that, up to this point, my side effects haven’t been completely debilitating or long-lasting. When I feel up to it, Matt and I can still do normal things. We have been able to host and go out to dinner with friends and family, attend Aidan’s school auction and new parent’s night, spend time with our friends’ new baby boy, meet for happy hours, take our kids to the park, etc.

One night this week, after dinner, Matt and I sat on our balcony, opened a bottle of wine, and just sat chatting and listening to music. It was so normal but it felt so special. If I wasn’t dealing with all of this “cancer stuff” I don’t know that I would have appreciated that moment as much.

When I’m feeling crappy or frustrated by the circumstances, I need to let myself have those moments, and then quickly remind myself to focus on the good things because it could always be worse. Even though I have cancer, that doesn’t take away from all of the other amazing things in my life. Cancer definitely sucks, but not all the time.

AC Chemo, Round 4

Day 1, Treatment Day (Tuesday): After a busy Memorial Day weekend with my family, I walked into to my fourth and final AC treatment on Tuesday morning. This treatment felt different because we didn’t get home from our weekend away until Monday night so I didn’t have as much time to mentally prepare. Actually, at dinner on Monday night at my parent’s country club Matt and I realized that we forgot that I had chemo the next day. I guess in a way that is a good thing because I was able to mentally disconnect from my treatment and just enjoy my weekend, but it also meant that I wasn’t doing any of the things that I have been doing to get ready for chemo like relaxing, taking it easy, and drinking lots and lots of water.

During my time with my oncologist we discussed the plan for my next round of treatment with Taxol and Carboplatin. I will have 12 weekly Taxol treatments, 4 of which will also include Carboplatin. She explained that the weekly Taxol treatments will be much less harsh on my system but I will still need to take care of myself as my immune system is still compromised. The treatments that have both Taxol and Carboplatin may be a bit more painful. The side effects of these drugs are diffferent from the AC. Instead of fatigue and nausea, I should look out for bone pain and neuropathy (numbness) in my fingers and toes. I will have to wear ice gloves and booties during the treatments to prevent the Taxol from getting to my fingers and toes. Everyone has been telling me that the Taxol treatments will be so much more manageable than the AC but I am afraid to get my hopes up.

Actual chemo was pretty uneventful. Thanks to Briana, I had a delicious coconut popsicle to eat during the Adriamycin. Towards the end of my treatment I started to feel tired. My skin looked very pale and I was anxious to get home. Usually, I feel totally fine and Matt and I go out for lunch but I was not feeling up to it. We took a cab home and I got right into bed for the rest of the day.

Day 2 (Wednesday): I woke up feeling just okay. I couldn’t really help the boys get ready for school (thanks Matt) and was happy that Shelby was free to take me to NYU to get my shot. I felt well enough to walk to and from the hospital but other than that, I spent the whole day in bed again.

Day 3 (Thursday): I woke up still not feeling great but today was was a big day and I was determined to feel my best. Aidan had his final CenterStage performance in the afternoon and I had my friends bridal shower at night. I was going to do whatever it took to make it to both of those events. I went to acupuncture in the morning, hoping that it would give me a burst of good energy and spent the whole day resting.

I went to Aidan’s performance and he was incredible. While I knew that he knew the words and dance moves to all of the songs, he spent most of his time on stage smiling, lifting his shirt up to show the audience his cute tummy and occasionally singing along. Mommy was proud.

Then, I went all the way to the UWS for the bridal shower. It was beautiful and Rachel was glowing. I wasn’t feeling my best and the shower didn’t start until 7pm, so I left early when I started feeling really tired. I had to miss her bachelorette party in Miami because of my treatments so I was extra happy that I was able to be a part of her shower.

Day 4 (Friday): I guess that I overdid it a little on Thursday because when I woke up on Friday I could not even get out of bed. I stayed in bed all morning and felt like I was in a fog. I made myself breakfast at home and did not have the energy to do anything but lay. Finally, at about 2pm I felt hungry again and was in the mood for pizza. I decided that I was going to walk to a local spot to get a slice. It took me 45 minutes to get myself together to leave the apartment. I felt like I was moving in slow motion.

That night we celebrated all of the family May birthdays (Matt, Jason & Chris) at our apartment. I was still feeling pretty out of it but I pulled myself together.

Day 5 (Saturday) and beyond: Even though I was still feeling pretty tired, I was still able to do fun things over the weekend. We had a play date and went out for lunch on Saturday and went out for dinner on Saturday night (with a long nap in between). On Sunday night we had family over for dinner and then Matt left for London for the week. Thankfully by that point I was feeling comfortable with him leaving.

With all of my other treatments I felt pretty good by Friday, but this time Friday was the worst day. I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of how my body would bounce back after each treatment but this round proved that as much as I would like to be able to predict how I am going to feel, I have absolutely no control over this. I can try to help myself by eating well and resting but I just have to accept that each treatment is going to effect my body differently and I have no choice but to roll with it.

Chemo Status:

FInished with AC (YAY!!)

12 rounds of Taxol (4 with Carboplatin) starting on June 11th. Hopefully it will be as manageable as everyone says!

From Matt’s Perspective

How are YOU doing, asks everyone with a look of sadness. I say I’m doing well, and fine, and good, and I mean it. Many people have told me that the partner of the cancer patient actually deals with so much more and feels the burden of cancer even more than the patient. This might be the case for others, but I think I was built to be the partner of a cancer patient and I couldn’t feel luckier to be on this journey with Shayna.

I was in London on a work trip when I found out that Shayna had cancer. It was a Monday night and I was set to be there for the next few days. As soon as she called me, I think the first thing I said was “Okay, what are the next steps and what do we need to do to fight this thing?” I asked her if she wanted me to cut my work trip short and come home, but she said that it wasn’t necessary. She was okay. It was hard for me to be in London for a couple days, as all I wanted to do was come home to give her support, love, and reassurances, but I know that Shayna is honest with me and if she wanted me to come home and needed me, I would be there.

The day after I got back from London, Shayna and I scheduled a weekday lunch date so that she could share all of the information she gathered when I was away. She came with a meeting agenda, outlining everything she wanted to make sure I understood. While she was sharing everything that she learned from her doctors I never once, not even for a single second, thought about the potential negative outcomes. That’s just not how my mind words. Until something bad happens, nothing bad has happened.

You might say that I’m crazy and cancer is bad, but I don’t consider this to be a bad thing yet, but rather a roadblock with obstacles that has a clear path to a solution. As long as we keep pushing and doing everything we can to get Shayna all of the help she needs to beat this thing, I know that we’ll come out the other side. I’m not a naive optimist- will it be shitty sometimes and will Shayna not feel well for many days here and there, sure. But that shouldn’t dictate how we think about cancer and the path to getting past this thing.

When I tell you that I haven’t cried once since finding out the news, you might say I’m insensitive or lacking emotion. I don’t think that is the case. I think one of the things that Shayna always says is my best quality is my practicality and my ability to reason and find a solution through any situation without getting my emotions mixed in. Most people might say, cancer isn’t just a simple problem with a simple solution. I’d ask why not? With the treatments out there today and the new technologies in medicine, why can’t we look at this as the same thing or similar to getting knee surgery? Why do we have to put cancer on such a negative pedestal? What would crying do to help the situation? I’d rather give Shayna my unconditional love and positivity, and I have no reason to not feel positive.

After we found out, we had many women reach out to us with the same type of breast cancer to talk to us about their journey. They have all gone through this and are all cancer free or on their way. I truly, without a doubt, know that Shayna will be another one of these women who will be cancer free eventually. Whether it’s 6 months, a year, 2 years, it doesn’t matter. Our attitude has never been woe is me, but rather we’re gonna be okay. Attitude is everything.

Last night, as I was laying next to Shayna watching TV, I looked over and there she was with her bald head. I said to her “it’s funny, I don’t even look at you differently or think about how you have no hair”. And I swear, it’s the 100% truth. Shayna is the same person on the inside as she was the day I met her when she was 19, so what she looks like on the outside is not going to change my feelings in any way about her. Actually, I think she looks gorgeous with her bald head (think Demi Moore in GI Jane) and her face and smile can still light up a room. One thing she said to me recently was that she loved that I haven’t treated her differently and it’s the truth.

I’m a big believer that if you think positively about something, you get positive results. If you think negatively, you’re more likely to get negative results. To get more specific, I can treat her negatively like a cancer patient, or treat her positively like my wife of 5+ years/partner of 10+ years. My feelings are that if you give off a certain vibe in life you get it back. If she feels like she’s being handled with kid gloves and like a patient and not a person, that might affect her mindset and how she thinks about all of this. I want to make sure that she knows that she can still be normal through all of this and having that positive mindset can be incredibly powerful.

I’ve felt this way my whole life, but this idea was solidified to me in an interesting way a few years back. At my first ever swim class with Aidan, the first time I took him into the pool, the instructor made sure to tell us, if you’re nervous, he’ll be nervous too. If you’re calm, relaxed and smiling he will be too. Needless to say, I took this to heart and while other kids might have been crying, Aidan LOVED the pool. Same goes for Cooper now. I think this translates perfectly to life and why Shayna appreciates me not changing how I am towards her. Yes, my priorities in life have shifted so that I can be there for her at all times, but my attitude and how we are in our relationship has not changed in the slightest bit.

Bottom line is that I have the utmost confidence that we’ll get through this and I feel so lucky that I can be next to her through this journey. Hopefully, alongside the medical treatment, our positive attitudes will help to fight this thing.

Attitude is everything. #shaystrong

Chemo, AC Round 3

Day 1, Treatment Day (Tuesday): Walking into my 3rd round of AC, I was feeling anxious. It is hard walking into a building feeling great, knowing that I am about to get pumped full of drugs that are going to make me feel lousy. But, such is the bumpy road to remission.

I was happy to be with my favorite chemo nurse, Stacey, and to have some friends joining me for chemo. Stacey made sure I had ice chips and my friends brought the entertainment. Matt was there too. Overall, chemo was fine.

I spent the rest of the day resting in bed but I felt pretty good. Not overly exhausted but not fully awake either. I was more anxious for the fatigue that I thought was coming. Surprisingly, it didn’t hit me as hard as last time.

Day 2 (Wednesday): I woke up expecting to feel pretty shitty but was pleasantly surprised with how I felt. I definitely didn’t feel 100%, but I wasn’t in the foggy cloud either. It was a gorgeous day and I felt fine enough to walk with my friend Lauren to NYU to get my shot. We even went out for lunch after.

I spent the rest of the day resting in bed, but was able to binge-watch a show (Special on Netflix — Highly Recommend), read a book (Educated — Highly Recommend) and play with the boys.

Day 3 (Thursday): Matt left this morning to go on a golf trip for the weekend with his friends. My mom slept over the night before so that she could help me with the boys in the morning. I was actually able to get out of bed and help to get them ready – a huge improvement over the last treatment.

Matt and his friends have been organizing a summer golf trip for the past 7 years. When we found out that I would be having chemotherapy around the time of his trip, Matt asked me if I wanted him to back out of the trip and stay home. I didn’t even hesitate for a second before encouraging him to go on the trip. It was probably important for him to go on this trip now more than ever, as he needs and deserves a weekend to relax with his friends, play golf and detach a little bit. He was more than happy to comply. We also agreed that if he went on the trip, I would need to have help with the boys for the whole time he was away. Thankfully the grandparents and my amazing nanny were more than willing to help out.

I had a super relaxing morning of acupuncture and a massage (with a slice of pizza in between) and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 4 (Friday): I woke up feeling great and was able to attend our friends’ son’s Bris. Since Matt was away, it was important to me to be able to show up and I was so happy that I felt well enough to do so. I was exhausted after, but it felt good to put on real clothes and do something normal.

Day 5 (Saturday) and beyond: Matt was away for the weekend and the boys went to my parent’s house so I was alone for 24 hours. I went for a long walk with one friend and out for brunch with another. Again, it felt great to do something normal but these normal activities sent me into total exhaustion. I went home and crashed – I didn’t leave my bed until the following morning. I binge-watched another great show (Dead to Me on Netflix — Highly Recommend), ate pasta with butter, and organized drawers in our apartment.

It’s crazy how my body reacted so differently this time. It is impossible to predict how I am going to feel each day which almost makes things harder. I am grateful that I didn’t have that awful foggy tired feeling after treatment, but I felt like even though my side effects weren’t as major, they lingered longer. Anytime I do anything, I need to take a nap after. I just don’t have stamina.

Chemo Status:

3 AC Down, 1 to go! Then, I get 2 weeks off before beginning Taxol, which I will have weekly through the summer. Excited to spend Memorial Day weekend with my family and have my final AC treatment on the 28th!