Radiation and chemo, weeks 6-6.5

On Monday, February 2 — Groundhog Day! — we went to the hospital for Kate’s last radiation treatment. (She had already taken the last dose of chemo on Saturday night.) Got the treatment, met the doctor, got a dorky little certificate and discharge paperwork… and then the doctor came back and said that there had been some kind of mix-up in the paperwork and there was actually one more treatment to go.

Groundhog Day!

We just laughed, and came back the next day, and got another dorky little certificate. And then we went to meet with the naturopath.

I had been leery of naturopathy, thinking (basically just from the name) that it’s a woo-woo pseudoscience akin to homeopathy. But after several different people recommended it, I did a little research and discovered that it’s actually a science (or can be, depending on the practitioner) which attempts to improve health with proper nutrition and exercise. And there are even naturopaths at our cancer clinic! So we met with one of them, who looked at the diary Kate had kept of everything she had eaten in the last three days and asked a lot of questions, after which he said that we’re doing pretty well.

He recommended more walking — a LOT of walking, as much she’s capable — as a good general all-around health improver and particularly valuable for cancer patients. Breast cancer survivors, he said, have as much as 50% less recurrence if they walk daily than if they don’t. He also recommended eating mushrooms every day (they are full of protein and fiber and a variety of possibly-cancer-fighting antioxidants) and prescribed some supplements — powders to be mixed with yogurt — to improve the health of the gastrointestinal system, which is hit pretty hard by chemotherapy. All of this seems pretty reasonable, so we are going to try it. I’ve even set up a star chart to track our daily walks.

So now we are all done with radiation (for good) and chemo (for a month). To celebrate this victory we got donuts from Blue Star — ssh, don’t tell the naturopath — and I cooked us a dinner of kung pao chicken, which is the first dish I ever cooked for Kate, back when we were first going out.

During this month off we can expect the fatigue to get worse for a while, then slowly improve. We will be ramping the steroids down as much as possible. Then, beginning in early March, we’ll be doing chemo on a four-week cycle (5 days of daily pills, 23 days off) for six months or so. The chemo dose will be higher, but as there’s no radiation and she continues to heal from the surgery we have hope that life will be somewhat closer to normal. We are even starting to make travel plans for those six months, with the oncologist’s blessing.

All in all, Kate came through this six intensive weeks of therapy in remarkably good shape. She is tired, naps frequently, and has some side effects from the steroids, but her language skills are almost back to normal. She does still have some other cognitive deficits, but they are subtle — if you didn’t know about the cancer and the brain surgery, you might not notice anything wrong in an ordinary conversation — and we hope they will continue to improve. Her mood is good, and mine is also greatly improved. Which is not to say we don’t have bad days, but we are much happier than we have been in weeks, and I for one have begun being able to worry about things other than cancer, like deadlines. Also, Kate’s starting to feel kind of stir-crazy, and if you know her you will understand that her NOT being stir-crazy during the last two months of not going anywhere shows just how poorly off she was. So in a couple of weeks we’ll be heading to the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon coast (we have the Amy Tan room) for a relaxed getaway. We also got tickets for some Portland International Film Festival movies.

So, things are going well. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we are out of the dark tunnel and the sun is shining on the tracks ahead. If you would like to drop in for a chat, run errands, or bring by a pie or a casserole, they would still be welcome; just drop me an email or a text before you come. I will send out an email if we need anything specific.

I’m certain that we would not be doing nearly as well now if we hadn’t had so much help and support from our friends and relatives. Thank you all so very much for all of your help and good wishes — it means more to us than we will ever be able to express.

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