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Mary shares her cancer diary: Ready for chemo
Helen Glenny
/ Categories: Breast Cancer

Mary shares her cancer diary: Ready for chemo

Mary Brookes, 52, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2016. She documented her ups and downs to share with her friends, and now she’s sharing titbits from her journal and chemo diary with you.

< Part 2: Preparing for surgery

26th January

Met my oncologist Reuben today, an absolutely lovely man. He examined me and measured the size of the tumour and felt under my arm to assess the lymph nodes. He explained what is going to be happening over the next few months. I will be having a total of seven cycles, with two types of chemotherapy; four cycles of a combination of Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and Docetaxel. Since I have private medical insurance I can also have Perjeta (pertuzumab).  Perjeta isn’t Pharmac funded (ridiculous). The insurance will only cover the first $10,000 of the treatment which basically only covers the first loading dose. After that we will have to fund the drug ourselves - $4,000 a time.  I will then have three cycles of FEC which is a combination of Fluorouracil (5FU – very apt), Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide. The drugs will be administered every three weeks.

Had an interesting chat about how chemotherapy has improved – Peter apparently watches too much TV, there is no longer a one dose fits all and the drugs to counter any side effects are great now too – that’s a relief didn’t fancy having my head down the toilet for days on end. 

I have been given a small folder full of information and a calendar which the nurse will complete for me for each cycle. I now have a serial blood form as I will have to have regular blood tests to make sure that everything is going to plan and that my white cell count is good.  Also have a prescription for heaps of drugs, anti-emetics (Reuben thinks it’s the nausea that will be my biggest problem), plus drugs for constipation and diahorrea, painkillers and sleeping pills. 

I have chosen to have my chemotherapy on a Wednesday, even though Reuben’s patients normally do Tuesdays. It’s only a small thing, but I want to continue working and Tuesday is usually my busiest work day as I organize payroll. Luckily, this isn’t a problem. Canopy Care will work with me as much as they can.  Still a little shocked that it’s seven cycles, not six – but he is the oncologist and knows what is needed.


27th January

Went wig shopping today with Angela – lots of fun, although difficult to pick. Yes, I did try on things that I would never have bought!  We did finally manage it – a short cut, the bobs all looked dreadful on me and it’s difficult to get a wig my colour.  We went for a lovely lunch after that - I am going to do more things for myself and enjoy this journey.


28th January

Had the porta-cath inserted today under general anesthetic, it was a short operation and Peter picked me up at about 2 pm to take me home.  Spent the rest of the day taking things easy, I don’t have any pain but have painkillers just in case.  I will have my first chemotherapy session next Wednesday.

Not sure how I feel about it yet, certainly apprehensive. The unknown is always a little scary but I have to embrace it and think of the end result, as I have said before we can handle this. We plan to carry on as normal and enjoy the beautiful weather we are having.


29th January

Have just booked an appointment to have my hair cut. I am going to be in control of the hair problem, the chemo isn't. No way am I going to look moth eaten, and I can’t face the thought of waking up to hair on my pillow or falling out in lumps in the shower. 

I can look forward to when my hair grows back - apparently it could be wavy. This would be a real novelty for me after spending my life with dead straight hair that wouldn't hold a curl no matter what I tried. I am quite looking forward to a new look - I haven't had my hair really short since my late teens. So time to celebrate this change, particularly as I've often thought about having a pixie cut, but lacked the courage to take the step.  I am hoping to take some pics today with Peter and Sara before the hairdressers, and then some more with my new look.


1st February

Had a fabulous weekend with Peter and Sara. I had my hair cut short on Friday so a bit of a "photo shoot" pre-hair cut had to happen – heaps of fun, another change as I normally hate having my photograph taken.  I am embracing my new look and feel 10 years younger.

I have felt great ever since the portacath was fitted, no need for any pain killers at all and it appears to be healing really well too. I have an appointment tomorrow for orientation for the chemo on Wednesday.


2nd February

Picked up my bag of drugs so that we could take them along for orientation. Met the lovely Chelsea who completed my calendar for Cycle One and told us what drugs I needed to take and when.  She also showed as around again so that I could get my bearings. 

At the moment I am feeling quite relaxed, I just need to sleep well and then I will be ready for whatever tomorrow brings.  When we got home Peter numbered and labelled all the drugs and put corresponding numbers on my drug chart.  He wants to be in control of something and so has given himself the job of pharmacist. He is very methodical so I know he will make sure I take everything I am supposed to when I am supposed to.  He is finding this very hard, and I know he would rather he was the one with the cancer.  He always wants to be in control and of course he can’t control the cancer. He wants to fix things, but this is outside of our control and it’s not up to him to fix it.  Only I can do that with the help of the professionals. 


We're looking for more guest writers like Mary. If you love to write, and want to help others by sharing your experience, email Helen - heleng@nzbcf.org.nz

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