One to go!
(The moon is based on my shot of the May 5, 2012, Supermoon.)
Almost ready for blast-off! If all goes well, my final chemo infusion will occur later this week. *happy dance*
Blood work looks very good, all things considered. I've still got some wonky readings, but my white blood cell count is in the normal range for the first time in eight weeks! *more happy dance* Neutrophils (immunity) are at their highest in eight weeks, also in the normal range. Platelets are at their highest in ten weeks. I still have anemia, but my readings there are better than they had been the preceding week. My iron results are back in the normal range.
Two weeks ago the ARNP said, "You need to eat some extra meat, maybe."
I'd been tanking up on protein, but not via red meat. Tuna, chicken, and nuts have been my go-to protein foods, along with Greek yogurt and cheese; I treat that last item as a controlled substance. And, on top of those, protein powder.
But iron was another measure that had dropped, to the point where I had to receive it by IV. I've turned to iron-rich foods like raisins, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.
A half-cup of raisins (not packed) has around 7% of the Daily Value of iron. A half-cup of cashews has 20%. I'll have both together as a meal or a very substantial snack. A half-cup of pumpkin seeds has 6%. Iron also appears in leafy green vegetables (3% for a cup of shredded romaine) and broccoli (4% for a cup of chopped broccoli).
Compare that with 4 oz. of lean ground beef, which has 16%. I've avoided red meat since I started treatment; even prior to diagnosis I ate it only once or twice a month. Recent research has suggested a potential link between red meat consumption and breast cancer (mainly in premenopausal women), though there is still no solid evidence of this connection according to Cancer Research UK. Even so, "Based on research over many years there’s now a large body of evidence supporting a link between people who eat a lot of red or processed meat and their chances of developing bowel cancer. And there’s growing evidence for a possible link to both stomach and pancreatic cancers."
Even though I'm postmenopausal, I stayed away from red meat. But with chemo knocking my iron to the curb, I've had to rethink that. I added ground beef to my usual order of veggies from our chemical-free local farmer's market.
On Tuesday I drove the 15 or so miles into town to shop at the natural foods store. On the way back home I stopped at the large supermarket, not to be confused with our little neighborhood market a quarter-mile from home, because I knew the large market carried buffalo. How much iron did that have?
I checked the package at the meat counter and swooned: 40% of DV for 4 oz.! That's 2.5 times the iron in ground beef. It's not often that a Nutrition Facts panel makes my day.
I got my buffalo home and inhaled it. I've had and enjoyed buffalo before, but now I was on a mission.
Then the adventures hit.
They began on Thursday night, after my next-to-last chemo session. My steroid-fueled enthusiasm conspired with my need to stay well-hydrated and led to a multi-tasking mishap that killed my laptop. I did what I could to save what I could before it finally breathed its last.
I met with my radiation oncologist on Friday, who joined three other people to prep me, because if all goes well I will start radiation the week after my last chemo. My talk with the oncologist went very well – he answered my questions before I had a chance to pose them.
First I lay back against an air-filled cushion. My left arm extended behind my head, bent a bit at the elbow, and my left hand loosely held a peg. Once I was in the desired position, two people pushed the cushion against me, expelling the air and creating a molded form that will hold me in the exact same position through all the treatments.
After my personal cushion was made, my chest area was bound in what looked like a black belt and I was told to breathe normally. Special care will be taken because my tumor was in my left breast, which means my treatment area is closer to my heart. In recent years the effect of radiation on the heart has been more closely studied and protective breathing techniques established.
I was then fitted with adhesive markers and slid into the radiation apparatus for measurements. The dosimetrist and radiation oncologist fine-tuned the marker placement and I was then given two tattoos, one between my breasts and the other a bit below my sentinel lymph node biopsy scar. “A bit of a bee sting,” said the team member who gave them to me. Compared to the needles I had received for my lymphoscintigraphy prior to the SLNB back in March, these tats were a piece o’ cake. The tattoos were then circled with a Sharpie and I was told not to scrub them, so that they could be easily seen when I have my first radiation treatment.
The scar at my armpit at left is from my sentinel lymph node biopsy. The bump in my chest at right is my chemo port.
My energy level remained high on Saturday, for the first time in weeks. Usually my steroid wears off and I crash by the weekend. I headed into town in search of a new computer. By the time I headed home with my purchase I was ready for a good meal.
However, adventure does not wait for cancer patients.
I am a very, VERY lucky lady. My blowout happened on a state road that is usually very busy but that had light traffic this time, and on a Saturday at that. It could have happened on a long, empty stretch; instead it happened close to a business whose lot I pulled into. The proprietor not only let me use his lot while I waited for roadside assistance, but he gave me extra water before he left for the day. That was great insurance for me in case my own water ran out, especially because hydration is crucial for me these days. (My thank-you card to him is ready to be mailed.)
While I waited for road service (delayed because the service call before mine ended up being a tow), I was thankful for my (a) broad-brimmed hat, (b) folding chair, (c) journal notebook, (d) water, and (e) newly-recovered energy. When the roadside assistance guy arrived, we discovered that my spare wheel does not fit the rim! So this job also turned into a tow. My job is to get a working tire and spare before Thursday's chemo.
When I think about what could have happened, I feel very fortunate. I'm fine, my car is fine except for the tire, and I learned about the useless spare in a situation that had a Plan B.
Already-cooked buffalo was waiting for me when I got home.