November 19, 2013

Working to Move Further Away from the Remnants of Cancer

I'm into my third week back at work. It's nice to be busy again. For the most part, I forget about the cancer except when my neuropathy shoots me a painful reminder in the foot or hand. I always dreamed of the day chemo ended when I was going through treatment. Just six months ago I saw myself at the completion of a long journey, being happy and resuming my pre-chemo life. Little did I know the chemo cocktail that was designed to cure my cancer, would also give me potential life long side effects. And so, my journey toward healing continues. Is it life threatening? No. Is it life altering? Yes. I was an active gal who is now being slowed down by more challenges. I want to believe I can overcome this obstacle as well, but when I need my guy to hook my bra strap every morning, it's a bit discouraging. 

Regardless, this was the week of two significant doctor appointments. One to see a neurologist and one to get my port removed.

On Monday the neurologist spent over an hour with me, reviewing symptoms, testing my hands, feet and legs. The bad news it the extent of my neuropathy is "quite significant" (my doctor's words). The worst part starts at my toes and covers my feet to my ankles. For example, during one of the tests I couldn't tell which direction she was moving my toes. To a lesser degree, the damage extends up to my knees. It is also prominent in my fingertips. For some reason the damage finds the nerves farthest from the brain, which is the feet, and then works it's way up the body. I also have damage in my finger tips because when my arms are at my side, my fingers are close to reaching my knees, thus making those nerves a considerable distance from the brain as well and a good place for the nerve damage to take up residence. I asked why I wasn't seeing any improvement since my last chemo and that is because the nerves only heal a millimeter at a time. The doctor said to measure my recovery in months not weeks. So, four months from now I should assess my improvement compared to today. The not so reassuring part was that the chemo patients she has had over the years generally saw only a 40-60% improvement in symptoms. Sorry, but I am ready to have a 95-100% improvement … so watch out shitty statistics, I'm gunning for ya!! 

The next step is trying to find the best way to work toward healing my nerve damage, which is a neuroconduction test and an EMG test. From what I understand (and you may want to review this link for accuracy because my second hand medical knowledge isn't always the most accurate), the neuroconduction test is electrodes that are hooked up to my body and electrify my nerves while measuring the results, thus learning the extent of the damage and where to focus treatment. The EMG test involves getting stabbed with needles all over the worst areas of my feet and hands, another way to narrow down the nerves that are damaged. Hmmm, getting electrocuted and stabbed… sounds like fun!  

I will also be starting physical therapy and occupational therapy. The importance of PT is to make sure I learn how to work with my newly numbed feet. I could easily hurt myself, so I need to develop techniques to stay safe and not cause any permanent damage to other parts of my body by falling or twisting joints. The OT is to learn how to work within the confines of my numbness by learning techniques for every day living, such as writing long hand and getting dressed (buttons, hooks, etc.). 

My favorite doctor appointment this week was getting my port out! The procedure was interesting. I had to go under anesthesia to have the port 'installed', but only had a local anesthetic to have the port removed. The worst part was the shot to numb the area, the rest I never felt.  I now have one less reminder of my torturous journey. An important step forward, as I work to move further away from the remnants of cancer.

Good bye old friend, you served me well.

the chemo port that was installed just above my right breast

The protective bandage is a bazillion times bigger than the incision to remove the port. 


  1. ohhhhh I'm so happy for you having your port removed. I just got mine in and I'm miserable! Also just finished round 3 of oxaliplatin and I'm suffering. Just know I'm following you with a big smile. You give me HOPE!

    1. Hang in there Green Monkey! Just take it one day at a time and focus on the little blessings each day! I'm here cheering you on! xo