Coping with Chemo…

By Kimberley Wahamaa

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2013, I received a lumpectomy on July 8th. From there, I had appointments with my chemotherapy oncologist and radiation oncologist.  My cancer was sent to the LA for a special test, to see if I would require chemotherapy or just radiation.  I had an appointment on Sept 19th, but the results were not back yet.  But in the event that I did have to have chemo I had to book the chemo.  I had a large event coming up in North Bay on October 4th, so I asked the nurse if I could choose a date to start chemo, and she looked quite surprised at my request but said yes. So I said after October 7th you can book me all you want, as I have events and things to do.

News came via telephone on my cell at work on Tuesday September 24th that yes, I would require chemotherapy and radiation and the first session would begin on October 10th.  That day was the first day I really I felt like I had cancer.  My colleagues were so supportive, we went for a coffee and had a cry.  I came home to my family and my fiance, we had a nice barbeque and talked and cried.  I spoke to some of my good friends over the phone and we shed a few tears.  It really hit me that, wow, I am going to lose my hair and have to go through the full treatment.  This really is CANCER!  One doesn’t really know the fine print of what benefits you have at work until you are faced with something like this. I didn’t have long term disability, so I knew I would want to continue working throughout my treatments.  I booked 3 vacation days around my chemo and continued to work throughout. My workplace has been very supportive and I’m blessed to work with some amazing people.  They treated me as Kimberley throughout this, not as a cancer patient.  I wanted to feel as normal as possible and maintain a normal routine despite the C word.

I woke up on September 25th, and began my day with a renewed approach. Continuing to think positive and make the best of this, lets get this done.

I still had a few days before chemo began and I had a busy week planned.  On September 26th, thanks to Carol Cameletti and Dr. Jacques Abourbih, I had the privilege to present my story of breast cancer to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.  We had arranged to have Paula Peroni, Annette Cressy, Valerie Zuliani and I be part of a panel discussion which for year one and two medical students in both Sudbury and video webcast to Thunder Bay students.  I was so moved and honoured to be part of this initiative.  I felt empowered to be able to share my story to help them in their studies.   And I hope that my website will help not only students but other women and men going through breast cancer.  The more we share our experiences, the more we learn from each other to help cope with this disease.

On October 1st, I left for North Bay with my event staff, as we were co-hosting the Northern Ontario Business Awards http://www.noba.ca  on October 2 and 3rd.  Over 450 people were in attendance at the awards.  We transformed Nipissing University gymnasium into a ballroom.  No small task, but we did it and the event was very successful.

On October 4th, I was interviewed by Jason Turnbull, Points North CBC Radio, for the upcoming launch of my Calendar of Hope.  Listen to my interview.  Thank you for the coverage Jason.

I had received a couple of phone calls from my oncologist about taking some injections to help with my white blood cells.  On October 4, I had the last phone call from my oncologist insisting that in conjunction with my chemo I should be receiving the GCSF-Injections.  (10 of them @ $2600 per injection).  I would have to pay a portion of these injections and some of the costs would be covered under the Trillium Fund, once I completed the application.  I had researched these injections, apparently they would have helped me with my white blood count. But all through this invasion to take these injections, not once did the oncologist take my blood to even know what my count was.  Through my research I had found out that the side effects from these injections would be worse than chemo.  I told my oncologist that I just completed a calendar of 13 people and only one had the injections and they all survived. My oncologist told me a few times during the phone call that CHEMO CAN KILL YOU.  CHEMO CAN KILL YOU. Wow, not a very empathetic approach.  I felt trapped.  I had already heard from my oncologist saying that you will not be able to WORK while you are on chemo and you won’t want to have SEX while on chemo.  So on top of these words, and the injections, I chose NOT to have the injections.  I did WORK during chemo only taking a few days off for each session, after a week of chemo I did have SEX and hey I didn’t die.   I had an amazing white blood count during my four bouts of chemo.   I took 2 Immunofin pills each day during chemo and my WBC was amazing. So because I said no to the injections my oncologist prescribed me antibiotics 1 tablet twice a day for 10 days  APO-CIPROFLOX 500 mg.

If your results are under the following, Chemo would have been put on hold.

WBC – over 4 is normal

ANC – over 1.5 is normal

Platelets – over 75 is normal

Hemoglobin – over 80 is normal

 

Check out my results:

October 31 – WBC 7.7, ANC 4.14, Platelets, 305, Hemoglobin 137

November 20 – WBC 5.5, ANC 2.45, Platelets 232, Hemoglobin 146

December 11 – WBC 6.7, ANC 3.64, Platelets 270, Hemoglobin 137

* Updated January 28 – WBC 5.1, ANC 3.0, Platelets, 231, Hemoglobin 132 (haven’t taken Imunofin since Chemo)

I believe that every patient should be able to make a choice and not feel threatened.  Would the injections have prevented me from getting cancer again? Would the side effects from the injections prevented me from working? Do the oncologists get a kick back?  So many questions, so much to learn and absorb. But I really felt like I was being cornered and threatened.  For all of you going through your own journey, go with your what you believe and be strong.  You do have a voice, your voice. This is your body.  I’ve had two followup appointments with my oncologist and there was no mention about what my white blood count was…so it makes me wonder…

I did receive a few REIKI sessions before each chemo and these helped me tremendously in opening up my chakras and giving me strength, grounding to prepare me for accepting the meds that will heal me.  Thank you so much Gloria.

On October 5th, I celebrated my 48th birthday at the Sudbury Shopping Mall along with Angels in Pink  to launch the Calendar of Hope. The proceeds of this calendar, profiling 12 women and 1 man who were diagnosed with breast cancer are going to Angels In Pink, through the Northern Cancer Foundation, who raise money for early detection breast cancer equipment.   Mr. February – was this painting by Paddy O’Sullivan who donated a full size painting that will be auctioned off in February at the Boob Tour on February 21st.

Despite my upset with my oncologist about the injections, I did have a great birthday party with family and friends at My Thai Palace.

Thank you to everyone who participate in the calendar, we are still selling them for $15 each.

 

On October 6th I put in a Trust Your Bust.com team to run the CIBC Run for The Cure!  Thanks to everyone who participated.  I learned alot from this run.  The proceeds are not directly local and the $40 administration fee to register had to be purchased before the run, and no receipt was given.  I find it difficult to participate in events that the proceeds are not given back at the local level.   Together there may never be a cure, but if you know your money is going local, it does make a difference.

 

 

 

 

October 10 – Chemo # 1

I didn’t sleep most of the night. I woke up at 3 am very anxious. The unknown is very scary.  I don’t take any drugs, so this was difficult.  I had to take two steroids the day before, day of and day after chemo. (PMS-Dexamethasone 4mg).  I felt like Lance Armstrong for a few days, riding  high with alot of energy.  I began my first chemo on October 10.  I started with a saline solution for about 5 minutes, then Cyclophosphamide (1010 mg-w), and saline in between and then 125 mg-w of Docetaxel.  With the Docetaxel, I had to wear freezing cold mitts and booties during this treatment.  There was no mention of these mitts/booties as part of my preparation for chemo. If it wasn’t for a dear friend in Toronto going through the same thing and telling me about these, I had asked once I was in the treatment centre, and then the nurses, said oh, you would like to request these?  Yes!!  So these definitely helped with the future of my nails on my hands and my feet.  Why wasn’t I told about these prior to my chemo?  I’m so thankful to my Toronto friend for mentioning this.  Again, there is so much to absorb, so much to learn, but why wasn’t this expressed in my pre-treatment appointments.  We have to learn and share from each other.  The nurses and volunteers at the Cancer Centre were amazing.  They remember your name, your treatment, how many more you have to go, it was like family.  In addition to my chemo treatments, I also had to take PMS-Metoclopramide 10 mg – every six hours to help with nausea.  And two tablets prior to each chemo AAP-Granisetron 1mg. The side effects of chemo didn’t hit me until fifth day. I was constipated, nauseated, bloated, anxious, I had insomnia, irritable beyond belief, it was like I was in someone else’s body, someone else’s skin…A very weird out of body experience.  I did manage to find out some tips for the next chemo, I took Melatonin, some natural laxatives and felt much better.

A week and a half after my chemo, my hair started falling out!  It was coming out in clumps in the shower. I was able to literally pull out my hair and it didn’t hurt!  I called Bobby to come over and bring the shaver…tonight is the night:) We had fun with it.  Shaved if off and you know, I felt pretty good for a bald chick.  I had a good shaped head.

 

 

 

 

Bald is Beautiful I guess…  I have not worn many wigs, mostly scarves.

I”ll be posting another section on Bald Attire:) xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 31 – Chemo # 2

It was Halloween, my appointment was scheduled for the noon hour.  I decided to dress up!  Check out my MissKimmiKermit   Make the best of it! Have Fun with it!  We gave out Sudbury Wolves tickets to the cancer patients, volunteers and staff! What a fun day, to give back to these amazing people going through so much and dealing with so much every day.  On average they see 40 cancer patients go through chemo in a day!  The one day I was there, 55 patients, 8 nurses!  They all deserve a medal:) A Gold Medal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp was the best therapy for me. I piled wood, kayaked, cross country skied. I tried to maintain my normal lifestyle, after all I’m not sick, I just have cancer.  By doing the things I love to do, it distracted me not to think about the C word.  I felt empowered after each chemo to get through the first few days of shit..and then get back to work, to life, to doing the things I love to do!  I wasn’t going to let it get the best of ME:)

 

 

 

 

On November 14, I presented at our 40 Under Forty Awards, over 500 people in attendance.  I chose to wear gloves because I had to shake 40 winners hands.  It was an awesome night.  So glad my chemo was inbetween for me to present.  Thanks to my awesome team for a well executed event. I couldn’t have done it with out you.

 

 

 

 

 

November 22, Chemo # 3

This was the worst chemo! Both emotionally and physically. I had to pull myself out of chemo jail.  White thick tongue, depleted taste buds, emotionally drowning into a javax hole.  I did have some emotional issues to deal with both personally and at work and this really carried a huge weight on my recovery for this chemo.  Positive attitude is key, but sometimes reality sucks and we can’t be so on the up and up all the time.  But I got myself back on track!  One more to go:)

 

 

 

November 22

My doll HOPE was with me every step of the way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 12 – Last chemo! What a relief!  Went to camp for a few days, did some cross country skiing.  Life in the bush saved me and healed me!  To everyone who has to go through chemo, I wish you the best, be strong, be brave, ask for the mitts/booties if you have to take these drugs!  Thank you to my Bobby, my mom and dad and our kids for your love and support.  Thank you to everyone for your messages, cards, likes and comments via social media giving me a boost of energy every day!!  Lotsaluv Kimberley oxoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Country Skiing with my dog Kalua. Life in the bush saved me through this part of my journey.  Find your passion, try to stick to your routine of what you love, it is the best therapy.

 

 

 

After all my chemo, it again makes you wonder? Is there another blood test afterwards? No mention of it? I think I’ll get my family doctor to do another test…

Radiation began on January 13 – I’ll be done 30 sessions on February 21st! We do have the best radiation therapists and technology in Sudbury. I’ve met two amazing women going through radiation ! I don’t feel so alone going through this part of my journey.  They both found a lump on their breast.  TRUST YOUR BUST!  Be aware of your body. Know your body. Act when you know something isn’t right.

January 28 – I’ve completed 12 rounds of radiation so far, 18 more to go. Not too many side effects.  A bit of nausea, tired, my legs feel like they each weigh 100 pounds sometimes, such a heaviness. I had a very weird twinge in my chest, felt like I was kinda having a heart attack? Like someone was squeezing my chest, happened for a couple of days about every twenty minutes.  Apparently these are all normal side effects with radiation.

* I had my blood tested yesterday and guess what, my counts are still normal.

WBC – 5.1, ANC – 3.0, Platelets – 231, and Hemoglobin 132.

Read my Journey from the Beginning (April 1, 2013) 

1 comment on Coping with Chemo…

  1. Gail Firby
    January 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Dearest Kimberley, YOU are the strongest, most positive and the most beautiful lady I know. Both beautiful inside and out. You have been such inspiration as you have taken on the unexpected journey in your life. YOU will beat this my friend. We are all by your side giving you all the best wishes, hope and love as you proceed towards the end of your treatments and “on the way to a much healthier lifetime” Love you bunches