On December 31, 2008, I met with the Hematologist-Oncologist. She worked me in as her last appointment on New Years Eve day. I did my research on her because choosing the right chemo doctor was a life saving decision. She completed her fellowship at NYU and there were no sanctions or malpractice claims in the last 14 years. She sounded perfect on paper. The real test would come when I met her.
As I sat there with Doug and my mom, I was prepared for the waiting room. Once again it was full of people who looked desperate and there was a sense of oppression in the air. After my last experience at the Oncologist, I went home and loaded praise and worship music on my MP3 player so I could zone out with my earplugs and music. I prayed silent prayers for everyone in the waiting room every time I went to the Cancer Center. My mom wanted to talk but I just wasn’t in a state of mind for small talk and to be totally honest, I was scared.
Laura Starner…..the nurse called my name. This time Doug and my mom waited in the waiting room. I promised Doug that I would take good notes. I also had questions written out ahead of time. When the doctor entered the room she greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake. She reviewed my chart and examined me. She asked me how I found the lump under my arm (right axilla). I told her the story of the loofah, leaving it across the bathroom and just putting gel on my hand. She said, “Good job.”
Then she went into a lot of medical jargon stating that we need to get that port in because we need to start chemo ASAP. Chemo before surgery would kill any cancer cells that may have spread beyond the lymph nodes even if they were not detected by imaging or laboratory tests. Also, it could increase the chance of long-term survival by preventing a recurrence.
Adriamycin/Cyclophosphamide (AC) and Herceptin – 4 cycles …1 dose every two weeks to last a period of 2 months
Taxol and Herceptin – 4 cycles…1 dose every two weeks to last a period of 2 month
Herceptin – to continue for 1 year
Surgery – to be discussed after we see the effects of the chemo
Radiation – 35 rounds… after surgery
In addition to the PET scan already ordered, I would need a MUGA scan, which is a test to check how well the heart chamber (left ventricle) pumps blood through your body at rest. It also determines the size and shape of your heart. You see the AC chemo, affectionately known as the red devil, is very strenuous on the heart. I would also need an echocardiogram every 3 months to monitor my heart health.
Working Through Chemo
The doctor was positive and confident that we were going to take care of this. I asked if I could continue to work through chemo and she said that she had many patients who work through chemo and absolutely encouraged me to continue working. It was my decision.
As I left the exam room and joined Doug and my mom in the waiting room, I was smiling, the exact opposite of the way I felt just two days ago. They looked puzzled. I said, “She’s wonderful, kind and we have a plan. Everything is going to be okay.” I was relieved and confident that God led me to the best doctor.