6th chemo and break

Dear readers,

I’m finally back after a month leave from the blog. I didn’t want to abandon it like I did, nor the writing and sharing. I guess these last few weeks have been pretty rough. I always thought that the hardest part in having cancer and going through treatment would be the physical side effects and the uncertainty of if you gonna end up surviving or not. But it’s actually far from being the only challenge. And it is almost the “easy” part as you don’t have to make much decisions, you are being told what to do…
After-cancer is a mental battle. And that’s what I have been struggling with lately.

According to my psy, I suffer like most of other cancer patients of symptoms like PTSD. I know that sounds pretty funny as I did not got in war zones as veterans. But I kinda went tho, inside my head.

You see, for the past months, I have been living day by day, not making much plan, just to go through each day of treatment and try to make it as best as I can. I didn’t care at all of what would come after that, because I was not sure I would have the chance to be able to make futur plans too far…

When my oncologist told me that my scan was really good and that, if the remission is confirm on my final TEP scan post radiotherapy, which will be on January 19th, I will be finally FREE, I started to get scared. That I wouldn’t be able to go back to normal life.

It’s like the who I was, young, going out with friends, thinking about long term career goals and travels and the who I am during treatment, avoiding bacterias, staying in, resting, trying to not push my body too hard, no smoking, no drinking, no risks are battling.
One is telling the other that she is doing silly stuffs!

So at what point should I come back to the person I was before? Should I even ? Could I ? There’s no real answer according to the psy, only time is needed. I need time to trust my body who once betrayed me. So I can live without all those fears. But how could I really when the oncologist tells you that you will still be monitored at the end of the treatment because relapse occurs. In my case fortunately, relapse risk isn’t very high, but still slightly above 10%. This is not including damage from a tough treatment on the heart, lungs and rest of the organs nor the risk of secondary cancers, increased by the same treatment that save me from dying from the first!

I guess I do need time. Day by day, when feeling better and  better, I’ll learn how to trust life again! I’ll learn how to project myself in the future, more and more far everyday.

Don’t get it wrong ! I love not being worry about the day tomorrow, like i could disappear in the time between that. But it is just not really applicable with the life going on. And also I do believe that life consists in wanting stuffs! Being indifferent is like being dead.

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Wednesday, November 2nd,

It was my 6th and last chemo !

I went with my parents ! We did an apéro at the hospital with non-alcoholic beers and snacks! And took videos! Maybe I’ll do a little surprise and share it soon !

But white cells were OK but not my red cells! I was in anemia! And close to do a perfusion of blood so it can get back to an OK level! The thing is that since it was my last chemo, it wasn’t critical so I didn’t not do it! But the round because of the anemia went rough!

Red cells are transporting the oxygen and are necessary to be able to breathe, live and move correctly!

I basically spent the entire week in a bed, couldn’t stand up more than few minutes because I was really weak. My parents were trying to feed me some red meat for the iron to help but it was so hard to even get hungry and digest something that difficult!
Hopefully, the shots of Granocyte came at Day 6 to help boost my system and the weekend of November 13th, I was back on my feet!

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Sunday, November 13th

I headed to Paris for 10 days of class and exams. Since I wasn’t able to study the day before, I had to catch up a lot of materials in a really limited time! The weekend after, I went out even though I was tired, but I was just really glad to have the occasion to! I drink a bit of alcohol, nothing strong really but I did it! An additional step back to normal life!

Wednesday, November 22nd

After taking my last exam, I went back to get my stuff and left to Marseille! Already!
I cried a little! I was scared to start treatment again after feeling much much better lately and starting to enjoy my life again! Last chemo was already 20 days ago!

Tomorrow, Thursday, November 24th, I start radiotherapy !

Get the energy back

This entry is part 16 of 21 in the series Oldest to latest posts

Thursday, September 1st

I have 6 days left before next chemo. I feel better!
Yesterday, I went to Cassis with my friend and my mum.

I took a nap under the umbrellas.

Today, we are visiting Marseille with my friend Sabrina. The museums, the Mucem and the Mediterranean Museum. They are really well done and interesting! Plus, they are free for young adults 18-25yo.

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Friday, we went to Nice with my dad. We ate at Pizza Cresci! One of my fav pizza places of all time. They do half moon pizza with very generous toppings! I know this place from spending my summer for years in Cannes, where they have their other restaurant. I don’t feel 100% the taste but I know it’s good so I just try to eat as I can.

14374690_10209427394215721_587701285_o-2Top right, we can see the waiter finger… Ha ha

 

 

 

Then, we took a walk on the Promenade. It’s beautiful and a lot of people run along it! As we all know, there was an attack on our Independence day. Very sad story. As every French, and every people in general, I’ve been very sadden by it. We saw the memorial. Full of light, love and message of hope. So we took the time to stop and think a bit.

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On the way back home, we stopped in a place called Les Issambres, between Sainte Maxime and Frejus (basically around Saint Tropez if you are not familiar with the South-East coast!)
The beaches in this area are very sandy and beautiful. My dad always says that these are his favorites!

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At night, we hang out at R2 Rooftop in Marseille. Bakermat was playing that night! We found him cuter than in pics and enjoyed the set for 2 hours before leaving. Ends up we didn’t even see him! Ha Ha. We saw the DJ mixing for the opening. (Silly girls)
Well, we still had fun!

14339181_10209427401135894_346369880_o-2 14315734_10209373735914297_300541760_o-2The sunset view from the Mall “Les Terrasses du Port” rooftop! Beautiful.

Dressed up.

Wearing a silver pant, see that?

 

Saturday, we took a bus to Aix-en-Provence. A nice and very “high life” city, right next to Marseille. (Half an hour max away)

We walked, went shopping (Got some more Lush products for the bath and face mask! Yum) and got a Boba tea. (I don’t know why in Marseille, there’s like only two places I can get one from! In the US, it’s like everywhere … Aix-en-Provence has more Boba café)

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Sunday, we take a walk around Marseille Prado. It’s a beautiful are of Marseille, along the water! Looking very much like California with its palm trees and surfers!
There is also a huge park next to it with people running and exercising. Like I said, very CALIFORNIA. Love it!

We went to take a drink at Sport Beach. I got a Mocktail (Cocktail without the alcohol). During treatment, I can’t! But anyway,  I don’t really miss it so no biggie!

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Sabrina tells me that I look better than when she arrived. Meaning the color of my face and the tiredness level. Indeed, I feel more energetic and healthy !

My mum keeps making me smoothie! I love smoothie normally, but she makes the same every morning, lunch and dinner. Sabrina laughs but I just can’t take it anymore. Feel disgusted a bit since I’ve been drinking that for two weeks in a row.

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Monday, I walk with her to the train station. She’s leaving, going back to her city and starting school.
I come home, rest a bit and find a beautiful baby lizard in the living room!

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On tuesday, we take the apero during sunset with my parents.
Beer without alcohol, taste like Mojito. Very good. Often, my mum and my brother take some too! Just because they like the taste!

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Tomorrow, Wednesday September 7th, it’s my second chemo!
I feel a bit nauseous at night and in the following morning. I guess it’s a body reaction because I try to not think about it.
Anyway, let’s do it, Round 2!

Meeting with New oncologist and IPC

This entry is part 10 of 21 in the series Oldest to latest posts

Thursday, August 18th

Few days have passed since I arrived in the South of France. I spent them mostly enjoying family time and, of course, some good food. I missed the wine, cheese, and dry salame (in France, it’s called saucissons but I feel in English, there is non perfect word to call it because Salame is a bit different !). Now, it’s time to go back to the important matter: get cured.

My mum and dad insist to come with me and meet the new hematologist-oncologist. (damn! it’s a long term)
They heard from him from 3 different doctor friends and he has more than 20 years of experience, so don’t worry for me! I’m in the best hands I could be in!

The Hospital is called Paoli-Calmettes Institute, in Marseille. It’s the big center for cancer treatment for the whole South-East region. Everything is really modern and design in it. It’s almost making you love the place.

By the way, Cancer in France is considered as a long-term disease (even though I hope it won’t be very long for me!). Therefore, all the necessary procedures and treatments are covered 100% by the social security. (Yeah, I realized how lucky we are in France when i start traveling and living abroad. It is sure pretty rare to have such an amazing health system!)

 

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12PM. Time to meet the new doctor. HELLO !
He looks like a nice person and the kind that doesn’t tell you B*******T  either! I like that.
Not like the previous one. Not like Mc Steamy (cf Dr Mark Sloan).
He was nice but between us it got a bit weird.. Ah yes now I remember why!

I was then with my boyfriend in the examination room for the first meeting when he tried to talk about fertility issues after chemo. But instead of giving me time to think about it and be ready to talk, he just went straight to the craziest option (for me).

Best option is that we go directly with the Frozen Embryos technique.

– Excuse me ?

– (While looking at me and my boyfriend with the same stolid like it’s not a big deal) Well, first we would need to get your implant out. Then, stimulate your hormones so you can ovulate. Conceive a baby and once the egg is fertilized, extract and freeze it. It gives really good results! Your best option.”

OK but I’m like not ready at all. Neither is my boyfriend. I mean come on the doctor doesn’t even know which kind of couple we are. I could have found my boyfriend in a bar the day before… (which is what happen. No, i’m kidding with you but you got the sense)

So, let’s go back to what we were talking about! The NEW oncologist here in France.

“Sally, I have read your whole file but why won’t you start and tell me what happen from the beginning.”

I start to tell him what I know. The lump. Dad who insist to get it check. The fatigue. The MRI. The surgery and biopsy. Classes. The first oncologist opinion.

My mum cuts me and start talking. About little stuffs that seriously don’t matter. That she thinks I don’t sleep at night. BLA BLA BLA. But she doesn’t stop. And she keeps going and talking more and more. The doctor look at me and my dad..

“Stop. Now I want silence.

Sally is the patient so it is Sally who talks. Thank you”

Ha Ha! I like this doctor! I don’t mean it is fair to my Mum because I know she’s acting crazy because of the stress. She is just a little bit lost in all of this. But I mean, she deserved to be stopped at some point. And now she knows how the doctor will respond.

He explains us. You have Hodgkins’ lymphoma as you already know. Localized in more than two sites in the upper part of you body, what we call Stage II. You got no weight loss of more than 10% of your overall weight, no night sweats to the point you have to change your pyjama nor fever that last more than 8 consecutive days. Your sedimentation speed is good.

You are what we call a FA-VO-RA-BLE case. FAVORABLE.
“It means that with you, Sally, we go forward with the hope that this first chemo will be efficient and that you’ll enter remission. Understood?”

(Great! It is nice to hear it again even tough i knew it already! I guess it is very good for my parents to hear it from the doctor’s mouth, face-to-face. Especially for my mum ! I imagine that if he was saying UN-FA-VO-RABLE, the atmosphere at home would be much more pesant !)

Now, I have the report of my American colleague, who suggests a treatment by 6 Cycles of chemotherapy type ABVD (it means 6 months so 12 injections with one every two weeks).

But, I do the things a bit differently! Recent researches have shown that patient following a combination of chemo and radiotherapy showed a lesser risk of relapse with this disease than a longer chemo. But I’m gonna be very honest with you!

Thirty years ago, radiotherapy wasn’t as advanced as today and it wasn’t allowing us to target small regions of the body without risking to affect nearby organs. There has been an increased risk of secondary cancers for these nearby organs. However, today, we have the “in-node” technology, allowing us to target up to a group of cells, very precisely.
There is still a risk! And I won’t be lying to you saying it is 100% safe! But this risk is now very very small!

Since 20 years that I have been doing this job, I saw around 50 cases of Hodgkins per year. 40% were women. In total, I treated around 500 female patients. I only had 3 who came back for secondary cancers, especially breast cancers. Less than 1%.

This risk exists! But it’s small. If you get another cancer because of that.. How can i put it in word gently .. It’s TOO BAD! But according to me, radiotherapy is a crucial tool in the treatment of localized Hodgkin lymphoma to consolidate and lower the relapse risk. I would advise this to my own daughter. It’s 3 months of chemo and 1 month of radiotherapy. I’m taking an appointment with the radiotherapeutic doctor so you can talk more in-depth with her. Anyway, till November, the course of the treatment stays the same. Radiotherapy only happens after chemo is over.”

Once the appointment is over, I go to the lab for another blood test. I should get used to it as I will do one every 2 weeks.
Do 3 months of chemo instead of 6 would be way nice, even if I’m a bit concerned of the risk of radiotherapy. We talked with ma parents and decided that we will take the time to get more info about it!

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