Chemo: My oncologists have elected for chemo to happen first, due to the high risk of spread associated with the grade of my tumors, and the fact they are HER2+, ER+, and have already spread to my lymph nodes. They want to kill it from spreading anywhere else first, then remove the affected areas. They have ordered the most aggressive regimen of chemo available for my cancer. I will be on a regimen of Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. Chemo treatments are broken up into cycles, depending on the type of chemo, dosage and strength of the chemo, and many other factors. I will go in every 3rd Wednesday for about 6 hours of chemo treatment for 3 months (6 chemo cycles). I will get all three chemo treatments on those Wednesdays. In between those three weeks, I will go in every Wednesday for additional rounds of the Herceptin (the chemo that treats the HER2+ over-amplification). The chemo cycles will be finished by the beginning of August. Side effects will including losing my hair (in about 2 weeks, around April 15), dry/sore mouth, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue (usually days 3-5 after chemo), red/white blood cells drop, prone to infections, weight gain, nail damage, chemo brain (day of chemo only; short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, feeling loopy and out of it), etc. Some of these side effects are treated with supplemental prescriptions.
Surgery: Sometime shortly after the chemo cycles, around August or September, I will undergo a mastectomy and removal of 15 lymph nodes (they are removing all of them under my right arm as this is recommended when more than 1 is affected). I will have reconstructive sugery after that, but I am trying to plan for that surgery to happen at the same time. Side effects will include being prone to more infection (due to removing the lymph nodes), possible permanent arm swelling, and other more personal side effects.
Radiation: After the chemo and surgery, I will undergo radiation. Side effects include scar tissue, and I’m not sure what else at this point.
Tamoxifen: Following all these treatments, I will be on Tamoxifen for five years. There won’t be many side effects from this drug. It is designed to block estrogen, which is why I won’t be able to get pregnant during this time. This is very upsetting to me, since this means I’ll be 37 when I can first conceive my own child. We’ve learned recently that many adoption agencies require parents being 3-5 years cancer free for parents with cancer.