I celebrated my 50th birthday in the summer of 2016. Going back to work after the summer I started feeling poorly and developed a chronic cough. In December 2016 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. A year after completing the Herceptin treatment, my cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the liver and the lungs.
Metastatic (i.e. stage 4, the last stage) breast cancer, ER negative, PR negative, HER-2 positive. Secondary locations lymph nodes, liver and lungs.
The diagnosis effected me much worse this time around. I never returned to work after that and found it hard to talk to people for quite a while. My life has changed forever.
- Chemotherapy combined with targeted therapy
December 2016 – April 2017
– Taxotere, Pertuzameb, Trastuzumab (Herceptin) x 6 (3 weekly)
Chemotherapy is where cytotoxic drugs (in my case Taxotere) are administered intravenously. This is done at the Oncology ward by specialist nurses. Cytotoxic means it is toxic to the cells. It affects cancer cells as well as normal, healthy cells. However the healthy cells are able to repair themselves whereas the cancer cells (at least some of the time) die. Chemo drugs are essentially poison and a long list of side effects (mild to severe depending on your luck.
“Pertuzumab and trastuzumab both work by targeting specific proteins (receptors) on the surface of cells. Some cancers have too much of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on the surface of their cells. These are called HER2 positive cancers. The extra HER2 receptors stimulate the cancer cells to divide and grow.”
Pertuzumab and trastuzumab work by locking onto HER2 proteins. Each drug locks on to a different part of the protein. This blocks the receptors and stops the cells dividing and growing. [McMillan.org]
The side effects of the chemotherapy for me were
– Hair loss
– Loss of appetite and taste changes to the extent that even water tasted foul
– Extreme fatigue
– Rash on my face and neck (still comes back time to time)
– Very dry skin
– Broken nails
– Loss of feeling at the fingertips
– Fever around day 3 to 10 of the cycle
– Cough getting worse
– Painful muscles
– Cramps (even in my jaw)
- Targeted therapy
April 2017 for life
– Pertuzameb, Trastuzumab (Herceptin) (3 weekly intravenous)
The side effects of the targeted therapy are minor when compared with the chemotherapy.