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    If you have popped over here from my facebook page could you please add comments in the blog rather than on the link on facebook itself. I dont want to worry YD unnecessarily Thanks. You can now use your facebook log in so you dont need to enter extra details if you like
  • All about Gertrude

    Gertrude is the name we decided to call my cancerous breast hence the title of this blog. Although I had to keep my breast through chemo and radiation due to the nature of IBC - once it 'blew up' it no longer looked like my breast and I couldn't wait to get rid of it. Calling it Gertrude was a way of seperating it from myself. This main page is where I write about the general goings on that relate to Gertrude, there is another page that are more a diary of treatments etc This blog is a public blog so although I am being very honest about my battle with Gertrude I have "changed names to protect the innocent" - because everyone can see it if you write comments on the blog pages please use the same abbreviations for other family member or friends that I do. Please feel free to ask questions if you want clarification because then other people who might have been wondering the same thing can read your question and our answers.
  • Abbreviations

    OH- Other Half (Hubby), OD- Oldest Daughter, MD- Middle Daugher, YD- Youngest Daughter, SB- soulja boi MD's fiance in the army (now ex fiance), OD's R OD's partner, BS- Breast surgeon whose initials just happen to be BS as well, BC- our GP (family doctor), Dr H- my medical oncologist, all other friends family etc will be referred to as initials etc
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    No Princess Alone button

Chemical Warfare on Gertrude

This is the section where I’ll be talking more about my specific treatments ūüôā

Diary of events so far

and also blood test results for those of you who are interested in blood counts and cancer marker counts


Fri 22nd August: Echocardiogram (Middlemore)

Wed 27th August: Oncology team appt (Auckland Hospital)

Thursday 28th August pre chemo blood test neutrophils 4.0.  CA15-3 cancer marker 59 (normal non cancerous bench mark is 0-30) this is about average for the sort of cancer I have got. 

Fri 29th August: first chemo session (Auckland Hospital)

Fri 5th September: Blood test neutrophils 0.3

Mon 8th September: appointment with breast surgeon (just preliminary – no surgery for at least 5 months possibly 8 months depending on how under control gertrude is)

Fri 12th September: preadmission appointment for porta cath operation blood test for neutor phils had to be over 2 for them to operate was 3.0

Sat 13th September:  Hair today -gone tomorrow!

Mon 15th September: Portacath Operation

Wed 17th September  oncology assessment with drs

Thurs 18th pre-chemo blood tests neutrophils 4.0 cancer marker CA15-3 65

Fri 19th September 2nd round chemo

Wed 24th September went to hospital -admitted neutrophils <1.0

Mon 29th September got out of hospital – neutrophils 4.0

Wed 8th October oncology assessment

Thurs 9th October blood test neutrophils 2.43

Fri 10th October 3rd round chemo

Tues 14th October – evening visit to Middlemore ED to be rehydrated due to nausea and vomiting. in for appox 4hours neutrophils 4.0

Fri 17th October usual midcycle blood test neutrophils 0.36 (neutropenic)

Tues 21st October acute oncology day stay visit for approx 3 hours due to more diarrhea and worries due to neutropenic condition blood test showed neutrophils were 1.06 still neutropenic but climbing naturally so was allowed home.

Thurs 30th October pre-chemo blood test neutrophils had jumped to 6.03 (highest they have been in this whole process)

Fri 31st October 4th cycle chemo

Fri 7th November midcycle blood test neutrophils 0.23 (neutropenic again)

Thurs 20th November prechemo blood test neutrophils 4.36

Fri 21st November 5th cycle chemo

Friday 28th November midcycle blood tests

Monday 1st December CT scan of abdomen

Friday 5th December  consultation with radiation oncologist

Wednesday 10th December oncology assessment

Thursday 11th December blood tests

Friday 12th December last taxotere and herceptin chemo yay!!

Monday 22nd December breast surgeon appointment

Tuesday 23rd December set-up and simulation for radiation

Later that day hospitalised for portacath infection Started on IV antibiotics (2g flucloxicillin) allowed day release between IVs

30th December Portacath surgically removed

31st December Blood transfusion (red blood cells due to low haemoglobin)


1 January 2009 Released from hospital after 10 days IV antibiotics with week long course of 500mg flucloxicillin capsules

8th January finished antibiotics course

9th January Start radiation also return to hospital as portacath site infection has flared up again.

10th January started on 2g flucloxicillin IV again

12th-14th January –¬†Radiation (still hospitalised for infection) also session with radiotherapy nurse to check I knew what to do re radiation side effects radiation is once a day¬† 5 days a week 20x¬† to breast 25x to axillary and supraclavicular nodes

13th January – Radiation postponed due to not being able to get within tolerances when lining me up for radiation

14th January РRemapped for radiation  and visited by an infectious diseases doctor who recommends that I be started on a different antibiotic.  Herceptin chemo administered to me by ward staff.

15th January  РOn weekend release to see if new antibiotic in tablet form works (on 3 tablets (450mg) clindamycin)

16th January – return to hospital

17th January Рreassessment of antibiotic effect on infection started on IV cefuroxime Continuation of radiation

18th January-24th January Р IV antibiotic and radiation while in hospital

27th January- 12 th February  РRadiation

6th February – herceptin

13th February-20th February   Рre-admission to hospital with infection of portacath site IV antibiotics

18th February Р finish radiation

27th February, 20th March, 9th April Herceptin

21st April – mastectomy with axillary nodes removal

28th April -Breast Surgeon post surgery appointment –¬†got pathology results from surgery¬† – no malignancy evident in breast or axillary nodes.

29th April – discussed results with Oncologist

continued 3 weekly herceptin 1st May,22nd May, 12th June

18th June – Vascular surgery checkup to check portacath site is healing properly

Herceptin 3rd July, 24th July

Medical Oncology appointment bought forward to 11th August (from 1st )because of me getting pain in my nodes they dont think its anything but say I can have a CT scan to make sure

14th August Рfinal herceptin!

15th September – CT Scan

6th October – medical oncology appointment with Dr H – he says that I have got an internal mammory node showing up on CT scan and just from his physical exam of my chest he says its cancerous.¬† He’s referring back for more radiation

this is in serious need of updating !! y0u’ll need to read archival posts from october ’09 0nwards to see what happened next

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1 Comment

  1. Marti

     /  April 20, 2011

    Your use of humor is amazing! You must really be a strong person! As a special education teacher (grades 3 – 6) I am very impressed with how you handled your situation with YD. My students are 4th graders (ages 9 – 10) and am still in something of a quandry as to what and how much to tell them. Way back last October (2010) one of my “bolder” students asked – in front of all the other students – just what was going on. I “looped” with these students so by October they certainly knew me well and could compare last year to this one. The reason for her question was that I had already been out several days and they had had to endure a substitute teacher (often different ones on different days) several times by that point.
    At that time, I told them that I had a “medical condition” that required treatment but that I was fine and was going to be fine. I joked a bit that doctors don’t work much at nights or on weekends. It helped that one of my students is a daughter of a doctor and she readily confirmed that statement! My students have learning disabilities and can be quite perceptive – mainly just having a really tough time learning to read – but we’re getting there! Anyway, in many ways they pick up on things quickly and as I said, I “looped” with them so they already knew me well by last October. Also, we have a strong teacher/student bond and I knew they were genuinely worried about me. My primary concern was to be as truthful as I felt appropriate while taking care not to unduly worry or scare them.
    I made my “partial confession” to my students about the time my hair was starting to fall out – but not enough to really show. I went to my hairdresser to just get my hair buzzed but she talked me into getting a short hairstyle instead. It actually looked cute, but only lasted a little over a week. When I came in with my wig on the first day (around late November) my students, of course especially the girls, said, “You changed your hair again?!” I just said, “Yes, well you know sometimes a girl just wants a change.” I was fortunate that while they thought that was a bit weird, they didn’t press it.
    My wig is really quite attractive but somehow it represents cancer to me more than my own relatively bald hair. I pretty much only wear it to my school and just put a hat on when I go out at other times. My hair actually is starting to grow back, but I’ve been looking like a chia pet for over a month now. I guess a little “argument” – to grow or not to grow – is going on within the follicles of my scalp. Of course, where it IS growing is on my chin – lovely!
    I was lucky in the beginning, like you. With a bit of nudging (more like cajoling) from my sister and her daughter – my niece – I found Fox Chase and Dr. C. and was receiving my first chemo – Taxol – on Oct. 26, 2010. (I found “something” in my right breast the morning of September 17 – called Fox Chase on Oct. 8, and was first seen by Dr. C. on Oct. 11 – a pretty “fast track.”) There were lots of preliminary tests and procedures – MUGA scan, breast and skin biopsies, PET scan, breast MRI, etc. We live about an hour and a half to 2 hours away and Fox Chase did a great job of trying to schedule as many procedures / diagnostics in a single day as possible in order to minimize the trips we had to make up there and to get to treatment (chemo) as quickly as possible.
    Anyway, I had been out from my school for several days and even took a short trip to Ohio to help celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday! (Her birthday is Oct. 1st and while I was pretty sure by then I did have some form of breast cancer – I wasn’t yet aware of IBC – I didn’t have the diagnosis, and at any rate wouldn’t have told her at that point because I didn’t want to “rain on her parade.”) I did tell my sister but swore her to secrecy until after the birthday celebration and a formal diagnosis.
    I probably would have gotten to treatment at least a bit faster if I had gone to Fox Chase directly – that’s where the cajoling came in. My family doctor sent me to a local general surgeon, who said, “well, you hear about inflammatory breast cancer.” Those words, while convincing me this was not the doctor to be treated by, at least introduced me to the fact that there was a thing called IBC. Between myself and my niece, we eventually found Fox Chase and Dr. C. I have every confidence that Dr. C. and the team at Fox Chase will save my life, but it often seems like “one step forward and 2 steps back,” especially with the idea of radiation before surgery.
    I appreciate your input very much – with IBC being as “rare” as it is, the Internet seems to be the best place to find others who have “walked this path” if in somewhat different ways.
    I am triple negative, so I won’t be taking Herceptin – it wouldn’t have any effect. I am currently on a 3 week cycle – Gemcytamide “Gemzar” coupled with Carboplatin, Gemzar alone followed by Neulasta the next day on week 2, off on the third week, and then begin the new cycle on the following (4th) week.
    It is April 21 today and I will see the radiologist on May 10. I wish they could have scheduled that earlier, but oh well. I know I will lose my entire right breast and I’m mostly fine with that – I’ve had several months to reconcile myself to that fact – but I wish we could just get on with it.
    I kept thinking my surgery would be around now, or at least sometime in May. Now it seems as if it may not be until late summer. The new school year will begin in the third week of August and I was told I would need at least 4 weeks off after surgery. I will definitely have a new crop of students in the fall, and really hate the idea of not being there on the first day of school to greet them and also to set out the rules. (I like to think I run a “tight ship.”) Oh well, I’ll just do what the young girls coming back from maternity leave do – hit the “reset button” and do the rule establishing, etc. whenever I do come back to school/work.
    Thanks so much for writing to me and sharing your journey. I am so sorry that you are now dealing with a recurrence. I hope it is resolved quickly and successfully. Enjoy the sunshine – I hear it does rain a bit in New Zealand. Actually, the pictures make your country look like a paradise. I hope to visit it some day but of course travel pland are definitely on hold for now.
    Good luck and God bless.


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