Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sometimes Breaks are Good

A little more than a month ago, I was struggling with extreme neuropathy, lack of breath, and muscle weakness brought on by the Halaven treatments I was getting.  The neuropathy, as I have mentioned before, doesn't give me pain, but it makes me unbalanced in my walking and makes it hard to control my feet.  I was getting beaten down.

Soo.....I asked my oncologist if I could have a little break, thinking a couple of weeks off would make it so I could bear it.  He gave me a month off.

Asking for a break is a scary thing for a patient to do.  We are besieged by fears that the cancer will go completely out of control in the month we have off.  To me, and I am sure many other chemotherapy patients, we imagine that the cancer is sitting in our bodies rubbing its little receptors and growth proteins together just waiting until we are not vigilant, and the armor of chemo is let down.  Not being on chemo or not doing anything to our minds makes us as vulnerable as a new born baby.

I was assured by people from drug companies as well as my oncologist that this wasn't the case.  Even so, I was slightly worried.  The month off was wonderful....and well timed as the day after I saw my oncologist, I developed the gastro bug which was with me for three weeks. If I had been on chemo I think it would have really wiped me out.

Some of my side effects (most notably the shortness of breath, the slight nausea, loss of taste, watery/tearing eyes and a number of other lesser ones) got better or went away completely.  Although the neuropathy was with me, my feet were no longer "dropping."   Mentally, I recovered and by the time I was to re-start, I could face it much better.  I was ready and willing to go back into the battle.

Just as everyone told me, chemotherapy has residual effects, and even though I didn't get treatment for four weeks, my tumor markers continued to drop, not as dramatically as they do when I get treatments, but it was still in the right direction.  Mentally, as I said, I am much better, and I know that when it gets to the point when I am having too much trouble, I can ask for another little break.  That does wonders for my psyche.

So, dear comrades in arms, please do not hesitate to ask when you get to the point when you don't think you can take it any longer.  A vacation, especially from chemo, can do you a lot of good and put you in better fighting form when you go back to it.  Discuss it with your oncologist.   Go as far as you can, but keep in mind that you CAN do as I did....with your doctor's help.


  1. Great post. Taking a break is scary. I'm taking one now from AIs. It's going to be a quick break, but still a break. Sometimes we just need one.

    1. Absolutely. I was so scared to take a break and what the results would be afterwards. It was the right thing to do. I am much better able now to go back into the fray....and in the back of my mind I know that if I hit the wall again, I might just take another.

  2. It's good to hear your story, Lisa. Good on you for taking a break when you needed one. That does take some courage, but I'm so glad to hear your oncologist was up for it. ~Catherine

  3. Glad you got a break! And thanks for sharing, that is encouraging.

    I volunteer with MBCN, just passing along a reminder about our annual conference:

    The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's (MBCN's) 2013 Annual Conference In Conjunction with MD Anderson

    WHO: People living with metastatic breast cancer and their spouses, partners, friends and caregivers
    WHEN: September 20-22, 2013
    WHERE: Houston Marriott @ Texas Medical Center

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