Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
Contact Tracie

Happy Chemo Day, May 25:

This is the day I had awaited. The cells that kept multiplying during the three weeks since my breast cancer diagnosis—and for who knows how long before that — would be under siege, at last. My HER2 pos trial finally starts! We are at war.

First a meeting with Dr Fred Dirbas, the surgeon who will remove my breast and a great deal of my lymph system in my arm pit. He’s the best at Stanford, I’m told, and works only on breasts. No decisions will be made until the halfway point when we see how much chemo will have caused the tumors to shrink by then (think lots!). He also expects to remove lymphs up into my right arm, which could leave tingling and potential for long-term swelling. That seems better than cancer, but he encourages me to read Dr. Love’s Breast Book before deciding.

Bear with me through this post, now being written 16 hours after chemo. Despite anti-nausea drugs, I am feeling light headed and dizzy. Drunk without the up side. Ativan helped me pass out after Michelle and I ate takeout Vietnamese from Tamarine back at the Westin while watching the AI finals, but sleep was fitful because of the steroids that are supposed to help my body accept the poison without an allergic reaction. I tried to envision little Mr and Ms Pac Mans gobbling up rogue cells in my blood stream. Sometimes I’d pick up my iphone and find emails and facebook messages from my friends and family and feel their love and prayers. Sigh.

At 6 I was up pawing through my giant pill bag for my next round of anti-nausea drugs, plus the required “stool softener.” I know, TMI. But it’s my reality.

I feel car sick. I guess that’s the best way to put it. And I do know car sickness. I’ve never been able to ride carnival rides or even in the back seat of a car, so they say I’m hyper sensitive to the nausea side effects. I have 5 kinds of drugs for it.

Nausea until day 5, then on days 7-10 my white blood cells will fall dangerously low. If my temp reaches 100.5, I have 45 minutes to get to the Fresno ER and tell them I’m a chemo patient with a fever. You get right in. Then about the time I’m feeling better, it starts over again on Day 14. Whoo hoo.

By Day 20 I’ll be bald, put I’m planning to take care of that myself on Thursday. A short haircut will ease the transition. Oh, yes, there will be a video.

All in all, four hours of chemo went pretty fast. After hours spent with my dear nurse and trial coordinator Mary Chen talking intensively about every precaution I must take and the odious effects I will suffer (hair, fingernails, taste buds and stomach lining sloughing), in walked my wonderful colleague Brooke Donald, looking beautifully pregnant. It was much more fun for Michelle and I to talk about her pregnancy, and the last hour flew by.

The world is a toxic place. Read labels. Know what you’re putting in and on your body and realize there are just some things you can’t necessarily do anything about. My CT scan revealed three small nodes in my lungs that they believe to be Valley fever. I’ve only lived there 3 years. Maybe I’ll wear a mask….

And remember. I will kick this with the love and support of Michelle, my mother, my sister and nieces and ALL OF YOU!

Give when you can to cancer research! No one is immune.

2 Responses to “Happy Chemo Day, May 25:”

  • elaine steitz:

    You and Michelle are in our prayers. keep sharing your words are beautiful and heartfelt!

  • Hi Elaine: Thank you so much for the uplifting note. We have a marathon ahead, but I’m confident of a positive outcome! Keep those prayers coming!

Leave a Reply

Meet Tracie
Copyright 2010 by Tracie Cone. All rights reserved.