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Hanging on to Fitness and a Few Strands of Hair Through Breast Cancer Treatment

I am a Medical Oncologist, a wife, a mother of 4, runner of 12 marathons training to run my 13th with a goal to qualify for Boston when the diagnosis of breast cancer caused a significant detour in my well-planned life. When I asked for guidance on how to continue to stay fit while receiving treatment, I received blank stares and found little data. While I never intended to be in this experiment, I find myself now generating my own data about fitness through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I am writing this in hopes to help others who find themselves in this same situation.

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First Day of the Second Half of This Unplanned Marathon

My first dose of Taxol is now in me and so far it feels like I went snorkeling with clown fish rather than a deep dive with sharks which had been my experience with AC.  However, prior to this snorkel experience, it felt like I spent the morning in the bar slamming shots of tequila in rapid succession. You see one of the potential serious side effects with taxol is an acute hypersensitivity reaction, much like an allergic reaction that people with a severe peanut allergy may get for example. Worst case scenario is that early into the infusion of taxol an intense immune response may result in symptoms such as hives and itching, but also potentially more alarming symptoms such as shortness of breath, and worst case, cardiopulmonary arrest (the heart and lungs shut down and the patient dies). Yea, pretty bad stuff. Anyway, to prevent such a disaster, I was loaded up with a bunch of drugs before this infusion to temporarily shut down my immune system and minimize the chance that this would happen. I was given a huge dose of dexamethasone, that wonder drug that prevented nausea with my with AC Chemotherapy, but this time at a dose about 3 times higher to take advantage of its properties to block the immune system, pepsid (a Histamine 2 blocker) and Benadry (a histamine 1 blocker) at 50 mg. All drugs were given intravenously and moments after the Benadryl was infused, I immediately felt like I had downed a bunch of tequila and wanted to throw up or go to sleep or both. Not really a great feeling. But the good news is that I had no acute hypersensitivity reaction, so I will take the day drunk experience over a trip to the intensive care unit any day! The day was long starting at 7:45 am in the infusion center to get blood drawn and ended with a visit with my surgeon at 3:00 pm for my 3 month check up. It is hard to believe that it has been 3 months since the surgery. I had about an hour to rest when I got home before it was on to the neighborhood swim meet to watch Thor and Grace and their team. Although admittedly, these trips to the infusion center take a bit of an emotional toll leading up to them and it would be nice to chill at home the evening after, I am a mom and I don't want to miss out on the good stuff happening in my kids' lives, so I go. After #2 chemo it was Thor's band concert, #3, 4, and now 5, swim meets. Although physically, the day of chemo has not been bad, my experience post AC was a general strange, hard to describe, but not feeling normal feeling. Looking back at these post AC evening activities with the kids now feel a bit like they were white knuckle experiences where I was hoping that all would be ok with me until the end of the event until I was able to get back home to my safe place. But last night was different. The benadryl had worn off and I legitimately started feeling normal again. I timed races for the first half which gave me a front row seat to all the action which is always the best place to be at a swim meet, but I was grateful that I really felt pretty normal. Now I am curious to see what the rest of this 1st 5K of this second half of this marathon will feel like. If today is an indication, I think that it will be pretty good.

And speaking of 5K's, I ran the neighborhood 4th of July 5K today with my husband. What a treat!

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