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  • Writer's pictureZoe

Zoe's Story: Building Strength Between Rounds (Week 11)

Monday November 23, 2020 marks three-week post-surgery and I am pleased to report, I am healing well. I am thrilled to be back into a normal work routine. My pain is manageable with Tylenol and I truly believe my morning walks and sheer grit and determination are facilitating a speedy healing process. I still have limited range of motion in my arms and my right arm still hangs like a useless piece of sausage meat, flaccid at my side. I am assured with physiotherapy, patience, and time, normal function will return. I certainly drop things with more frequency but overall, I am looking relatively normal.

I had two appointments this week. The first was with my oncologist Dr. Vogel. We finalized my chemotherapy treatment plan. Whilst I do not yet have my start date confirmed (my surgeon Dr. Oeltjen must clear me before I can start), I now know what is on the horizon. Our target date is December 9, 2020 but I may need to delay another week if my incisions are not yet healed sufficiently. My chemotherapy program is rather intense and will run 17 weeks. I will receive nine consecutive weekly doses of Taxol. Taxol is among several medications in a class called Taxanes. It is a powerful drug and treats many kinds of cancer. The treatment will be administered intravenously via my port. Taxol has some side effects; the most notable is hair-loss with lashings of nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. In the later part of the treatment, I can expect some peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of hands and feet). Dr. Vogel said that they will prescribe anti-nausea and anti-allergy medication to help reduce the side effects associated with this drug. He also assured me I will handle these nine weeks well. In his words, this is the easy part.

In Week 10, my chemotherapy drugs will change to the notorious duo appropriately named the ‘Red Devils’ because they are red in color and extremely toxic. These are the original chemotherapy drugs and often referred to as the tried-and-tested drugs. There has not been much medical advancement in the treatment of invasive lobular carcinoma; so I will be treated with a cocktail of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I guess if we were to compare these drugs to anything, it would be the infamous Kray Twins Ronnie and Reggie. These two are the foremost perpetrators of organized crime, who terrorized the East End of London during the 1950’s and 1960’s. I will be subjected to this dynamic duo for eight weeks, administered bi-weekly and intravenously via my port. This is when I will feel at my worst and the bone aches and pain will happen, as well as all the other delightful side effects. I will have Neulasta Onpro on the back of my arm which will automatically inject me the day following my chemotherapy. It is used to stimulate the growth of healthy white blood cells in bone marrow, once chemotherapy is given. Science is a modern marvel and there is a drug for every side-effect. With the help of my doctors, medical advancement, and the power of positive thought (and most importantly the love and support I am showered with on a daily basis), I know I will stand strong throughout rounds two and three of this fight.

Following the 17 weeks of chemotherapy, and with all going according to plan, I will start the radiation. This will be a daily treatment for six weeks. I am told it will present little-to-no side effects.

For me losing my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows is not going to be a treasured experience, but I intend to do it publicly to raise funds and awareness through American Cancer Society's ResearcHERS initiative. My mum is insistent that she too will shave her head in support of me. I told her it is not necessary, as she will be the mirror image of me; every time I look at her, she will be a reminder that I have an egg head. No amount of persuasion will convince her otherwise; so, you'll have those photos to look forward to. For those of you who want to be a part of the occasion, keep an eye on my calendar for updates.

Here is a video about the ACS ResearcHERS project.

Following my appointment with Dr. Vogel, I ventured into the Addison to be surprised by a gathering in my honor. I have said this many times throughout my life, family is not always the group you are born into but a wider circle of people we chose to share our life with. I am blessed beyond belief to have a life filled with incredible individuals. Benny from Daniel Events had been plotting behind my back with my industry family to plan a luncheon and fundraising effort in my honor. The lunch was incredible and once again my spirits soared. The fear and apprehension I was feeling was replaced by courage and determination. I will never be able to convey in words how uplifting it is to be surrounded by you all. Many of you are supporting me from afar but the daily messages of support, love and encouragement help me immensely.

The second appointment of the week was with Dr. Oeltjen, my reconstructive genius. The available skin on my right breast was very limited following the surgery. At the T-join (where three incisions join), I have a wound where the skin had died. To reboot the healing process, he did some surgical magic and snipped and cleaned away some of the dead flesh. He explained that I was left with a fresh open and bleeding wound BUT this is good, and it looks worse than it is. I have to return to Miami next Friday for what I hope will be my last visit and surgical clearance to commence chemotherapy.

As this week is Thanksgiving week, we normally have an enormous, refrigerated truck parked up in our carpark which houses copious amounts of food that our culinary team spend days peeling, chopping, dicing, stuffing, and basting. Patrick and his team typically start early Monday and spend days preparing a Thanksgiving Feast for our beloved guests. This year, due to the pandemic, we will not open our doors for our annual Thanksgiving Feast, but our team never misses an opportunity to give back. For 21 years our owners have gifted to the entire team a turkey. A few years back, our team decided to pay that generosity forward. Rather than taking the turkeys ourselves, we decided to use the resources to purchase, cook and deliver freshly prepared Thanksgiving meals to our favorite local non-profit Boca Helping Hands. This year will be no different (albeit, adorned in masks and socially distanced). We readied the meals to be given to the homeless in our community.

Thanksgiving is a day for celebrating the harvest and other blessings the year has provided to us. My blessing is family and friends and my wholehearted thanks must be to every single person that has touched my life this year. I have never been showered with so much love and support. The words of encouragement and the gestures of love are like the elixir of life for me right now. I feel like I am at the fountain lapping-up the magical potion that is like an electrical charge running through my veins and driving me forward. As I said, I may not get the knockout punch, but the elixir you are giving me is pushing me to go the distance I need for the ultimate win. I love you all. x

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Keep fighting, Girl - you're amazing!


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