An explanation...

Why Foob? I had a double mastectomy, and at the time, the plastic surgeon put "expanders" under the muscles in my chest. Every 2-3 weeks, they were filled with more saline, in preparation for my reconstructive surgery. They were very full and hard. Uncomfortable. One time, one of my sons gave me a hug and then said "Your foobs are hard!" Hee, hee, hee! My kids have this endearing habit of combining words. So, "Foobs" are fake boobs. Which I will still have, even after the reconstruction.

Foob Babe - that would be me!
"The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next." ~Mignon McLaughlin


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Herceptin - the wonder drug.

It's been awhile since I've posted. I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that it's been a year since I started this journey. I've read through my last post a few times, and it hits me the same every time! I can't stop crying when I read about everything I've been through. I wish it was over, but it's not. I'm still getting Herceptin every 3 weeks.

Herceptin is a miracle drug. I started it when I started chemo. It's an antibody drug used in the treatment of breast cancer in women with HER2 tumors. HER2 = human epidermal growth factors receptor 2. Wow, that's a mouth full! The HER2 protein is a genetic defect found in some tumors. This protein causes a tumor to be more aggressive. My doctor explained that it causes cancer to become a super cancer - the growth rate of tumors with HER2 is accelerated. He told me that before Herceptin was developed, women with HER2 were dying in early stages of cancer, because nothing would work to block the HER2. Dr. B had a cool way of explaining chemo and herceptin. He said that the chemo goes into your body like a bomb - it just explodes and goes everywhere. That's why, not only does it kills the cancer, it "kills" other healthy things, like your hair, nails, inside of your mouth and down your throat, etc. Herceptin, on the other hand, goes into your body like a missile - straight to the HER2 protein and kills it. So, the great thing about Herceptin is that there are very few side effects. Unlike chemo, Herceptin doesn't hurt the healthy parts of your body. Oh, except for your heart. Yep. It's funny - I'm sitting here reading an information page that I got from the chemo center about Herceptin, and nowhere does it say it can damage your heart! Here's what it says...

The drug is given by IV, and during administration of the drug there is a chance you may experience sweating, chills, and possibly fever. ALSO, Herceptin can possibly cause: nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, headache and fatigue, tremors, insomnia, and lowered white blood count with increased potential for infections. I really wish I would have read this BEFORE now. I've been on Herceptin for almost a year and I thought I would have NO side effects. So, I've always thought it was weird that every time I get a Herceptin treatment, I get a headache. And I feel kind of yucky - like I'm getting the flu. It doesn't last long, and is NOTHING like chemo, but still... it would have been nice to know that was normal. Geez!

Now, about the heart thing. My doctor has been doing these scans called MUGA scans. They are pretty cool. A MUGA scan is performed by taking some of my blood and attaching a radioactive substance to the red blood cells. Then they inject the red blood cells back into my bloodstream. Then they put me under a special camera (a gamma camera), which is able to detect the low-level radiation being given off by the red cells. Since the red blood cells (including those that are radio-labelled) fill the cardiac chambers, the image produced by the gamma camera is essentially an outline of those chambers. With some fancy computer manipulation, the final product is a movie of the heart beating. (Wow, I sound pretty smart! I'm not - I just googled MUGA scan.) I've had 3 of these (I think). My cancer doc has been watching my heart carefully for the past year. So, last week, when I went to get my Herceptin treatment, he read the results from the latest scan. He was concerned because my heart function (pumping blood) had dropped quite a bit. He explained that if our hearts pumped perfectly, they would pump 100% of the blood out each time they pumped, but they aren't perfect. So, "normal" for our hearts is 50-75%. My first few scans had me at 61%. This last scan was 51%. Hm. So, Dr. B wouldn't give me Herceptin until I had a Cardio MRI. So, last Friday, I had one. I'll have to write another post describing that - right now I can't talk about it. I'm still feeling claustrophobic! Anyway, yesterday I went back to the cancer center and found out that my percentage had gone up to 59% and I was given the go-ahead to have another Herceptin treatment. I guess that's a good thing. I only have about 3 more treatments total, so it looks like I'll get to finish a full course of Herceptin. Yay for me.


  1. I've heard wonderful things about Herceptin ... and only 3 treatments left ... that is great.

  2. Isn’t it natural for us to believe we are healthy and not suffering from any disease? I had a similar thought process until my physician asked me to get a heart scan done after he found that my basic cardiograms were not perfect. I discovered that there were calcium deposits in my coronary arteries and I was at a serious risk of a heart attack. I was shocked and went ahead with the Cardiologist's suggestion of an advanced diagnostic scan. Though it’s always tough to undergo such experiences, I was not at any kind of discomfort at the advanced heart scan facility. I am not an expert in medical appliance and machines but could feel that the equipment was world-class and I was in safe hands. That feeling is really very important for me and that’s how it actually went on. The facilities for Full Body Scan were as good as they can get.