My Hallowed Ground

Nov 26

Red Chemo: done!  Here’s what “chemo” looks like for those of you who don’t know:

Day 0:  I take 2 steroid pills the day before chemo.

Day 1:  I go to the oncology office.  I drop off my goodies to share in the Chemo Room and say hello to all my friends before heading back to the waiting room to check in.  One of the nurses calls me back to get my temperature, blood pressure, weight and pulse oxygenation.  She then leads me to an exam room, where I meet with either Dr. Wonderful or his nurse practitioner Rockstar.  Yesterday, it was Rockstar; she examined my incisions, refilled some of my prescriptions, and, of course, we chatted about Thanksgiving plans.  Rockstar is a little bit younger than me, and I consider her to be a good friend.  Whenever I have exams/tests that are pending, she always stalks the results screen and calls me as soon as they pop up.  She, like Dr. Wonderful and the rest of my team, always goes above and beyond.  Once I high-five Rockstar, I head out to the Chemo Room and find one of the open recliners.  The nurses are busy and treat everyone first-come, first-served, so the there is usually a bit of a wait where I can get a snack, a warm blanket, and say hello to my neighbors-for-the-day.  Soon, a nurse comes to access my port and the good times begin to roll.  Once my port is accessed, they start a bag of saline that runs from the IV pole through tubing and into the port.  The bags of drugs are subsequently changed out as they empty.

  • The nurse draws two vials of blood.  Since I was chemo-free at this time yesterday, we expected my counts to be good.  As the treatment progresses, my blood counts will get worse.  They watch my white blood cell count and my platelets especially closely.  Yesterday, as expected, my counts were good, so treatment commenced. 
  • Bag 1:  Premeds, 45 minute drip time:  This is an IV bag that has Pepcid (help cushion the blow for my GI tract), Benadryl (help prevent allergic reactions), steroids, and, my favorite, the anti-nausea medications.  These “premeds” have only been standard delivery procedure for the past 10-15 years, and they have made a huge difference in patients being able to tolerate chemo.
  • Bag 2:  Taxotere, 1 hr. 40 min. drip time: this is the big gun for this treatment cycle.  I am both happy to get it (love powerful cancer-killing drugs), and will be happy for it to be over.  It is given on a 3 week cycle, and most people feel “crappy” for a decent stretch between Day 3 and Day 12.  Red is done, so I’ve got Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple coming up.
    • Side effects:
      • High incidence of allergic reactions–so far so good for me.
      • I will definitely lose my hair, and, like last time, will have a head-shaving party.  Maren wants to help shave, and we will happily let her orchestrate this part of the process.
      • Taxotere is notoriously rough on your nails.  Some people lose all 20 of their nails.  Others find them to be weak, brittle, splitting, and painful.  There is really nothing to be done about this, other than pray!
      • For those “bad days” that fall between Day 3 and Day 12, I anticipate feeling like I have the flu: fatigue, shaky, weak, nauseous, upset tummy/system, loss of appetite.
      • Immunocompromised:  My blood counts will take a dive and I will be highly susceptible to illness at various points through treatment.  I should avoid public places/crowds and anyone who might be sick.  A “regular illness” can land me in the hospital and/or delay treatment, so we are praying that won’t happen!
  • Bag 3:  Herceptin, 1 hr. 30 min. drip time:  A biological drug that targets the HER2 part of the cancer.  Can cause heart damage (I have my quarterly echocardiogram on Wednesday 11/27).
  • Bag 4:  Perjeta, 1 hour drip time:  Brand-new, expensive biological drug (praise for insurance approval!).  It works in tandem with and complimentary to Herceptin.
    • Once I’m finished with Taxotere in March, I will continue on Herceptin and Perjeta every 3 weeks indefinitely.  (Hopefully for a really, really long time).  As a Stage IV thriver, I will get scanned every 3 months.  Scans will result in 3 options:
      • Progression: New cancer pops up, tumor growth, bad news.
      • Regression: Tumors get smaller, yay! (I actually have no tumors right now, praise the Lord.)
      • Stable: No change… not as good as regression, but relatively good news.

Day 2:  I take two more steroid pills.  I go back to the oncology office for a shot of Neulasta.  It’s a 6mL shot that costs my insurance a whopping $6,000, but it kicks my bone marrow into high gear to help my body bounce back.  Before Neulasta was given regularly, there was a much larger amount of hospitalizations/infections.  Hooray for medical technology and advancement.

Day 3:  I take two more steroid pills, and brace for what could be the start of the slide.


So that was a whole lot of medical detail–hopefully it was insightful.  I really do feel incredibly grateful for the medical treatment, constant advancement, and insurance that I have been blessed with.  I have a pit in my stomach whenever I think about families who must choose between morgage or chemo.  Brad and I are so. very. blessed.

I really appreciated all of the message, comments, texts, posts, emails, and photos of red that you sent to me yesterday.  I was in my chemo recliner for 6 hours, and it was nice to feel that love peppering me while the drugs were dripping in.  Thank you for thinking of me, praying for me, and showing you care in myriad of ways.  I really can’t explain what an impact it has on me, but it makes me better, kinder, softer, braver.  I’m not alone, you know?  I had fun bringing in gifts (that were given to me to give) for the staff/patients, telling them about the Rainbow Plan for chemo, and hanging out with my friends in the Chemo Room.  Silly Rozzer (my mom) brought in red flowers, a red balloon, plates of red berries, and red napkins to share with everyone.

That chemo room is hallowed ground to me: there is no other place I’ve ever been that evokes such peace and hope and tranquility.  ‘Tis beautiful.  And now I’ve taken a bit of that hallowed ground out with me in the form of drugs: it’s time for them to work in me and draw out the good and drown the bad.  Praying for 48-1/2 more years!


  1. Lisa Smith /

    Thank you again for sharing your life and your journey with all of us through this blog. With tears streaming down my face, once again, I am humbled by your courage, your perspective, insightfulness, and over-all positive attitude. You kick my ass daily. I’m thankful for you and the impact you have on my daily thoughts. Lord bless you Jen. xo

  2. Praying for you daily. I too am on Taxotere right now (along with Carboplatin and Herceptin) and it has been rough on my system. I too am thankful for these drugs but I certainly wish the side effects were less in severity. You are an inspiration to me and so many others as you fight. Praying that your days ahead have minimal side effects.

  3. Thank you for this detailed list of what happens. My best friend did breast cancer treatment last summer and it’s interesting to be part of what you go thru. Many blessings to you and your family as this holiday season becomes another treatment excursion.

  4. Charity Buchanan /

    I would love to send you a photo of “Maren’s Heart” – a piece of glasswork that your sister made in your honour while on Solstice last year. It sits in my bedroom and is one of the first things I see every morning, reminding me to “do today well”. I would love for you to be able to see the vase, as I know it was made with much love. Your journey, as relayed by your sister, inspired many on the ship. You are proving to be a blessing to many.

  5. Heather /

    I just caught up with all the recent activity. My heart is so heavy that you are faced with this again, yet I’m bowled over by your faith and positivity in the midst of it. Will absolutely pray for those 48 1/2 years. You deserve every one of them!

  6. Jenny Marrs /

    I have been following your journey for a while now and continue to pray for healing and strength! Your faith and positivity during all of this is an inspiration!!

  7. kathy swim /

    You are so strong and inspiring!!!!!!!!!!!! I know you will do well through all this!!!!!!!!! These new drugs are so much better than the old ones!!!! A Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your wonderful family! Love, The Swims

  8. I don’t know you personally although I very much have enjoyed reading your blog and journey. My partner also dealt with this for a couple of years and your attitude through it all very much reminds me of hers….she had this amazing Tshirt..and if I lived locally (alas I am overseas in Asia) I would find a way to get it to NEED this says..”My oncologist is my homeboy” (presuming your dr. wonderful is a man I suppose..maybe the shirt is overwhelmingly sexist) ANYWAY what joy that simple tshirt brought to patients and doctors alike…continued strength.

  9. Bonnie J /

    Such an amazing day and so hard to get our heads around. Praying for minimal side affects and peaceful rest. Happy Thanksgiving Jen. He who had begun a good work in you will continue it every day !!

  10. Jen.;
    Been thinking of you a lot lately. Was hoping to see you at my next chemo., but appears as if we are going to be on different schedules. Have a Happy a Thanksgiving and savor every moment!!!
    Much love;

  11. Patty Wheeler /

    I am praying for 75 more years…

  12. I so wish my friend in Virginia could have read your updates when going through her first round battle with cancer. Like you, she is now in her second battle but this time she has some of your awesome attitude and it has made an amazing difference.
    Cheering you on from a safe distance (I have a cold.)

  13. Hi Jen,
    Sorry to hear that you are back in fighting mode…but, please know that your positive attitude is an inspiration. My daughter, Lauren (that you met on the volleyball court at West), is a fighter too! She is starting round 4 of her chemo next week.
    I pray for you every day. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  14. So many prayers for your health and for protection. It’s exciting. God’s people doing God’s work. May He bless and keep you. Happy Thanksgiving.

  15. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  16. So proud of you and so hopeful and prayerful for all that lies ahead. You can do this, and you ARE doing this and I stand with you from a distance, trusting in the Lord!

  17. Jen,
    Your fight and positive attitude inspires me to be a better person and a better mom. I’ve begun to cherish every single moment and smile from my children…thanks to you. You are so inspiring!!! Please know that I am fighting with you on the sidelines, and you and your family are in my daily thoughts and prayers. Xoxo