As I mentioned last week, my primary concern was that my treatment for breast cancer had as little impact as possible on my diabetic control while having maximum effect on the cancer. I was well aware that chemotherapy would involve stress, and any kind of stress affects blood sugar. So when the oncologist gave me a choice of two types of chemotherapy drugs, I chose the milder but slower regime, 5-FU plus Methotrexate.

It was a mild regime in the sense of minimal side effects, but I had to get an infusion weekly for close to 5 months. And even with this regime I was warned that there was a good chance of nausea, losing my hair or anemia.

Luckily, I could get the infusions in Fairbanks, within driving distance of my home, and between the cancer center and VanTran I had a good chance of getting a ride if I got too sick to drive.

Remember I said that the diabetes actually helped me deal with the breast cancer diagnosis? It wasn’t all psychological. One of the things I have learned in my years of trying to keep my blood sugar under control is that I have to have regular exercise. I’m not much good at walking any more, but I have an exercise bike, a rowing machine and a treadmill all set up facing my television. About the only time I watch TV or a DVD without exercising at the same time is when my blood sugar is dangerously low.

I kept that up throughout the chemotherapy, with at least an hour a day of aerobic exercise. (I have an adult tricycle, too, but I didn’t ride that much the summer I was getting chemo.)

I honestly think that continuing to exercise throughout chemotherapy and radiation treatment had a lot to do with how few side effects I had. It may be that I was simply lucky, that I would have had few side effects from the chemo regardless. I can’t help but believe that some of my generally good health throughout the chemo was due to the fact that I continued regular exercise.

Having the rather large needles inserted into my hand was painful and annoying, especially as they always used the hand on the unoperated side, but I never had to have a shunt. Even my hair, while thinning, stayed on my head. I had to get blood tests before every session, and my white and red cell counts did get low enough I had to get some shots to build my blood back up, but I never really felt sick. I lost some weight I could well afford to lose, though unfortunately it didn’t stay off.

Most of the summer and early fall of 2008 I was driving to the cancer center every week for chemo. I did stretch the space between appointments once, to attend a family reunion. I’m glad I did, as it was my last chance to see two of my aunts, both then in their 90’s, who passed on a few months later.

I’ll talk next week about the radiation therapy.

Note—the Sunday blog would normally be about the genetics of the white splash gene in horses, but February 19 is Writing in the Dark, a writers’ conference held annually here in Fairbanks. Instead of the normal horse genetics, I’ll be blogging on the conference next Sunday. I’ll also encourage attendees to put samples of their writing at the conference up as comments. Our leader and inspiration will be Peggy Shumaker, our state writer laureate, and I’m really looking forward to it.

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