Thursday, July 30, 2009

Evidently, I Lied.

This morning when the woman called me from that cancer organization, I told her I was currently undergoing chemotherapy. Well, as of my meeting with Dr Specht this afternoon, that is no longer true. My PET scan and my neck-to-pelvis CT both looked good. Which means that the CT showed sclerotic tissue in the bones (which is scar tissue and is consistent with healing) and nodules in the lungs that were still reducing in size—either scar tissue from the cancer, or scar tissue from the pneumonia; and the PET showed no signs of heightened glucose metabolism where we don't want it to be. The blood test results will be available next week.

In the past when I was on chemo, I continued it for 3 months after my numbers normalized and my scans showed nothing new; of course, that totaled six months of chemo. At the moment I am at . . . hold on a second and I'll consult a calendar . . . okay, it looks like I have had 52 weeks of chemo in the last 14 months. I missed several weeks when I was in the hospital, and I've missed another couple weeks to prepare for the PET scans, but that's a year's worth of weeks, anyway. That's a lot of toxin.

That amount of toxin has depleted a lot of my natural stores of immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, and I've pretty much not been taking any supplements during this time (although I do eat a largely organic diet, which hardly ever includes any sort of processed foods.). Vitamin C can interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapies, and the natural supports for specific, known issues—B-6 for neuropathy, calcium for bone strength, folic acid for I don't know what—is small and cautious. I am hoping to work with my Witch Doctor to build up a more complete internal support system, which Dr Specht is carefully supportive of. It is not her area of expertise, and she wants to be sure that anything I plan to do outside her jurisdiction is still discussed with her. I completely understand, and I completely agree.

That amount of toxin has also reduced the cancer load in my body to an invisible amount, at least for the measuring tools we have. As for my specific treatments with Dr Specht, for the foreseeable future I will having Herceptin infused at the clinic once every three weeks (well, I'll go next week, and then start the 3-week cycle after that so that I am cleared for my next trip to Jerome Creek, for two weeks in September.), with regular meetings with her, regular blood tests, and additional scans at various, relatively short, intervals. There is a new drug that I may begin, if my insurance approves it—it costs $4,000-$5,000 per month, so they may not. There is some belief that the new drug, being a smaller molecule than most chemos and Herceptin, will be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and help out in my head. Dr Specht said that lots of doctors hope this to be true; Jason does not believe it to be so. I figure, first I'll see if it's available to me, then I'll decide if I want to use it. It's oral, so I could take it at home at my convenience, but it has the unpleasant side-effect of diarrhea, which, as Dr Specht said when she first introduced the idea of this medication several weeks ago, will probably not be bad enough that I will need to be hospitalized. Sounds like fun.

Anyway, I am thrilled that I get to spend some time without the nausea (albeit minor), the fatigue (even though small), and the weekly hassle (the true bane) of chemotherapy. I almost don't really believe it—I still have a fridge full of expensive Neupogen (ooh—black market dealer!) and a stack of syringes next to my dining room table. I have several pills left in one of my bottles. And I suddenly have two Thursdays out of every three FREE!

What to do first???


Shelley said...

What a difference a year makes.


allyson said...

My goodness, yes! (commenting on Shelley's comment). So happy and excited for you. Couldn't help but notice that the side effects of chemo are awfully similar to pregnancy. What's up with that!? xoxoxo A

CMT said...

Yeah, Al, I've noticed that as well--at least, from what I've heard ;).

Robert said...

Well, THAT was a nice post to read!

-- Robert V.