Monday, June 18, 2007

Really good news

It’s Monday night and I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief. I’ve got a course of action, a positive direction. My life holds promise again!

My 2 o’clock appointment with the oncologist stretched out to nearly 6pm. Followed by a celebratory dinner with my sister.

First came results of yesterday’s PET scan indicating confinement of malignant cells to my lungs. There are about ten tiny bilateral nodules, consistent with the findings of last month’s pulmonary biopsy. Surgery is not an option in this case. The target is too small and too scattered. Apart from the invasive nature of surgery, there’d be no guarantee of getting them all, or that more wouldn’t replace them.

What options are there then? There’s chemotherapy. The rate of improvement for a course of standard chemo may not be much to write home about. But we can aim higher. My doctor runs clinical trials that mix chemo with experimental drugs that act as a kind of booster, where experimental means a drug not yet approved by the FDA.

The trial she recommends combines two traditional anti-cancer drugs (Temodar and Abraxane) with Genasense, an experimental one with exciting possibilities. It has already achieved eleven of the twelve FDA requirements and it has my doctor’s team lobbying for its acceptance. She’s been invited to Spain in a few months to present her findings in conference there.

So I’ve signed up to start this trial next week. My doctor’s enthusiasm is contagious. Her findings so far indicate that patients who respond to this treatment respond “completely”. She’s achieved a high rate of total remission where other treatments had limited success. Even more striking than overall statistics is the success rate achieved in patients with normal levels of blood enzyme LDH. She’s excited about the potential in my case where I am healthy and have excellent blood numbers. There are potential side effects, but for the most part patients are not sickened as they typically are with chemo.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of mood swings over the course of the next many months. This course of treatment runs in eight week segments: six weeks on medication and two weeks off during which they run more CT scans. It can be repeated up to a total of four cycles. Most of the treatment is administered at home via pills and by pumping the experimental drug through an IV device embedded under my skin near the collarbone.

Right now I’m studying the materials my doctor has given me, anticipating placement of the “mediport” IV device on Friday, preparing for the eventuality of losing my hair, and thinking about the client work I need to get done now that I have some of my mind back.

More updates to come….


SusieQ said...

Reading about your potential hair loss reminds me of this story about Barbara.

She had several wigs, and aside from the fact that when her hair fell out (due to radiation, not chemo), it had hung halfway down her back. Her wigs were either short, short, or medium length.

Ashley MacIsaac's management (Wayne and Sheri) invited her up to Halifax for the ECMA (music awards show) and she went. Of course she was wearing a wig. At the party afterward, Wayne shouted across the room - "Hey Sunshine, I thought you said you lost your hair!". Barbara lifted the wig off her bald head and responded "I did, a**hole. Any more questions?"

I wish I could have seen the look on his face. But it was really funny.

It's good to see you in such good spirits.

Ceil Silver said...

That's hilarious! Barbara could certainly be outrageous.

Toni M. Feltman said...

I have a funny wig story too. My mom also had lung cancer (but yes she is still with the living) and lost her hair twice (once from Chemo and once from Radiation). Two summers ago she was sitting on my front porch with my father to whom she was married for about 15 years but has been divorced from for close to 20 years. We were talking about her hair loss and how significant was...yada yada yada. My dad finally says, "so how do you get your hair to look that good with so little?" We all laughed and told him that she was wearing a wig (a full head of hear wig). Did he think she was doing the comb over or what?

We still laugh about it 2 years later. I am sure we will laugh about yours too Ceil!

Anonymous said...

Aunt Celia!

This is your niece, Jessica. I just want to let you know that I've heard about your situation, and that I'm thinking of you all the time. Thank you for starting this blog. I will continue to read every day!

Ceil Silver said...

Thank you Jess!

I'm touched by all the kindness I'm feeling from friends and relatives. Good thoughts have healing power. They're another form of "radiation therapy".