The new year is upon us and with it will come new treatment for me. Chemo, specifically. I am not pleased, but will, quite literally, take my medicine because I will pretty much do anything to beat this disease.
Basically the reason for taking this step is because the Guru oncologist is of the view that while there are a lot of potential clinical trials that I could try next, it is going to take a good month before I could start any of those treatments. He isn't sure whether or not the treatment I have already done will work, and there is a somewhat urgent need to get at the tumors in my liver before they cause liver failure (BTW my liver labs are still very good, which is amazing given the amount of tumor growth in there). So, he wants me to do six weeks of chemo (which has about a 30 percent chance of working), in an effort to not waste any time.
I appreciate the aggressive approach my doctor is taking and I agree that we should take this step so we don't lose a month, but I am pretty bummed out about having to go through chemo. Losing my hair, more days of being nauseated, more days of being couch-stricken. It does not sound like a lot of fun. Not that having cancer is much fun anyway.
While I am going through chemo, we will continue to explore our options with respect to clinical trials. Part of that process was a trip earlier this month to Los Angeles to get a second opinion. To make a long(ish) story short, I personally walked away feeling encouraged that there are more than a handful of treatments that we can try on top of the treatment I am already undergoing.
We have nicknamed the doctor I went to see "Dr. Hollywood." He started the appointment off by saying, and I quote, "you don't just have options, you have a s*&%! ton of options." He then proceeded to go through my case and in the process wrote down 10 possible treatments we can try, which included chemo but also a lot of clinical trials, radiation and a few other interesting ideas.
Over the next month we will use this list along with adding some other clinical trials happening at UCSF to evaluate what the best next step after chemo might be. In addition, we plan to use the time to get me qualified and ready to take that step immediately if the chemo doesn't work. Some of the options we will be exploring include:
- Looking at what other treatments called "pathway inhibitors" which are similar to the treatment I am already on might be added to my infusion regime. It sounds like most, if not all, of these are in clinical trial.
- We learned that just as we all have blood types, we all have immune system types. Who knew?! There is a treatment (in clinical trial) that they are seeing some success with that works with the immune system type found in 50 percent of caucasians. So, we agreed to get my immune system type sorted out so we can potentially explore this option.
If you are the praying type I would really appreciate prayer for my attitude about going through chemo. I have always seen it as a last resort, so taking this step at a time that feels "too early" to me has me a little down, even though I really think it's the right move. In addition, please pray that I will tolerate the treatment well and that the nausea will be under control, especially since I am still feeling the effects from the previous treatment (although, that nausea is under good control thanks to the pharma industry). The treatments will start next week, potentially as early as Tuesday.
We also need prayer for clarity as we make decisions about clinical trials moving forward. There will be a lot of complex science and medicine to understand or to trust others to understand. There will also, thankfully, be more than one option. All good problems to have, but it could be a confusing time and the decision feels "big" to me. I think it goes without saying, but prayers for healing are also always appreciated!
As I reflect on this new phase and the new year I cannot help but say, yet again, thank you for your love, prayers and support. This journey and the constant adjusting to our newest normal would not be as smooth as it has been without you. Erick and I wish you a very happy and HEALTHY 2016!