I also have a very sweet post started for you but until then, you'll have to take this even sweeter news:
I just had a CT scan and it showed a 50% reduction in tumor burden.
I know, right? We all thought I was not long for this world, and here I am, cancer retreating like the French in WWII.
The chemo I began in late January, Gemzar, was just about intolerable. I didn't think it was working, and worse, it was hurting me with all that blood cell killing and all. I knew I was not going to make it too long on that drug, and I didn't - after one dose reduction and a few more rounds that I was unable to finish, we stopped it at the end of March. My doctor said he'd put me on TDM1, but first, I needed a baseline scan.
I thought it was highly possible, based on all my symptoms, that my time was short and I wasn't going to make my goal - my son's high school graduation.
I do what all women do every morning. You get up, you brush your teeth and hair, wash your face, you look in the mirror and check for stray hairs, inspect your skin for new wrinkles, and of course, you check to see if your eyeballs have turned yellow from jaundice.
Surprisingly, my eyeballs stayed white (okay, sort of white with pink lines) and so I knew I wasn't at end stages, but I was also freaking miserable as I wrote about in my last post. I couldn't make it on that drug. I figured that it wasn't working for me; I was declining.
I've been off the Gemzar for about 3 weeks, and I've slowly started to feel better. So my decline was from the drug, and not the cancer. My birthday was April 5th, and I had told people in early March not to come visit me because I'd been so sick they would have just been watching me sleep, but as it turns out, they could have come. (Lesson: you can't plan with cancer.) Since I stopped the Gemzar, I have been able to cook a couple of meals, (and even eat a few bites although I'm still down 9 pounds) stand for longer periods of time, stay awake for hours at a time, and just feel more and more whole. I even woke up at 10:00 a.m one day, without an alarm. What a luxury! Now, I still have a lot of pain in the liver and stomach and have a lot of gastro problems and am very tired. If you'd dropped the Ann from 4 years ago into the body I occupy now, she'd have run screaming, just like the aforementioned French. But, in comparison to last month - I have improved a lot, and no longer wonder if I'll be dead within the month.
On my birthday, I even managed to go to Michael's to get a scrapbook and Macy's to get a sweater. I rarely leave the house so that was impressive. (And I remembered why I don't leave as it was also energy-zapping).
And, I had the energy to turn fifty-five! (An age that would have normally taken me a lot of mental energy but now I'm just thankful for). I went out to dinner on my birthday with my family, and even ate a delicious steak and had tastes of sides. It took two days to recover from those things and I was super nauseous the next day, probably from taking in more calories at one time than my body usually does in a month. But, I did it, enjoyed it and was so grateful to be able to do it. I was very happy that day.
So, in case you hadn't figured it out - this is good news. Something is finally working to shrink my tumor. Even cutting out half my liver didn't do it.
With the good comes the bad: it was the intolerable Gemzar that is shrinking the tumor, so back on the intolerable Gemzar I go. I start Wednesday with a 50% dose reduction, and I will refill all my anti-nausea pills, wash my sheets and arrange for my son to get home from school on his own by Thursday. Despite the horrible side effects, going back on the drug was my idea. My doctor was willing to put me on TDM1. But, if something is actually working for me I'd be a fool not to try again. I want that extra four months or whatever this will technically give me, and so I'll suffer for it. I still have TDM1 to use down the road.
After seeing my path report, I hadn't realized that the cancer is abutting the portal vein, which is not a good place for a cancer to be, at least in my uneducated opinion. Right now, the vein shows no "significant displacement." I'm not sure what happens when there is significant displacement but I'm not sure I want to find out. Shrinking it down off that vein sounds like a good idea, even if I have to feel bad a little while longer. Also, apparently, the cancer was on the march and I'd had swollen lymph nodes near my liver, which have now shrunk.
Now, here I go, busting some bubbles like a kid on a summer morning, but facts must be faced: the thing Stage IV breast cancer patients know is that when you get regression or even NED, it's temporary. Cancer always wins. Gemzar could continue to work and shrink the cancer down to nothing (NED) and it could stay that way for months, or a year. Hell, a miracle could happen and it could be two years. I could see my kid off to college and then be the woman people whisper about, "wasn't she supposed to be dead by now?"
Equally possible, the next 3 month scan could show cancer the size of France. You just don't know in Cancer World. I have known women who were NED who died six months later.
But, me? I am living in today. My cancer has shrunk - today. Something worked - today. Something got me closer to my goal of seeing my son off to college - today. Screw the future. Today is good. Today is full of hope. Today is beautiful.
I did what every girl does to celebrate - I bought some new shoes. I didn't get the kind I'd have bought four years ago, with sky high heels. I bought some Bobs, the flats that are by Sketcher, but I made sure that they had glitter in them. Some things never change. I decided if the cancer was shrinking, if I was approaching something resembling health, I should go out in in real shoes, and not slippers.
Shoes with sparkles, to reflect my optimism.
I take a photo on my birthday every year. I am proud that I was able to do it this year and so I share it with you. I am 55, and damn happy to be alive.
|Ann: now with less tumor!!|