Thursday, November 29, 2007

Last Chemo. For Now.

I had my last dose of Navelbine today. From now on, I’ll just have Herceptin every three weeks. Navelbine is chemotherapy – it kills all fast-growing cells whether they’re cancer cells or healthy cells. Herceptin is immunotherapy. It slows down or stops the kind of breast cancer cells that I have from growing.

Because Herceptin targets breast cancer cells, it doesn’t have as many of the side effects that chemotherapy does. It does have one serious side effect though – it causes damage to the heart, especially when combined with certain chemotherapy drugs. So my heart is being monitored fairly closely.

So now what happens?

In four months, I’ll have another brain MRI and a PET/CT scan to see whether and where the cancer has spread. Depending on where and how much it’s spread, I’ll start another round of chemotherapy, maybe with Navelbine again or maybe with another chemotherapy drug.

The Herceptin will be for the rest of my life. I can’t get chemotherapy continuously for the rest of my life, since that would kill me. So we do a few cycles, wait, do a scan, do another few cycles, wait, do a scan, and so forth. The breaks give my body a chance to recover from the chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it also gives the cancer cells time to recover.

Here’s an analogy to illustrate how this all works:
Cancer cells = Enemy soldiers.
My immune system = My soldiers.
Chemotherapy = Allied planes carpet bombing the battlefield.
Herceptin = Allied soldiers blockading enemy supplies and reinforcements.
My anti-cancer diet, exercise = Battle conditions (weather, weaponry, etc.)

The chemotherapy was killing the enemy, but it was also killing my soldiers (healthy cells). It took out as many of the enemy as it could and left the rest to my soldiers. My allies (Herceptin) are blocking the enemy forces from regaining strength or growing. The enemy can still recoup and their soldiers can regain their strength. But if the weather changes in my favor AND my allies block them from getting fresh supplies, they might slowly freeze to death and waste away to a point where I won’t need the ally planes to carpet bomb again. My soldiers might be strong enough to beat the enemy, given the advantages of superior weapons, favorable weather and other battle conditions.

This is why it’s so important to me to keep up with the diet and exercise. More on that later.

1 comment:

zorop said...

it's a cartoon script but it certainly does make my inept
brain to grasp this cancer topic a little better. i shall copy it. thank you.