Saturday, December 15, 2007

Good News/Bad News

The good news is, the chemo’s working again. The bad news is, that means the tumors were growing again. In fact, they must’ve started growing again as soon as my last cycle of chemo was over on November 28.

When I told my oncologist today that the pain had subsided since I went back on chemo two days ago, she said it was “worrisome”. I guess she was hoping that the chemo would have no effect on the pain, so there would still be hope that the pain was NOT due to tumors growing again but to some other cause.

My doctor says maybe my chemo (Navelbine) and Herceptin work synergistically so that Herceptin alone isn’t enough to keep the cancer cells at bay; I need to have the two together. She says she’s had many patients with these two drugs but has never seen tumors grow back so quickly as soon as the chemo stopped. She consulted with a colleague who said the same.

This means I need to be on chemo continuously, along with the Herceptin, because as soon as I go off it, the tumors grow again.

So now I stay on Navelbine + Herceptin until my cancer cells become resistant and the Navelbine no longer works. When that happens, I move on to another chemo drug. My doctor says there are only two side effects from being on Navelbine long-term: 1) cancer cells become resistant, 2) sensory neuropathy. Sensory neuropathy is nerve damage to extremities, so it causes a tingling sensation and sometimes pain in the fingers and toes, hands, and feet. My doctor says this damage is usually reversible after a year or two.

The real worry here is that my cancer cells are growing faster than my oncologist, her colleague, and my surgeon (whom I also consulted) have ever seen in all their years of practice. So I might not last the average two years of survival for metastatic breast cancer patients. It’s not looking good, but I’m holding out hope that something will happen in the world of cancer research before my time runs out.

Meanwhile, I need to plan my days more wisely. And I think I’m extremely lucky that I’m still able-bodied and functioning as normal. I’m really going to appreciate this while I still can.

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