Monday, July 7, 2008

Tumor Markers, Scans, Side Effects

My latest blood test shows my tumor markers have gone up since six weeks ago:
CA-125 up to 125.5 from 116.3 (normal range is <35.0).
CEA to 4.6 from 4.4 (normal is <4.7).
CA15-3 to 25.9 from 22.6 (normal is <25.0).
[N.B. Normal range varies slightly, depending on the lab. The normal ranges I've given here are those given by the lab that analyzed my blood sample.]

My liver ultrasound shows seven tumors, same as before, with no significant changes. The largest is 3.7 cm wide and the smallest is 1.36 cm. The lungs look the same, and so does my heart. Overall, my oncologist says my condition is "stable". She also says this chemo takes six to nine weeks to really kick in.

I've been extremely lucky in that I haven't suffered most of the side effects of chemotherapy. There was that bad spell back in March and April when I couldn't hold my head up and couldn't breathe properly. We thought that was the beginning of the end for me. But I've bounced back since then and have sent the oxygen machine back. I've also moved on to other chemo combinations.

I started on this current one of Xeloda (Capecitabine) + Herceptin + Tykerb a month ago and so far, side effects have been minimal. These are the physical symptoms I've been having:

- Itchy rash on face, but fairly mild, and lasted only a week or so.
- Itchy, red, tingly hands and feet - the dreaded Hand-Foot Syndrome, but a very mild case so far and it's just started to get better. The creases on the left hand and feet were splitting so it felt like I had tiny paper cuts between the fingers and at the creases of the joints. It was manageable as long as I kept putting moisturizer on so the skin didn't crack and split further. I've also had a few blisters on my feet and infections on four toes. I was on oral antibiotics for the infections and they feel much better now.
- Bleeding and tenderness inside nose, but went away after a week or so.
- Diarrhea, but not bad enough to cause dehydration. A very embarrassing, annoying side effect that makes it hard to get out much.
- Sore jaw, so I can't open my mouth too wide and hurts a bit when I chew.
- No mouth ulcers, but inner lining of mouth seemed to have gone so that I was very sensitive to even very mildly spicy foods. Toothpaste hurt as well. This problem just got better yesterday and I was able to eat Korean veggies marinated in chili! Oh joy!
- Very mild queasiness, especially just after taking Xeloda, but not bad enough to take medication for it. Not nearly as bad as morning sickness during pregnancy.
- My hair has started growing back, but not as thick and dense as it used to be. Instead of looking like a cancer patient, I look like I have a bad haircut.
- Coughing a bit, but mostly when I talk or laugh too much. Have learned incredible control over my gag reflex though and have not thrown up in a while now. No problems with breathing except I get easily winded if I walk too fast.
- Pain along my right chest and side when I cough, sneeze, or hiccup.
- Weight loss. I still can't get back the 5 kg (11 lbs.) I lost back in March, no matter how much fatty food I eat.
- Weaker and more tired than usual, but nothing like I was back in March. So I've gone from Speedy Gonzales to Eeyore in energy and movement.

If any of you have had chemo and have any information to share about these symptoms or this drug combination, please do!


ALI KATI said...

I don't know much about this regiment, but <3 to you, girl. Not a pleasant period so I hope you feel better soon.

Francesca Giessmann said...

i am happy you are feeling better than in the spring...