Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Maintenance Chemo, Here I Come."

PET Scans are fun. Not. What is a PET Scan you ask? It's this-> Definition. And this-> Gross. And this-> Ahhh.
It is also lots of these -> Results, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, too.
After 7 months of absolutely brutal chemotherapy treatment, I had a follow-up PET Scan. Knowing what to expect the second time around made the actual scan much more endurable. Waiting for the results ... that was the worst part for me.
So, we (my mom, hub, and myself) show up at Doc W's office to discuss the results, and surprisingly, the results were mostly good. All four spots of my cancer, including those scary mets on my liver, were "resolved" (fancy medical term for "all better"). They found some suspicious activity on my abdominal wall that Doc W took before the tumor board. The activity was determined to be my ovary just doing it's job.
So ........ with "No Evidence of Disease", Doc W decided that he wanted me to begin "maintenance" or "safety" chemo.
His theory went a little something like this.
"Five years ago, ten years, we'd treat you for the active cancer inside your body, then depending on whether or not your body responded to the chemo, which your's did, we'd sit back and wait for the cancer to return. Now, we can be a step ahead of the cancer. We can be in control of whether or not the cancer returns." ~Doc W
His theory makes complete sense to me. And my closest friends and confidants know that I look at chemotherapy treatment as a sick-form of a security blanket. As long as I've got chemo in body, the cancer can't come back, right?
Enter my "maintenance chemo" regimen:
~ An infusion of Avastin, so I can bleed relentless and have a little pain.
~ 28,000 mgs of Xeloda, aka 5FU pills. I don't take 28,000 mgs at once. I take 1,000 mgs in the morning and evening over a 14 day period. This way, my feet and fingertips can burn and blister for days on end. I can stumble around in a fatigue-laced stupor, and spew toxic sludge from both ends.
~ A seven day break, most spent dreading my next dose of poison.

I'm laughing as I type this. My sarcasm is at an all time high right now. You've heard me talk about 5FU and how bad it made me feel, how it was the most brutal of my chemotherapy drugs, how I loathed the pump that weighed me down for 276 hours of my life, and caused me to walk like I was a hundred years old. This drug that is so hard on me ... is the main drug of my maintenance chemo. Oh, my luck.

And yet, I know I'm strong enough to handle it. I'll laugh my way through maintenance chemo knowing that I endured 6 months of regular chemo that was 10 times harder than this is now. And even though I know I'm strong physically, I secretly worry if I'm emotionally strong enough to withstand this part of my journey.
Yes, it's slightly reassuring to still be in treatment, but that does mean I'm not a survivor yet? When do I get to say, "I beat cancer!"? says, "The growing use of maintenance therapy may raise new questions about when people begin to consider themselves cancer survivors. For some people, receiving maintenance therapy after the first treatment may provide a sense of reassurance. However, other people may struggle to see themselves as survivors if they are still receiving cancer treatment. No matter how a person views the stages of cancer treatment, starting maintenance therapy is an important part of many people's treatment and recovery plan."

Honestly, I don't know if I'd rather still be in treatment, or if I'd rather be done and just waiting to see if cancer returns to my body. Either way, I'm still stuck in Chemotopia, limping around with a blue barf-bag in hand, and a tissue shoved up my nose while I try to enjoy my life from one day to the next.

Carry on,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"I'm In a Cancer State-of-Mind."

I just read this amazing article written by lutintoutnu.

It's poses the question: "Are we ever really cancer-FREE?"

If I had to answer that question right now, my answer would be no ... even though the cancer that was inside me seems to have been eaten up by the 6 months of chemo I just finished. I didn't have much active cancer inside me to begin to with, but ... but my latest pet scan results came back basically N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease).
I should be doing cartwheels or cheering or something elated with that kind of news, but I'm not. I can't. Here's my theory why: CANCER isn't just a disease, it's a state-of-mind. This mental place is totally possible and quite frankly, reasonable considering what I've been through. If someone can be in a "New York state-of-mind", a "Cancer state-of-mind" HAS to apply, right? Que video below now.
Yes, my physical body seems to have responded to my therapy but my mind just sees statistics. It still hears things like, "You have blankety-blank months," and "Stage 4," and "Chemo for life." 
I want my mind to match my body. What my conscious is saying right now: "Please respond to the therapies I'm offering you, oh warped brain in my skull. Can't you see the the cancer's gone?"
What my mind hears: "Late-stage cancer is terminal. Late-stage cancer has an 80-90% chance of recurrence."
I don't think a day will go by--for the rest of my life--that I'll be able to just kick back and say, "Oh hey, all is well because I'm cancer-free." Even during this blissful chemocation I'm enjoying, the worry is still there. 
Lutintoutnu says, "It might not be all sunshine, rainbows or fluffy kittens but it is where I am at. Yes I am grateful for my life and my health but I want to be OK with this second stage of feeling scared, worried, and anxious. I can't quite explain why these thoughts are poisoning my mind ..." 
Cancer is a state-of-mind. That's why thoughts like these ones are constantly swimming around in my head. The worry is my mental poison. I hope this goes away or at least decreases over time. But I'm not counting on it. 
Of course, it doesn't help that I'm nervous for tomorrow. I meet with Doc W to discuss phase 2 of my long-term care plan. Wish me luck!

Carry on,