Now What?

Summer is such a fantastic time of year! Especially if you’re a teacher. We hate when people throw in our faces the fact that we get summers off, but I won’t lie, it is a terrific perk. No one becomes a teacher simply to have summers off and believe me, they are earned and deserved! Most years, summers consist of a trip, some classes or professional development, and a whole lot of reading, sleeping, eating, shopping, and otherwise enjoying a wonderfully slow pace that almost makes up for the craziness of the previous ten months.

This summer was definitely one of the best ever. In June, I spent 3 weeks in Florida. It was divided into a week of quality time with my mom, a drive through the keys along with 3 nights in Key West with friends, a week in a beachfront condo, and a 4 day cruise to Havana, Cuba. After the stress of wrapping up a school year, and, oh yeah, moving our stuff into storage, selling a house, and moving into an apartment, this trip was just what I needed to feel human again. I enjoyed every minute. There is nothing like the ocean to help me put things into perspective. I can’t exactly explain it. There is a special sense of calm and well being that comes with sitting on a beach and watching a sunset! It is my happy place.

When I returned from Florida, life went chaotic almost immediately. Mark was called to a wild fire in northwest Colorado, I had cancer treatment, and had exactly one week to prepare for my next adventure. On July 12, Nick and I flew to Sydney, Australia. This is by far, the farthest I have ever been away from home. It was quite an adventure. We survived the 15 hour plane ride and landed filled with excitement and anticipation. We weren’t disappointed. Even though it was winter in Australia, we spent the next 2 weeks exploring an absolutely beautiful country. In fact, I believe Australia has ruined United States beaches for me. The southeast coast of Australia has the most picturesque beaches I have ever seen. I can’t say enough about Australia. Incredible beauty, warm and welcoming people, charming restaurants and tourist attractions, and rich culture and history. I so hope I have the opportunity to return! My brother and his girlfriend were excellent hosts and tour guides.

Of course all good things must come to an end. I was ready to return to the US. I was ready for Mark to leave again. I was ready to start focusing on the “back to school” activities. I was NOT ready to have a bad PET scan. I mean, living with stage iv cancer, I suppose you’re always somewhat prepared, but I think this one was a much harder fall back to reality because I was still on such a high from my summer.

My scan was July 31st and I knew that it must be bad because previously, Dr. L. has called me right away when the news was good. My previous oncologist was just the opposite. With Dr. H., no news was good news, but not with Dr. L. By Wednesday morning I sent my annoying email and asked for the results. A few hours later, she sent the report. A few new spots popped up in the ischium and illiac areas (pelvis) and those that were already  there showed increased activity. A new spot was seen on my L5 vertabrae as well. The good news was that no cancer was detected in any vital organs. However, this means I have failed Ibrance/Faslodex. Actually, let me rephrase that……I did not fail, the medications failed. This is the third drug(s) that have failed. I got two years on Tamoxifen, 2 years on Arimidex, and 15 months on Ibrance/Faslodex. I was hoping to stay on the established “2 year” pattern, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The big question, of course, is NOW WHAT? For the 5 plus years I have been living with this, I have managed to avoid the harsh chemotherapy that often comes with cancer treatment. I was sure my luck had run out. But, maybe not. Dr. L. feels there is one more endocrine therapy combination I can try. It’s called Afinitor/Aromosin. But, it’s not quite that simple. First, I am going to consult with a radiation oncologist to see if perhaps some radiation may help with the hip/leg pain I’ve been experiencing. Yes, it’s still there. It seems to have settled down a little, either that or I’ve just managed to adjust to it. If the radiation oncologist feels there may be some benefit, I would do that first before starting the new drug combo. But, wait! There’s more! Another option is to look into a clinical trial. I have searched and found some that I may qualify for. I am especially interested in the immunotherapy drugs that are being tested. I truly believe that these drugs are the future of cancer treatment and perhaps prevention. I would like to be a part of this important research. But (there’s always a “but”) the trial may not take me if I do the radiation.

Ugh! I hate decisions. Especially ones that involve living and dying. So to break it down, here are the possibilities:

  1. Get accepted onto a clinical trial and become a guinea pig……but also (hopefully) put off the dreaded chemo for a little longer.
  2. Do radiation and then start the new drug combo hoping it will work and put off the dreaded chemo for a little longer.
  3. Skip radiation and start the new drug combo hoping it will work and put off the dreaded chemo for a little longer.

To be transparent……my main goal with whatever decision, is to avoid chemo! I know I can’t avoid it forever. It will be a reality that I will have to face eventually. I just want to kick that can as far down the road as possible. Chemo, while usually very effective, comes with unpleasant side effects that present challenges. I know I’m up for the challenge, but why jump the gun before absolutely necessary?

So along with going back to school, I will be seeing doctors and making some big decisions. Yes, it sucks that this is the end to what was otherwise one of the most memorable summers ever. But, hopefully I will look back on the summer of 2017 and remember the “highs” because they have far outweighed the “lows.” I consider myself pretty lucky to have seen such incredible places and experienced such amazing things.

Below are a few photos of my adventures:

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One Response to Now What?

  1. Andrea says:

    Opinions are a dime a dozen and I’ll add mine to the mix. Being a retired RN & knowing a little bit about the medical machine (not as much as you know by now, that’s for sure!), I personally would go with a tried-and-true “symptoms are predictable”-type treatment for as long as you can & as long as it’s appropriate. To me, trials are when everything else has failed. There’s no road map and no compass that comes with a trial treatment, but there is (for the most part) with a drug combo commonly used.

    But that’s just my opinion and the only opinion that truly counts is yours. Good mojo is coming your way. You will make the absolute right decision about treatment for you… trust your intuition.

    ~Andrea

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