My January Pet/Ct scan came back as a “mixed bag.” Overall, the cancer is stable, except for 2 spots in the lower pelvic region that progressed. One progressed in both size and activity. The other progressed in activity only. These are perhaps the most difficult scans to deal with. The options: 1) Do nothing. Stay the course and see what happens. I’m not usually a “do nothing” fan. I’m more of a proactive kind of person that likes to address issues before they become bigger. 2) Call it progression, ditch my current chemo and move on to the next drug. The problem with this option is that I am at the threshold of IV chemos. IV chemo meaning, have a port placed in a major artery, go in once a week, get an infusion, lose my hair, etc. Certainly not fun, but something I always knew was coming. 3) Radiate the two problem areas, stay on the current oral chemo, and re-scan in a few months. This way, if there is truly progression, we will see it in other areas. With my oncologist on maternity leave, I consulted with the radiation oncologist and chose option 3.
Back to radiation I went. Radiation does not hurt while you’re receiving the treatment. It is pretty easy. You lay there, very still, while a huge machine rotates around you. They first take x-rays to insure you’re lined up correctly and the dose will be delivered to the right spots. I always know when the dose is being delivered because there is a very distinct buzzing sound. The techs come in, help you get off the table and off you go. Rinse, repeat for however many days/doses you’re getting. This time it was five. They tend to do 1, 5, or 10 in cases of cancer that has spread. Early stagers (which it’s been 18 years since I qualified for that category) get 35-40 daily treatments. But in early stage, the goal is still to cure the cancer. In my case, they’re not looking to cure anything. The idea is to control symptoms, and prolong life. I thought I had escaped my latest round of radiation side-effect free. But, unfortunately, about 10 days after finishing, I developed a very painful sunburn in the pelvic region. I won’t get graphic, but this is skin that doesn’t see the light of day much anyway. It was so painful! It blistered. It peeled. I had to go commando for a couple of weeks. I was quite happy when it was resolved.
My oncologist returned from maternity leave in February. She agreed with my decision and we scheduled another Pet/Ct for the end of April. So, I bought myself at least 3 additional months of oral chemo. I hope for more than that, but if there is clear progression in April, it will be time to switch. I leave for South Africa at the end of March for two weeks. I’m so excited as this trip has been on the calendar for a little over a year. I don’t suspect I’ll ever be able to afford another South Africa trip, so this really is a once in a lifetime event. I’m lucky that my doctor supports my traveling and is willing to work my visits and treatments around my trips, but that will become more difficult if I have to go in once a week.
I am trying to be “realistically optimistic” about the situation. Realism is necessary in accepting this bullshit diagnosis, for lack of a better term. You have to accept that there is no cure, treatments suck, side-effects are numerous, and you’re never going to be done with treatment……at least until you die. The optimistic side is the fact that I am now over the 7 year mark of survival. At diagnosis, I was told 3-5 years is the average. I’ve managed to avoid the IV chemos for these 7 years, which is rather remarkable. And, I am maintaining a decent quality of life. I won’t say it’s always easy, but I’m still able to work part time, travel, socialize, and keep checking off all of those items on my bucket list. Realistically, I know it will end at some point, but optimistically, that point is still years away!
I’ll post an update after my trip and my next scan! Fingers crossed!