This is probably going to be an information-dense post... so I apologize to anyone reading that doesn't really want to sift through the jargon to get the point. For those of you who would rather just get to the meat of the blog, here it is: THIS IS MY LAST CHEMO!!!!
I am about to finish my first bag of chemo - only two more bags to go. Period. No more chemo for me after today!!!! In all my excitement Dr. Luoh reminded me that this treatment isn't over yet and I would need to be particularly careful about sickness and fatigue after this treatment. He said that even though I'm 90% done with chemo today - this last 10% (the last chemo) could technically feel as bad as 50%. In other words, this chemo is going to be the worst yet. Dr. Luoh also reminded me that I will still have 11 treatments of Herception - luckily the Herceptin doesn't cause any side effects so it will be a quick 1/2 an hour infusion and then back to life! After the Herceptin is done I'll be able to have my port removed!!!
Shane and I had a number of discussion items on our agenda for Dr. Luoh this morning as we have both been doing our research surrounding the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium, some up coming cancer trials, and the possibility of having my ovaries removed. Dr. Luoh indicated to us that some retrospective research coming out had indicated that the survival rates of women who are post menopausal are higher than those who are not and therefore the medical suppression of my ovaries or removal completely may be a good option to decrease my chances of the cancer returning which explains why he brought this up for the first time during the last chemo. He indicated that we could have this discussion once I was finished with radiation and that radiation would need to be our focus for the time being.
We also talked to Dr. Luoh about my current chances of reoccurance. According the BCIRG006 report with all of my treatments I have a 20% chance of reoccurance over the next 5 years. Shane feels like 80% chance that the cancer won't reoccur is great odds. Personally, I'm dwelling on the 20%, but trying to keep my chin up. In order to reduce these odds further Shane and I talked to Dr. Luoh about possible clinical trials available for me. Apparently there is a clinical trial that I could start after radiation that would have me taking the diabetes drug Metformin that possibly reduces the chances of reoccurance in the future. The other trial I would start after Herceptin utilizes an oral drug called Neratanib to target HER2 cancer specifically. Of course, Dr. Luoh suggested that I focus on the treatment at hand and plan for the best rather than getting too worked up about applying for clinical trials. Since he is the administrator for both of these trials, he assured me that we would talk about them when I was eligible and he would definitely keep me in the loop about any upcoming opportunities that I can take part in. I'm really in hopes that I'll be able to take part in both trials, if not, I think we are all leaning toward the Neratinib trial.
Next week I will be setting up an appointment with the radiologist to get started on my "calibration" for radiation and my tattoos to line up the machine. We are also planning on meeting with our Naturopath face to face for the first time (our appointments have all been over the phone) to talk about how to minimize the risks of radiation and some supplements I can take to make sure that my body is effected as little as possible - other than killing cancer cells. Just as a side note, Dr. Kaszor, our naturopath will be featured at the Komen Portland Breast Cancer Symposium in March! Shane and I are planning on attending and soaking up as much additional knowledge as possible. If only knowledge killed cancer cells!
Despite the linger fears of finishing chemo today and losing my poison-laden security blanket, I'm really excited and optimistic that I will not be spending 5 days every 3 weeks laid out on the couch! I'm excited to get my hair back - which has already started growing at a snail's pace. I'm excited to be able to walk up the stairs without losing my breath, drink a cup of coffee without getting sick, taste food, lose all of this weight caused by the steroids, finish the entire two mile walk at the dog park without gasping for breath, not have a consistently dripping nose from my lack of nose hair, stay up past 7:30p.m., and most of all enjoy life as its meant to be enjoyed! Hopefully in 5, 10, and 20 years I'll be able to look back and say that I'm SOOO glad that I finished this chemotherapy and even more glad that I didn't have to do it again! So here's cheers to everyone who has been so amazing to help us out and show support since starting this craziness in September and here's to closing this chapter of the cancer journey and continuing on to the next chapter: radiation.