Yesterday I met the Top 6 Most Annoying People on the Planet. They were all in the oncology waiting room at MCD. I had plenty of time to figure out how annoying they were, because I waited over 2 hours to get to see the doctor. I seriously doubt that 1) the upcoming presidential election can fix health care, and 2) that the disabled woman really had a hemi engine in her wheelchair like her bumper sticker claimed.
Dr. F said that my incision is healing nicely. Although I still don't feel great, I am learning more every day about my new-and-not-so-improved insides. It is a delicate balance of food and meds that will be tolerated. Anything outside those imaginary boundaries is quickly rejected by my body and I pay the price for days. Dr. F assures me that I will feel better, but it will take time. Time as in months, not as in days.
I was also released to drive a car and climb stairs as I feel that I am able. That means more freedom, which I have sorely missed! Last night, I went upstairs and tucked my cowboys into bed for the first time in three weeks. Smile.
Then we moved on to the "what comes next" phase of the visit. One of the two chemosensitivity tests have come back. Dr. F gave me the stack of papers marked "FINAL REPORT" in big, bold letters. At first, I didn't understand what I was looking at. But as he began to talk, I began to absorb information. On one side of the cover page of the report, there is a column that lists 13 different drugs, or families of related drugs, that are labeled "Agents Associated With Potential Lack of Benefit." It means just what it says--each medicine listed there is ineffective in my body to fight cancer. The list includes Taxol and Cisplatin, the two chemo drugs that rocked my world less than 2 years ago. You can not imagine the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There is another list on the other side of the page labeled "Agents Associated With Potential Benefit." There is 1 drug listed there. ONE. There is ONE chemotherapy drug that might help me.
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
I had gone in to this office visit believing that I had choices. I was prepared to accept chemo, but I was also prepared to reject it if this test showed that the compatible chemo drugs were too harsh. I believed that I was entitled to choose for myself.
It never entered my mind that I wouldn't have options. And I didn't even need to ask Dr. F what would happen if I don't do the chemo. I already know. I went through hell, and it didn't matter. I can barely wrap my mind around it.
I see now that I have no choices. I have to do the chemotherapy. It's one drug...one chance...my only chance. This has to work, or......
The drug is Doxil. It is a cytotoxic drug that is used to treat aggressive forms of ovarian cancer and a specific type of sarcoma that is related to the AIDS virus. That mental image is sobering.
Doxil is an irritant. Side effects and their severity depend on how much of the drug is received. Possible side effects include low blood counts (increased risk for infection), skin rash, hand-foot syndrome, peeling and/or sores on the skin, nausea, vomiting, hair thinning and/or loss, poor appetite, stomach/digestive issues. Those are the main ones. There is also a risk of interference with the pumping action of the heart. My heart will be closely monitored for signs of disease or decreased efficiency at pumping blood.
If everything goes right, I will have my first Doxil infusion next Thursday. I will do one infusion every four weeks for six cycles, with the last one in February. We will do a CT scan in November and again in February to check progress. I have found that past chemotherapy has left my veins in terrible shape, so I will be required to have another port put in. We are still unsure when that surgery will be.
"My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm.'" Psalm 55:4-8