Hey there…it’s been a while. Thought I’d post an update for those of you who we don’t see day to day, or who aren’t on Facebook, etc. As of last Wednesday, Brian has completed 8 rounds of his current chemotherapy, Brentuximab.
It seems as though I have been deemed with the “P.R.” role in this relationship, and I seem to answer the same questions over and over…sometimes multiple times a day. I thought I’d cover some of these questions with some updated answers..since they often change from appointment to appointment or from day to day.
1. “how long does the chemo last?”
The answer, like most cancer-related things, is not a simple one. The easiest to answer is “usually 16 rounds.” However, there are many reasons which they could stop the treatment, such as…progression of disease, not being able to tolerate the side effects, or total remission where they see it more beneficial to stop than continue. There is at least one doctor who has also continued this drug up to 32 cycles, but that is not standard. So…like I said, there is no easy answer to say when this treatment may be done.
2. “has he had any scans lately?”
Again, not an easy question. We can thank insurance for that! Here’s the “short story” version. Ready? Try to keep up. PET scans show the metabolic activity happening in your body (higher levels typically mean cancer, so this measures the activity of the cancer). CT scans show the size of things in your body (in Brian’s case, they measure his lymph nodes, since that is where his cancer is at). Back in September 2011 Brian had a PET/CT scan. That is when we decided it was best to start a chemo treatment to deal with the cancer. He started his first round in October and had 3-4 rounds before we did at PET scan in November. (I dont remember why we didn’t do a CT) The PET results showed significant decrease in activity in all areas except one lymph node..which was a HUGE praise. We continued to do chemo and were planning to do another PET/CT in February. This time, unfortunately, insurance didn’t approve a PET scan (we think it was because they require you to wait 3 or 4 months before they will approve another one). We proceeded with a CT scan and the results showed that the lymph nodes were about the same size as back in September (before treatment). So…you can see why we are unsure of how things are really going. November’s PET results showed a decrease in activity compared to September’s test, but February’s CT results showed that the size of the lymph nodes was about the same as September’s test. So…did the chemo work for a while, but then stop working? Is the chemo still working, but the size is just because there is a lot of scar tissue that won’t ever shrink? We just don’t know. SO…the plan is to do another PET/CT scan on April 3 (pending insurance approval) and getting the results on April 11. Hopefully we will be able to have a better idea of what is going on in Brian’s body after those scans.
3. “How is Brian feeling?”
It depends on when you ask that question. If you were to ask that this weekend, I’d say pretty dang crappy. This round of chemo seems to be one of the hardest yet. It didn’t start off well in the first place when they had to give him the pill-form of anti-nausea medicines rather than in IV-form before his chemo started. This caused him to nearly lose his lunch after his treatment Wednesday afternoon. Typically from day 3-10 after his treatment, he feels fatigued and somewhat nauseous. This round, however, he has seemed to be even MORE fatigued…extremely tired most of the time, upset stomach, and very achey all over. His back/neck has had some tightness, he’s had some leg cramps, and overall muscle tightness. He’s also had pretty severe heartburn. Overall, he’s just very lethargic. This time has been an exception to the rule…but I’m hoping that it doesn’t become a new normal. The chemo side effects do compound, so it only makes sense that he feels worse after 8 treatments than he did after 1 or 2. Usually about 10 days after the treatment, he will feel pretty much back to normal. Then it starts all over again shortly after that. We do treatment every 21 days.
Typically I’m not asked this last question, but I will have the occasional “how are you doing?” question. The answer, again, varies…but usually I’m doing okay. This weekend was rough. I found myself standing in the grocery store this weekend, knowing Brian was just waking up from a 3+ hour nap and was starving and aching. I was trying my best to rush around the store trying to figure out something for dinner and i just felt totally helpless. How do I care for a sick man? How do I feed him? How am I supposed to know what he needs and what he doesnt need? Should he just eat salad? Does he need sweets? Is chicken okay? I suppose those are the moments where God just does the work in my place. I seem to find myself in that spot more and more these days. But overall, I can only be thankful for an amazing husband who is strong, does very little complaining, and is sold out to serving God. It can’t get much better.