Thursday, September 03, 2020

The End of the 6th Week (August 2020 Scan Results)

There were three ways this could have went:

  1. Both the brain and lung scans coming back worse because the wrong treatment plan was chosen in the first place.
  2. The lung scan coming back better due to the current chemo treatment being effective for the lungs but the brain scan coming back worse due to the current chemo treatment being ineffective for the brain.
  3. Both the brain and lung scans coming back clear or improved allowing us to move toward minimal treatment for maintenance.

Of course we wanted the third option.  A treatment plan that we were told would not work for the tumors in Anne-Marie's brain that actually ended up working in the brain would be a bonus.  A miracle really.

The first option was news we couldn't have.  Finding out that neither the cancer in Anne-Marie's lungs nor the cancer in the brain was being reduced would have placed us in a trap.  The struggle Anne-Marie faced trying to breathe earlier this summer was so intense and frightening that abandoning treatment of the lungs would not be viable.  But the doctors did not intend to wait to treat the brain (unless the option three miracle happened).

The results of the scan showed that we are facing option two.  The tumors in the lungs have shrunk by 25%.  We were pretty sure something good was happening because the coughing and breathing problems started going away a month ago.  Going back on Taxol treatments was a strange transition after two failed treatment plans, but we can't hate the results.  Life has been much more livable since Taxol and the treatment side effects are much more mild than what we remember from when Anne-Marie took it in 2006.

But along with the 25% reduction, we got the expected news that the brain tumors have progressed.  The number of tumors has increased from 10 to 12.  Actually that's just my count.  The radiologist isn't even attempting a count at this point.  There's a lot.

Example of Whole-Brain Radiation
Example of Whole-Brain Radiation

With the largest of the brain tumors being one quarter inch in diameter, they aren't causing symptoms at this point.  Even still, Dr. Siddiqui, the radiologist believes we should act soon and wants to move forward with a two-week series of whole-brain radiation treatments.

These treatments are exactly what they sound like: radiating all of the cells in the entire brain.  The treatments are known to cause fatigue and short-term memory loss.  Because of this, the radiologist prescribed medication normally used for Alzheimer's starting today to help with memory loss issues.

This is a "one time shot" treatment (meaning that it's only intended to ever be attempted once in a lifetime) that will take 10 minutes, five days a week, until 10 treatments are complete.  Dr. Siddiqui believes he can eliminate all of the tumors using this treatment, which is great to hear.

So is this good news or bad? I think you could take it many ways, but it's really just an entirely bad situation that could have been made much worse had the news been different this morning.  We thank God for this receiving this small piece of a much larger picture.  

Sometimes life has "option twos".  Utopianism screams for option threes while fatalism shouts for option ones.  In reality, we often end up walking the middle road wishing we could see the solid edges.  Dr. Solti and Dr. Siddiqui feel like this is THE plan that will get our best results, so we are moving forward.  

As soon as we finish that 19th anniversary vacation.  Radiation treatment starts the week after we get back on Tuesday, September 15.

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