On Thursday, February 7 and Monday, February 11, Anne-Marie had her latest set of scans to see the progress of her treatment. Imaging and radiology at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center performed a bone scan, CT scan, along with a pelvis, chest and brain MRI.
Dr. Smith met with us yesterday to discuss the results of the scans and told us that almost all areas are stable, but there are two small spots in Anne-Marie's right lung that have doubled in size. Taking into consideration the sarcoid diagnosis from two years ago, this may be nothing. Dr. Smith wants us to get a biopsy (bronchoscopy, not needle, thankfully) some time in the next two weeks and from there, we'll meet and discuss what's next.
There are bigger-picture implications that come along with this information. The team at Compass Oncology has let us know that the Tykerb/Xeloda chemo treatment that Anne-Marie has been on since May is usually discontinued at some point. This is either because the side effects are too much for the patient to take or because the cancer cells that are unresponsive to the treatment--which is inevitable--begin to multiply and become the majority, rendering the treatment ineffective.
We are on the edge of both of these. The side effects have been beyond anything we've experienced in this almost 13 years. It's been extreme enough that just a description of what Anne-Marie's going through has been enough for Dr. Smith to reduce the dosage. (In other words, he wasn't asking permission.) This happened about four times over the course of nine months and now the dosage is less than half of what it was back in May.
Regardless of the reduction, side effects have continued to intensify due to the cumulative nature of the chemo treatment. The longer you take it, the more your body reacts to it.
Combine the side effect situation with the scans showing stability rather than reduction and now we're seriously considering a treatment switch, but the biopsy will let us know for sure.
For now, Dr. Smith has ordered Anne-Marie to stop all chemo treatment, telling her she "deserves a break". So very true. We're hoping the time off will allow her to heal up and reclaim some of her life.
We are about 13 months into the cancer siege. And 13 months considered in light of 13 years allows a lot of perspective. We've had so many good times and so many hard times in that stretch that I don't want to overstate everything just because it's more recent.
But the footrace from recurrence to radiation to accidental discovery of brain tumors to Failed Treatment Plan One to Failed Treatment Plan Two to Worst Treatment Ever has been the most exhausting time of our lives. (Now, take into consideration that it's partly due to us trying to do a 800 square foot remodel/addition to our house at the same time. Wasn't planned that way, but never ever try that, boys and girls. Ever.)
Here's the moment of joy in all of this: Tykerb wasn't supposed to work in the first place. We already tried it in 2012 and it was the biggest chemo failure we've ever had. When we were given the treatment plan last April, we made it clear to Dr. Smith that it wasn't an acceptable option, but he held his ground and just told us "maybe this time it will be different". Well, it was.
And during the time Anne-Marie has been taking it, PARP inhibitors--which I'll talk more about later if we go that direction--have come into major use and become a viable alternative for treatment. We didn't have time to even worry about it, but pieces have fallen into place in the background. That's less energy and worry for us, which can't be a bad thing.
So, yeah, our house isn't clean, our IRAs aren't maxed out, our meals are served on Chinet instead of china and our 10-year-old's science project looks like it was done by a 10-year-old. I seem to never get over wanting to know how it's all gonna turn out, but I don't know. What I do know is that God loves us and that He knows. He is the Hero in this story.