Monday, November 23, 2009

Chemo Rounds 19 & 20

Well, there’s not much to tell since the last update. I guess no news is good news in this case. I started the 19th round of chemo on October 12. So far, the chemo does not seem to be too harsh. I am having some aches and pains but I don’t really think they are side effects of the new chemo. More than likely I am just dealing with the side effects of 18 months of chemo.

I have been having some trouble keeping my blood counts up. The dose that I should have received on October 19 was delayed until Thursday, October 22 to allow my white count to recover. By delaying that week, my infusion was moved to Thursday the next week as well. When I went in on October 29, my white count was borderline. My doctor decided to go ahead with the chemo and supplement my blood count with Neupogen for a few days. On Sunday, November 1, I came down with a low grade fever, indicating that my white count had dropped to zero and infection had set in. I have been on antibiotics since, which have kept my fever under control. Since my counts were so low, I did not begin chemo again until Monday, November 16.

During my 2 ½ weeks off from chemo aside from having neutropenic fever, I also had been having severe back pain. The pain started low and would radiate up to the base of my skull. Every breath that I took would be accompanied by a throbbing, intense pain. I was beginning to get worried because the pain was very reminiscent of my hip and nerve related pain when I was first diagnosed. Dr. D’Amato, my local oncologist, decided to schedule an MRI of the spine and brain for as soon as possible. On Friday, November 13 I underwent a three hour long MRI of the entire spine and brain. I was not prepared for such a long test which was not only long, but uncomfortable, and almost unbearable. They told me during the MRI that it should have been scheduled for several different days instead of one long test on one day. I could certainly see why they normally schedule it that way, however after it was all over with and I made it through the whole test I was just glad to have it done with. We left our house at about 12:30 that day and did not return home until 7 pm that evening.

On Monday, November 16 my white blood cell count was extremely high at 24. This was because of the Neupogen injections Marissa had been giving me for the seven days prior. We discussed with Dr. D’Amato keeping my counts high before the chemo infusion, so when they fall they do not fall so low that I would continue to get neutropenic fever. So before every infusion on Monday, Marissa will begin my Neupogen shots the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before. I am having tremendous amounts of muscle pain and fatigue and I can only think that the Neupogen is contributing to these symptoms. During this doctor’s appointment, we also received the results from my MRI. Fortunately, everything looks good and it showed only a little arthritis in my lower spine. To try and help alleviate these symptoms, we are trying Celebrex. I was happy to add this to my daily regimen of medicines as it is a COX II Inhibitor, this basically means that it helps to block a cancer cell pathway. My list of medicines is getting longer and longer, we are trying to add other drugs that also have a double benefit like the Celebrex and Lovastatin. My only real complaint is that it is hard to manage all of these medicines, some must be taken alone, some with food, some on an empty stomach, so fitting them all into one day is proving to be challenging and I must become more diligent about it. I will also say that Marissa and I have been extremely pleased lately with my local oncologist. She is very receptive to new possible beneficial drugs that I suggest, and she helps to start me on these therapies.

At this point in the post, I (Marissa) will be taking over. Bradley has given this task over to me. He said he no longer enjoys posting as it is a constant reminder that he is sick. He said he also feels that people are no longer reading. He said people’s support for him is like when people watch a marathon, they want to be there for the beginning and the end but not the entire race in between. Unfortunately, I do not know what to say about this, as I agree with his thinking. Regardless, I will be doing the posting from here on out if not for us, than for those that do read that are also fighting their own cancer battles. They, all too well know about the in between days that carry on from one to the next. I know it is helpful to us that they know how we feel, so maybe it will help them in their own day to day struggles.

On Saturday, November 21 my whole family came over and everyone helped with our huge leaf situation. It took all day, but our house and yard look great. Everyone was a huge help, even the nephews. Bradley felt well enough to enjoy being outside and take our nephews for rides on the riding mower. I think Bradley had a really great time and it was great for him to be outside on a beautiful day.

Today is Monday, November 23 and it is Bradley’s second dose out of this round of chemo. He will have one more infusion next Monday and then we head to New York for scans. Bradley’s scans are scheduled for Wednesday, December 2. Please remember Bradley in your prayers. This is a scary time for us with not knowing the effectiveness of the new chemo. Bradley has also been doing chemo for a year and a half straight. Dr. D’Amato told us children can usually tolerate 2 years of chemo, adults less. I think the chemo is beginning to take its toll on Bradley’s body and his physical and emotional strength, understandably so. The trial in NY still does not have a start date as far as we know. So a major question we will be asking in NY is if it is time to pursue other treatments, perhaps radiation. If we had never been told about this trial, Bradley would have done total abdominal radiation. However, the trial is supposed to essentially take the place of the total abdominal radiation. However, he has been waiting 10 months since his surgery for this trial, and we still do not know if we are any closer to it starting. I do not want Bradley to have any more side effects brought on by total abdominal radiation, but at the same time radiation works best when there is minimal to no disease. Since I do not know how much longer he can continue to do chemo and we have no trial start date, where does that leave us? I suppose thinking about radiation (he can still participate in the trial even with radiation) or trying the Interferon and Lovastatin treatment (since he is still doing chemo he is currently taking only the Lovastatin). Please pray for clean scans, a trial start date, and guidance for where we need to be and what we need to be doing for Bradley’s health care.

The next few weeks will be very busy for us. Of course Thanksgiving is Thursday, but on Wednesday my sister Meaghan will be delivering our niece, Ella. We are very excited at her arrival and to finally have a niece. Then of course is our trip to New York the following week. When we return my high school friend, Jenny, and her husband Steve will be coming to visit us. Bradley and I were supposed to have attended their wedding in August, but we were unable to. We were very disappointed, but we are so happy they are coming to visit us. This will be the first time they have been to see us in our Atlanta home, as we have not seen each other in 3 years. After that we will be traveling to celebrate Christmas with the family. We know it is a busy time for everyone, and I will try to post as I am able. Thank you to those who continue to read, support and pray for Bradley and myself.