Sunday, July 9, 2017

Keep on Keeping on Cancer Update

I know it's been a while since I have updated you on my cancer journey and many have asked if I'm still having treatment.  It's been a journey to say the least.  A journey I'm getting use to, but one that I wish would end with me being healed.  I've tried to have the mindset that I have a chronic disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, but I want this to get behind me and let me get back to working more than 3 days a month.  Although that would mean I'd have to stay home more than I do and travel less!

I've pretty much not been on any treatment since my last dose of the immunotherapy on February 22.  I so wish that it would have worked, but it didn't so on to the next one; Rubaca which I only took for 3 weeks since it was thought it was making me sick and ultimately ended with a hospital stay over Easter Weekend.  It's hard to say if that was what was making me ill or if it was the tumor that is growing from outside of my stomach but pushing into my stomach.  At that time I was actually having two different abdominal pains, one was from a radiation induced colitis, which has finally resolved after several rounds of Prednisone.

I decided that after that experience I needed a chemo break through my many travels over the past few months, which is exactly what my body and mind needed.  It was a nice break too.  Unfortunately I felt rather sick through most of it with horrible stomach pain after eating.  A scan done in May showed the tumor had grown nearly 1 cm from early March to measure 3.1cm.  From the looks of the CT, the barium swallow and the endoscopy that I had in early June, it seems like this is the culprit.  However over the past few weeks I've felt pretty good with eating and rarely have pain.  I'm not sure if it is because I've learned how to eat to not have pain, if the tumor has shrunk on it's own, or if the Rubaca is finally out of my system and the cause of my pain.  Who knows, but whatever it was, I'll take no pain.

It was decided in May per Dr. Dan and other physicians at St. Lukes that surgery was my best option.  However I met with a surgeon the day I returned from Hawaii and after seeing the results of the barium swallow and the endoscopy he felt the surgery was to risky because it would involve a surgery of the pancreas as well, because the tumor is backed up to the pancreas.  The pictures show the tumor of the stomach opening into the duodenum (where the food goes from the stomach into the intestines.)  I did ask the surgeon what happens if the tumor gets bigger and I can't digest my food.  He told me he would consider surgery then or put a tube in where I could pass fluids.  Um no, I'm a foodie and life without food would be miserable and unacceptable.  How un-fun and un-cool it would be to go to lunch with my girlfriends and have to watch them eat delicious food while I sipped on my Ensure. 
By this time it was the middle of June.  I felt like I was back to where we were in May, what do we do next?  I have to remind myself often, like sometimes several times a day to be patient.  Answers to prayers don't often come right now or when we want them, but with patience and faith they come.  President Monson said it perfectly in today's quote from my quote of the day book that I read every night, "I testify that much joy comes as we recognize that we can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer and that those prayers will be heard and answered-perhaps not how and when we expected they would be answered, but they will be answered, and by a Heavenly Father who knows and loves us perfectly and who desires our happiness." 

Dr. Dan had talked with Dr. P in Boston who proposed we try a once a day pill to block the estrogen that is being produced by the adrenal glands.  It is thought that maybe the tumors are hormone related.  This medicine is typically used in breast cancer treatment.  I kept feeling like I needed to go to MD Anderson in Houston since I had talked to Kirts boss back in March who had ovc and went there with good results.  Dr. Dan was in full support of another opinion as well.  So I made the phone call and got an appointment June 30 with the director of gyn oncology who Dr. D actually happened to do her fellowship under.

MD Anderson and Mass General have both looked at my pathology slides.  Mass General told me that this was a high grade tumor that was fast growing.  MD Anderson disagrees and feels this is a low grade tumor that is slow growing and typically resistant to chemo, which would explain why I haven't seen any progress over the past 2 years (Yes it's been 2 years since I've had a recurrence).

I was super impressed with MD Anderson and Dr. S.  My visit consisted of us all sitting around a table discussing my  disease and my treatment.  I didn't feel rushed (which I never have by any of my physicians) and I was given plenty of time to ask questions.  Dr. S and her team also feel like the estrogen blocker was the way to go.  I loved that at the end of my visit, even though we agreed that I can continue to have my scans and treatment by Dr. Dan or Dr D, that Dr. S told me I will always be her patient and she can see me or answer my questions at any time.

I started the Letrozole (estrogen blocker) 6 Days ago.  I pretty much don't feel much different other than a few more aches and pains, which is a side effect.  It's more like just feeling like I worked out a little too hard.  Nothing I can't handle.  They say it causes hot flashes, but I've only felt my face flush once for a few minutes.

The first week in October I will have another CT scan to see if the tumors are shrinking or staying the same size.  I hope and pray for these results.  If not there is another medicine group called a Mek Inhibitor that we can try.

The Thursday that I arrived for the Ovarian Cancer Retreat in NC I started having excruciating low back pain, the same pain I had from the tumor in my right posterior iliac crest that was radiated in March.  Talk about disappointment.  For 15 days I took pain meds nearly around the clock for some relief of pain.  I couldn't get comfortable especially at night as the pain was worse with any position in bed.  Miraculously I had no pain yesterday, with the exception of a little at night and today has been the same.  Does this mean the Letrozole is already working?  I hope so, but I also believe that Heavenly Father is listening to me and answered my pleadings to take my pain away or at least make it bearable. 
I often have people ask me how I stay so positive through this journey.  It's because of my faith in the Lord and my desire for a miracle or maybe just the hope that my life will be extended past the projected life expectancy of one with this deadly disease.  I also realize that there are so many other things that are worse than what I am enduring.  I believe that the many prayers that are said in my behalf are heard by our loving Heavenly Father.  Yes, He is in charge, but I believe the quote my mom has in her kitchen, "Prayer Changes Things."  Most of all I feel so much peace and comfort from your prayers.  I really believe this is the real reason why this trial is bearable beyond what it should be.  So Thank You, even  though I know you are probably all so tired of praying for me, please don't stop. Keep those prayers coming!

6 comments:

  1. I think of you often and hope always for a cure❤️ . You are amazing. Prayers and hugs❤️❤️

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  2. Thanks for the update, Terah. I wonder how you are doing every single day and love hearing about your travels and your current battle plans.
    xoxo
    Teresa

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  3. Terah... You are amazing. You have so much to share with others. As a medically trained Physician's Assistant who happens to be a cancer survivor (and thriver) your gifts are meaningful and powerful. Thank you for living well and sharing generously. Hugs, Glenna

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  4. We never stop praying for you. You are my hero. Love you.

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  5. You're amazing Terah. Nothing stops you from going going going! Way to live your life and not letting cancer stop you from enjoying your food and travels. It was so good to see you last month. Prayers for the meds to work!

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  6. Love you...and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. You are my Hero!

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