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Chemo Round 60

After a productive time at the hospital and an incredible time at the Kanye West concert (didn’t I tell you that I went to the show the night after being released from the hospital?), I was ready for my next round of chemo. I was hoping against hope that Dr. Lenz would be switching up my regimen away from anything Zaltrap-related, and my wish came true. It’s a crazy life when you get psyched because you’re switching lines of treatment from one super tough chemo to another not quite as tough (but still not a walk in the park) chemo, but hey, it’s my life.

So we switched regimens, not because I’ve had a progression of disease – like I’ve told you, my disease is stable and basically sitting there like an idiot – but because I’d been on FOLFIRI and either Avastin or Zaltrap for over two years and it just seemed like the right call. Usually, a second line of treatment – which was my regimen of FOLFIRI and Avastin/Zaltrap (remember, I used to be on FOLFOX and Avastin, which was my first line of treatment) – works for about 3 months or so on average for the average patient. Mine worked for over 2 years, which is pretty unheard of and quite awesome. And it still could work – going back to these drugs or a combination of them is not out of the question. Still, it was time for a change and so we made it.

There are new drugs and an old drug in my new regimen. The old one is the notorious “bag o’ chemo,” or 5-FU. It is the backbone of FOLFIRI and the workhorse of the three drugs, so I’m glad that I’m still on it though not excited that I still have to infuse days after chemo day. Having a needle in my chest from Monday through Wednesday every other week just isn’t that cool, but I’ve handled it for 3 years and can certainly continue to do so. The other drugs aren’t exactly colon cancer drugs – they haven’t been approved by the FDA for colon cancer use yet – but Dr. Lenz has had great results with colon cancer patients using these drugs so we’re feeling really confident that these will be winners for me. One drug is called Gemstar (sounds like some kind of car company, right?) and the other is called Pazopanib. They are much gentler in terms of not giving me a searing headache and as much of that gross feeling, but they do make me more nauseous. I’ve puked so many times in my life at this point that a little upchuck here and there isn’t exactly a challenge, so essentially, this regimen is easier and nicer than my previous one. I’m a pretty happy camper.

Every day, my lungs are getting better and better. I’m walking further and am hardly getting out of breath at all. I’m not using the wheelchair anymore. I’ve been back to the gym weight lifting a couple of times. There’s just no doubt that I’m getting stronger, more mobile, and more “back to normal.” Soon, I know I’ll be back on the basketball court. It’s a pretty incredible turn of events, and, as always, I have to tip my hat to my resilient body for knowing how to heal and bounce back. I am really lucky to have this tough little bag of bones.

At this point, the only thing holding me back is my appetite. As I’ve reported, I’ve been losing weight pretty consistently and I don’t have any appetite to speak of…and because I haven’t eaten a lot in a long time, my belly is pretty tiny and I can only fit in small meals at a time. At this point, I think I’ve lost 30 or so pounds this year. I know it kills Dr. Lenz to believe that it’s all because of chemo, but I have to say it: it’s all because of chemo. But I’m pushing myself to eat more every day and finding more high-calorie things that I like (being a vegan and trying to bulk up in a healthy way is not easy), and I will stop this weight loss. Maybe I won’t gain much weight back, but I will stabilize and get healthier. I know that this challenge, like everything I’ve had to face in these cancer-killing adventures, will be overcome with determination, positivity, and a lot of grit. Luckily, I’ve got those things in spades.

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