Surprise! The chemo isn’t working.

Today was chemo #10. Double digits. I have 12 treatments in this round so we are almost to the end. Round 2 will be different meds, every other Tuesday with a follow up white blood cell booster shot on the Wednesday immediately after treatment. I saw the oncologist as well as getting a treatment today.

I really try not to do this on the blog since I do my best to write about all of my thoughts but I just never felt the right way to write about this and I was hoping I was wrong. Anyway, I have been keeping a secret. The biopsies really did a number on my tissue – 8 samples were taken in two sessions from the tumor. This left me with a lot of bruising, a super sore boob, and a lot of fibrous tissue from the scarring. This was basically a trifecta of making it impossible to feel the tumor for the two months it took to heal. So I’ve been able to feel it again for about three weeks or so. The first thing I noticed about it was that it wasn’t smaller. I really couldn’t tell if it was bigger, but possibly – it definitely wasn’t smaller. It had been a long time since I felt it so I just wasn’t sure. I do my best to only feel it once a week figuring if I feel it every day it will be harder to tell if there are changes. I feel it using three fingers and can’t reach the sides of it so I kind of slide my fingers from side to side slightly to feel the edges. I think that’s actually good that it’s so close to the edges of my fingers because I would be able to tell quickly if it got bigger and am trying to determine any shrinkage. This week I thought it could be slightly smaller, but I’m not sure. But I definitely don’t think it’s growing which is good.

The tumor being as big as it is isn’t a good thing. This trial is fabulous because it usually shrinks the tumor a lot – with many patients having no cancer left when they get to surgery. The weekly treatments should do that shrinking and the second round is the “clean up crew” which kills any remaining cells. So, I was hoping I was wrong.

When the doctor did the exam today, she cleared that up. I’m not wrong. The Taxol isn’t working were her exact words. I love my oncologist and she is super business like. She had no panic, she wasn’t overly concerned but she was disappointed. She measured the tumor for the first time and I believe her measurements were 4.3X4.6. So, it’s a decent bit larger than before. These were external measurements rather than an MRI so they can be off. Also, the Taxol can have a delayed effect so it may have grown a bit before it stunted that growth. The doctor said she doesn’t think there has been any change and doesn’t think it’s growing. My lymph nodes have no swelling so we think it’s contained. The second round starts soon and she’s hopeful that those meds will have a good impact. So for now we are staying the course.

I am going to call and schedule another meeting with her so we can ask her all of our questions and be sure we are still doing the right thing. My assumption is that my option is to get off the trial which would mean surgery ASAP followed by more chemo. It would take at least a month to get on the schedule (I haven’t even seen the second plastic surgeon yet, who I think I am more likely to go with and then it usually takes 3 weeks to get scheduled). So if I stop the trial I think I would be off chemo for a month and then have surgery followed by more chemo. If I need to do that, I will but I don’t think we’re there yet. We will know more after our meeting.

So, how do I feel about all this? I think I’m handling it pretty well because like I said, I’ve been thinking about this possibility for a few weeks. I know this tumor is an over-acheiver. I know that triple negative tumors are pretty much a mystery because no one knows what they “feed” on. We know that they generally respond very well to chemo – but that “generally” is there for a reason. Clearly they don’t all behave. And you know mine would be one of those. My main concern is keeping it contained until I can get it out of my body. If that means getting it out sooner than originally planned then we will do that. If that means going for the other meds then we are almost there. It is frustrating to know that it hasn’t had the best possible scenario for a reaction, but at least I feel like it’s stopped growing which is something. Especially at the rate it was going. I don’t feel an emotional response really – just kind of trying to figure out what my best option is moving forward.

I can tell you that having cancer sucks. It sucks to not be in control of my body or my destiny. It sucks to be tired all the time and have to be away from my kids. It sucks when I have to sit down and pay all the stupid bills. It sucks that people can’t have a normal conversation with me. It sucks to watch people stare at me wherever I go. It just sucks. So for a PSA moment – if you are a smoker, quit. That’s the first thing that comes to mind but if you are doing something that you KNOW causes cancer, just stop it. I know it’s hard, blah, blah, blah. But you know what is harder? Cancer. I couldn’t have prevented mine, but when I see people doing something that just blatantly causes it I just want to smack them. The nurses standing outside the hospital smoking take the cake I must say. Seeing them out on the lawn way away from the hospital because they can’t be close to patients. Hello? How dumb are you? Seriously people! Sigh.

Anyway, I went in for treatment #10 today and it was pretty uneventful. My RBC count and related numbers continue to drop. I am now mildly anemic instead of borderline. Everything else was in the good range. The doctor said she is very impressed with my bone marrow overall though – to sail through 10 treatments and still have the numbers I do is fabulous. So kudos to my bone marrow! My WBC were up again. Fletch had a fever this week so I stayed at my folks house with Evelyn while he was sick. Still watching to make sure I didn’t catch anything.

I will update more when I know what is happening.

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5 Responses to Surprise! The chemo isn’t working.

  1. Michelle Buan says:

    I’m so sorry to read this Jenn. It really sucks that you’re going through all this and the tumor is not behaving as it should. I wish I had something inspiring or comforting to say. Hugs to you friend!

  2. Franki says:

    I’m thinking of you my friend:) I sure miss your smartass comments at our Pampered Chef meetings! Take care and I’ll talk to you soon. Keep your head up, Jen!

  3. dietriotgirl says:

    So sad to hear there wasn’t much progress. But, there are many types of chemo and a different drug can have more effect than the one you are on. So i support the attitude you have right now, not getting worked up. You still have options, just remember that. Also keep in mind, most chemos ( from what my fiance’s oncologist told me, it may be different for the type you are on) are long acting. So while you see “no change” and no change for awhile it doesnt necessarily mean it isnt doing its job. Cause then suddenly there is change or it’s working inside out, killing the cancer cells form within so while the size is the same, the cancer level is not. But i’m not an expert and everyone is different. It’s just my personal experience from what the oncologists told me.

  4. Jill Breheny says:

    Love and hugs coming your way!

  5. Denise says:

    Frustrating is a word that does not express how I feel in regards to this stupid tumor but I am trying to not have a filthy mouth. So sorry Jenn. Hope everything works out quickly in regards to the surgery. Here for you if you need anything.

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