Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - Part 1: Health Update

Hellllooooo Bloggies! It's me again!!

Yep, as usual, behind in what I wanted to do, but still plugging along :) You will notice that tonight's entry says Part 1: Health Update. That's because it's time for another health update even though I promised to do a separate entry last time about social, chit chatty type activities and what I have been up to. So not only did that one not get done, we are now on the second Health Update... so you can only imagine how long the social one is going to be. I have so many pictures and things for the next entry... oh dear, where am I going to find the time but even more important, how long can that entry be??? LOL!!

Ok... not to mix up the two... this one is the Health Update, so away we go :)

First, I better clear up a little misunderstanding from the last blog post. I think I may have led everyone to believe that Baby Blood Clot has been the cause of my difficulty with breathing and also causing all the wheezing, coughing, etc. Also, I seemed to think that when I started the blood thinner (heparin) injections, the breathing seemed to get better. Wrong. The blood thinner had nothing to do with helping get rid of any of my problems. It's purpose is purely to prevent any new blood clots from forming, while we hope that Baby Blood Clot will eventually be absorbed and disappear.

So back to the problems with breathing, etc. Turns out that my poor system was/is fighting 4 problems at once. All of these conditions were separate (bronchitis, broncialspasms, asthma response to the chemo and the blood clot). So back to my GP I went because I just couldn't continue on forever having to live with this ongoing wheezing and laboured breathing. It was wearing me out... and that's without even doing anything! I was also exhausted and had no energy, which I did blame on the chemo and why I needed a break from it.

Well, my GP changed my meds around. He added a third puffer to the two I already had, put me on a week's supply of antibiotics and gave me a prescription cough medicine. Within days I could feel a total difference!! I could breathe again!! The wheezing is down to a minimum... only really affects me in the morning and sometimes in the evening before bed. The coughing is totally under control because of the prescription cough medicine. I'm sure the antibiotics have helped with the bronchitis because bronchitis is an inflammation/infection of the bronchial tubes... but I don't think it's cleared it up totally because I can still feel some rattling around of fluid/phlegm deep into the tubes. But compared to what it was like... it feels so much better!

Now, the blood clot treatment is to be taking blood thinners (Heparin, not the rat poison, Warfarin). Warfarin is the oral, pill form, whereas Heparin is the injections. Warfarin and chemo don't get along well... chemo tends not to work as well if there is warfarin in one's system. So anyone who might have to be on chemo, gets the injectable Heparin. I will be on it for about 6 months and then we will re-evaluate and determine if I should be on it or take a break. Sharlene is saying that she will probably insist on a break after 6 months unless there's reason to suspect we have to stay on it.

So now, that brings us up to today where I met with Sharlene to go over the results to the CAT scan I had done on Wednesday.

Yep, this is my good friend, Mr. CAT scanner. Every three months we get together to go over pictures, take new ones, etc. I have no idea how many pictures of me he's taken in the last 4 1/2 years, but I expect there will be many more to come. Now if only my veins would cooperate... when they see Mr. CAT Scanner, they run deep and hide! They don't want no steenin' IV set up in my arm so that the technicians can put contrast dye through them ;)

Anywho... today, I met with Sharlene to go over the results. Interestingly enough, the tumours in my lungs, compared to the CAT scan we did in May, have grown ever so slightly. BUT, they have grown and back then I was on that nasty chemo. Didn't stop that until June 21, so it's possible the chemo held them at bay and then they have started to grow since being off the chemo. Either way, the growth has been minimal and that's with me having had a 5 week break from the chemo.

Another interesting thing is my CEA readings. I gave up asking about them because they were starting to freak me out. Well, the reading for the week I had the emergency CAT scan (keeping in mind, I was also suffering big time from the bronchitis, the asthma response and the bronchialspasms), my CEA reading was the highest it has been since I was first diagnosed back in Dec 2006. It reached 68!!! When all is under control and the tumours are not being active, my average reading is 1.0 - 2.0. So this is pretty huge. BUT, having done nothing with the tumours since then (IE: am not on chemo, did not start up a new one, etc), I only have been to see my GP and he gave me the new meds mentioned above to try and aggressively kick these bronchial problems in the butt... and it seemed to work pretty good. So this week's CEA reading, only 2 weeks since the last one, had a major drop and is at 36. From 68 to 36 is a pretty significant drop and highly unlikely that cancer activity has changed that much in 2 weeks.

So, that has got me to thinking... CEA is also very sensitive to infection/inflammation. Well, for the past how many months have I been suffering from the bronchitis, bronchialspasms, asthmatic responses to the chemo, which in turn has irritated the bronchial system? And then my GP changes the meds which seem to be working? If the bronchial infection/inflammation has gone down, then it makes sense that the CEA has dropped... and dropped that quickly since the meds were only given the week before this latest CEA test.

Anywho... other than working on getting rid of the nasty bronchitis and making sure it doesn't come back... I have been off the chemo for the 5 planned weeks that we had set up for having a break. Our ongoing plan is to still start the Vectibix treatment, but Sharlene asked me how I was feeling. I told her that, since being able to breathe again, I feel much better... and since being off the chemo for this past 5 weeks, I've actually noticed my energy is starting to come back. She said the plan was that I would start the Vectibix on Tues and I asked her... if we must, then of course I will... but would I be putting myself in any kind of danger if we took a few more weeks off? Actually, if we took the rest of the summer (August) off and didn't start until Sept? She said that she felt I wasn't putting myself in any kind of danger. There are no "new" growths and the ones we know about, although they are showing they are growing, they are growing extremely slow and will not have made any progress over the next month or so. Meanwhile, it would work in my favour if I had that much more time to get over the bronchial stuff and another month to work on resting and bringing my energy level back up to par. Soooo, I'll be starting the Vectibix in Sept.

Oh, and just as a little explanation... Vectibix is NOT a chemo. Vectibix is an antibody that fights a particular protein in colon cancer tumours. That is why she had me tested (well, actually my primary tumour that was removed in Jan 2007) for the KRAS gene. If you have this gene, then your tumours have this protein so you would be eligible for trying this Vectibix treatment. The antibody will attack the protein in the tumour, which in turn will then starve the tumour...hence, hopefully, will shrink the tumour and life will be good :)

There are a few similar side affects with the vetibix to chemo, but not nearly as pronounced or severe. Other than the one that most people get and that is a rash... which can vary in strength from annoying to severe/painful. It will go away over time as your body adjusts to having the infused antibody every two weeks but it could be a very uncomfortable couple of months with this rash. We, of course, will be pro-active and start a round of antibiotics just before starting the treatment... which has been known to be helpful for some. Also, keeping the skin well moisturized so it doesn't dry and crack. But hey, if it works and we can shrink those tumours down to nothing, then a couple of months of discomfort, whining and bitching will be worth it :) But I won't think about that until closer to when I have to. For now, despite the weather Gods being cruel and not giving us much of a summer (on the other hand, thank goodness it is not unbearably hot... I can't handle the heat), I get to have the whole month of August to enjoy, rest and regain my energy so I can start the fight over again in September :) :)

Tally ho... pip pip and all that Jazz!!

Let's see if I actually get Part II: Trying to Have a Social LIfe and Breathe started tonight or if it will get started tomorrow. I have SOOOOO many pictures and things to put up!! :)

Blogger Cheryl, signing off :)