the oncologist agreed. we can stop the chemo. the balance of possible eradication of stray cancer cells versus quality of life has tipped severely now, and she agrees that it’s not worth it.
There are no studies, anyway, that show that 6 cycles (18 weeks) of Xeloda post-surgery and radiation are more effective than 4 (12 weeks), or even what the suggested treatment regime should be. We struggled with this in March, again in August, and once again today. This treatment was all a best effort kind of thing, a hope that after the surgery removed the thirteen swollen cancerous nodes that the chemo would scrub my blood and organs clean, killing the escaped cancerous cells before they could swarm and divide and form new tumors. This was our best effort (particularly since the other drug, Avastin, failed to win FDA approval in September), and we have given it our best shot. No, more than that. We have completed 5 cycles (15 weeks) of ups and downs, ins and outs, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, throat sores, fatigue, napping, exhaustion, foot sores, tenderness, and peeling, slippered preschool pickup, isolation, loneliness, chocolate cravings (week 3), loss of appetite (week 2), inability to eat meat, warm food, shredded wheat or crackers (all weeks), constipation (week 1), diarrhea (week 3), and a general occasional bitchiness that I blame on the fatigue and pain.
Oh yeah, the pain. Somewhere last week I twisted my upper back again and today was simply impossible. After trying to sleep the pain off yesterday, I woke today in so much hurt that I couldn’t concentrate on a short talk with my husband. I broke down and admitted the pain, high in my spine, that I had been trying to hide, and he helped me call the doctor and choose a pain pill, and then he tucked me into bed with a cold pack. I was no better hours later, crying that I couldn’t see through the pain, and we upped my dose and made a plan to talk to the oncologist about it today.
Long story short, the resident ran some neuro tests, we talked about my history, and he and my oncologist recommended that we stop the chemo and give my body a chance to heal. It’s been under a lot of physical stress this year (9 months since the tremors that signaled a change), and it needs a break before we can start the endocrine therapy again.
Her directions were: Stop the chemo. Rest. Relax. De-stress. Give yourself a break. After the holidays, we’ll focus on eating right, beginning again to exercise, and start the Aromasin again, to deprive any remaining cells of the estrogen they feed on. But for now, de-stress. Give your body a chance to recover, so it can withstand the Aromasin again and start to exercise and grow strong again soon.
Those were the words she said, but all I could hear was their impact: I can spend Christmas with my boys, and hopefully have enough strength to celebrate.
I celebrated with the last of the cupcakes and tucked myself back into bed when we got home.