So, after the first few rounds of chemo, I started wondering, Is it working? I wasn’t alone. My oncologist wanted to know. You wanted to know. My KIDS wanted to know. I think Brent might have been wondering too.
About a month ago, Jillian asked me right before bed, “If this medicine doesn’t work, will they give you another medicine or will you die?” I wasn’t sure what they would do at that point. I hadn’t asked. I assumed it would work. My burdened girl admitted, “I think it’s going to be the second one.” And we had a cry. And then she got distracted by a fit her sister was throwing and she started cracking up at her. She is real and dear and unsinkable, my Jillian.
Oh, and now I know that they would try another chemo drug if it wasn’t working.
Sometime after the sixth or seventh infusion, I thought I was able to feel a difference. It seemed the tumor was kind of melting. After the eighth infusion, my oncologist ordered a second MRI to compare to the diagnostic one from June. She was hopeful, but also told me that originally what they were feeling on examination didn’t exactly correlate to the imaging. So, she really needed to get the MRI for confirmation.
Last week, Monday, I had my MRI. I was able to read the results the next day. I was a little disappointed. I was figuring that since I was halfway through treatment, I’d maybe have 30% tumor shrinkage. My expectations hadn’t been set by anyone but myself. I didn’t want to give you all an update until I was able to speak with my oncologist’s PA. This meeting finally happened yesterday. She explained that the primary goal of chemotherapy before surgery (adjuvant therapy) is to stop the tumor from growing and to kill any rogue cancer cells that may have escaped into the blood stream. Secondarily, the chemo will hopefully shrink the tumor. This happens a lot actually. But, for me, it hasn’t done much. For example, one dimension of the tumor went from 6.4 cm to 5 cm. That was the most impressive change. The disease in my axillary (arm pit) lymph node has only decreased slightly, a mere 2mm. So, I was a little bummed. I know that some people can end up with a “complete response.” This means that even before surgery, the chemo has completely killed all the cancer. That’s what I am holding out hope for. It doesn’t mean I won’t have surgery and radiation. It would just feel like more of a success. That said, breast cancer is a bastard. You can get rid of it and then it can come back in your spine or your brain or your lungs. But, we do not control these matters. We do what we can and hope for the best and trust the Lord with it all.
We still have six rounds of chemo left. And we have to keep in mind that those last four cycles are the big guns. The chemo drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan are the ones that should give a good blast to the cancer. They will also make me feel pretty sick. If you’ve seen me around, you know I’m still pretty plucky and energetic. I don’t think that will be the case for the last two months that I’m doing chemo. (Remember: I’ll be doing those every other week, so four cycles will take eight weeks!)
So, in short, the chemo is working. And I am thankful.