I had lunch with a friend this week, and some of the questions she asked helped me realize that I probably haven’t clarified a few things on the blog. If you’ve read through, you’ve probably seen that when we thought I had mesothelioma, the plan was to receive chemo for the rest of my life. And now that I actually have sarcoma, the plan is to receive chemo for the rest of my life. So what’s the difference? Well, first of all, the time frame of the rest of my life. None of my doctors have given me any kind of “_______ months to live” but mesothelioma is a scary, scary diagnosis. The average lifespan for the pleural kind is 12 months – with chemo. Without, it is seven months. The kind they thought I had – peritoneal – has a longer lifespan, but it is very unknown because of the huge amount of younger people being diagnosed with it. (The thought process is that they are the children of the people who worked with asbestos, ingest it as children, and are being diagnosed 20-30 years later.)
So… on to sarcoma. Mesothelioma is a special kind of cancer, because it is directly linked to asbestos. You can only get it from breathing or ingesting asbestos. Most cancers, however, are simply cells acting abnormally. Cells divide every day, and cancer cells simply divide too fast. There are several classifications of cancer. This website describes it the best that I have found, as follows:
There are five broad groups that are used to classify cancer.
- Carcinomas are characterized by cells that cover internal and external parts of the body such as lung, breast, and colon cancer.
- Sarcomas are characterized by cells that are located in bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue, muscle, and other supportive tissues.
- Lymphomas are cancers that begin in the lymph nodes and immune system tissues.
- Leukemias are cancers that begin in the bone marrow and often accumulate in the bloodstream.
- Adenomas are cancers that arise in the thyroid, the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, and other glandular tissues.
Most cancers that people hear about are carcinomas. Sarcomas, which arise in the “connective tissues” (nerves, muscles, joints, bone, fat, blood vessels) are only 1% of adult cancers. Though we don’t know 100%, we believe that mine started in my reproductive organs. This makes it rare. Its sub-type, myxiod, is even more rare. So while you may hear about sarcoma more often than you would expect to hear about a “rare” cancer, believe me when I tell you that mine is rare. There is no research out there. Very little is known. (Which, now that I think about it, is probably why I haven’t gotten a “____ months/years to live” from my doctors.)
BUT (butbutbut) I have the best doctors in the world – literally. Dr. P., with 22 years experience in sarcoma specifically, is monitoring. He sees more sarcoma cases in one day than most doctors see in a lifetime. Dr. F., my local oncologist who is actually giving me the treatment, has the most outstanding attitude in the world. I heard so many amazing things before I met her, and every one of them was right. She will be with me through this whole battle. And I have God on my side 🙂
Anyway, I’m not sure if this post made it more clear or less, but I tried! Tomorrow I will receive Gemzar (plus steroid and anti-nausea meds) and Taxotere. Yes, that’s the right link. I don’t know why they have a million names for these drugs! Here’s the deal on Taxotere. (I apologize if I have already covered this; I forgot who knows what.) There’s a chance I could go into anaphylaxis. If I feel my lungs constricting, we have to stop immediately and start some sort of anti-drug. Also, if that happens, we have to go back to the drawing board and start a new chemo regiment. So prayers would definitely be appreciated tomorrow afternoon. We all know my body doesn’t have the best track record with reacting normally to drugs.
Now, just as there were premeds with Gemzar, there will also be premeds with Taxotere. So after my ninety-ish minutes are up with the Gemzar, I will be Tylenol and Benadryl orally. In my IV, I will receive Zantac and Decadron. The Zantac is to help with the allergic reaction (I know, it seemed weird to me too, but see here) and liquid Decadron is a steroid. I am also taking 4 oral Decadron per day on Day 7, Day 8, and Day 9 – today, tomorrow, and the next day. There will be yet another anti-nausea medicine, and THEN I can finally actually begin the Taxotere. As you can see, I have no idea when to tell you to pray. “Afternoon” is the best guess I have.
While I am receiving the Taxotere, I will be putting my hands in gloves and soaking them in ice so that my fingernails do not fall off. Yowza. It feels weird even thinking that sentence. I think the Taxotere itself is only one hour, then I get one final shot and will be sent on my way for two weeks. The shot – Neulasta – is to encourage my body to start producing white blood cells again. Because both Gemzar and Taxotere hit my white blood cells so severely, they will not be able to reproduce quickly enough on their own. In other words, next week should be rough. But we need them to reproduce quickly enough that I can receive my next cycle of treatment starting on August 24. So the shot should help.
That’s about all I can think to tell you right now. On a personal update, I had an outstanding day today. I kept my son home from day care and we rode over to visit with his cousins. My sister-in-law and I had a great visit, and the kids had a great time in spite of the rain. I felt good all day. If my “Week One” continues to look like this, I think I will be able to handle a terrible Week Two, depending on what Week Three looks like. But now I’m off to bed as I have a busy day tomorrow!