The science and the sorrow

Vacations are nothing if not ephemeral.  They're supposed to be a break from one's routine.  So in the case of a cancer patient, a break in treatment is just that–a vacation–a chance for one's body to recover from the constant beating by strange drugs.  And as often happens with vacations, the mice will play when the cat's away.  Which brings reality crashing down, rather than a sort of smooth transition back to the mundane.  There's never a smooth transition with cancer.  What's happened with my break in treatment was I stopped thinking like a cancer patient and started thinking of the future, while the nasty buggers started proliferating into my body's uncharted territory.  I started making plans, noticing my weight gain, thinking of going shopping.  Maybe not to the extent true normalcy brings, but for a minute I was feeling pretty good.  Then the aches and pains stepped up, and it occurs to me I should've taken the symptoms more seriously.  It's that thing with vacations, when you've finally started to relax, and it's over.

Back in the real world, my schedule looks like this:

Sleep in until husband's tv/phone calls and cat clawing carpet wakes me from an already disturbed sleep.
Phone conversation with mother-in-law about husband's denial of my condition.
Hurriedly eat before 6-hour fast deadline for PET scan.
Stand in shower, consciously savoring smooth skin and thick hair, as these will be just memories once more.  Think of how good I feel, rather than how bad I ache.  Remember that I was in worse shape when I went to London two years ago, but I still felt pretty good.  It's all about distraction and enjoyment.   Resolve to go on major trip this year, whether it be to Asia/South Pacific or back to Europe.  Think of all the things I have to do this weekend while husband travels again.  Think of the future—I can't seem to help doing that.  Think of Betsy Watson, who was in complete remission for 4-1/2 years and then a relapse took her in 10 days.  Breathe.  Realize I've been in the shower a long time.
Do laundry, talk on the phone, cut away dead iris branches in the front yard.
Research targeted therapies.  
Weep at sudden onslaught of photos from younger days, sent by people I've known but haven't seen in forever…curse yet ponder that giant time sucker called Facebook…(Thank you, Karen, for the photos!  I'm having trouble separating them off the scanned format though).  The subjects of these photos would fill a post or five–
I wish I'd taken more photos when I was younger.  I have a few scattered here and there, but not many.  They're amazing to gaze upon.  I like the candid ones best.  I definitely value them much more now than before I got sick.  The husband's still not much into taking them, although he just got the new iPhone with video—ostensibly for work.  I'll have to railroad him into recording some of our adventures.
After reading another Voxer's cancer journey on her other blog, I realize I'm not very emotionally honest here.  I don't say half of what I think or feel about what's happening to me.  Her blog seemed so much more powerful to me because it was emotional—her anxieties and fears, her fatigue, the exuberance of being on holiday and marveling at scenery, her sadness at having her beauty ravaged by the side effects of medication—I know those feelings and could relate so much.  Oh I suppose I expressed some of those things once, but if I did, I don't recall.  I feel like I've always been sort of stoic on this blog, and that's so…internalized, open but closed.  Maybe she's just a better writer!  And maybe that's why my husband thinks everything is fine.  I've been a Devil Dog about this from day one.  I'm feeling a bit weary these days.  Sometimes I just want to be pampered.  Sometimes I just want to cry.  (He always gets mad when I cry.  It's a Marine thing.)
As for the science part of this little outing, I may just have to do another post.  Suffice to say, the three new therapies I could consider are still in trial—Zactima (vandetanib), by Astra Zeneca (makers of Iressa (gefitinib))–which can be paired with Alimta (pemetrexed, which I was on for 2 years), Nexavar (sorafenib), and Tarceva (erlotinib) combined with Targetrin (bexarotene).  This is from a great article in the summer issue of Cure magazine, which can be found here.  There's a cool chart titled, "Agents in the pipeline" which I'll try to lift.  There's also the Stimuvax vaccine (Phase III trial) and rhApo2L/TRAIL, which targets TRAIL death receptors DR4, DR5.  What does it all mean?  That's another post.  Additionally, there's Afinitor (everolimus), which is an mTOR inhibitor.  It interrupts the cancer cell's signal below the surface of the cell, bypassing the process which mutates and causes drug resistance later.  This is the new generation of inhibitors, but god knows what the side effects are.
Well, back to research.  More on the stoic, scientific part later.  Right now I think I'll answer emails.
Thanks also, Molly, for the photos!

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5 thoughts on “The science and the sorrow

  1. omg how you can sort out all those medications and how they work/don't work is amazing. you could probably BE an oncologist after all this experience…first-hand experience.

  2. F*#k you, cancer, is right!Can't believe I went to U PENN for more tests and intrathecal chemo for the past three days and you posted your news just then.Sending you a pvt message as soon as possible.Stay strong like you always are, and smack your husband if you need to "wake him up!"

  3. re: the meds—two things happen when you get a catastrophic illness—you either want to know everything (contingent upon having the mental energy and analytical affinity for info) or you can't deal and actually have someone you can trust who is willing to stay on top of all of it for you. I had to be the first choice, by default—there wasn't really anyone around who could do it for me, who was nearby. My husband's the "can't deal" type—I don't think he has any idea what I'm on, what it does, etc. The oncologist doesn't think highly of only seeing him 3 times in 3 years. But he's a good provider, so you gotta take the good with the bad and make the best of it!

  4. Aahh we had no worries then. We all look so happy. Tyr to enjoy life. I can wait on you hand & foot , the princess room is waitingfor you. I really wish you would be more selfish.

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