What stage am I?
This was the question Mom posed to Dr.Savage this afternoon at her weekly office visit. At first the doctor found it hard to answer the question. She talked about how staging related to whether a cancer was resectable (you can operate to remove it) and whether or not it had spread. She paused a moment and then said…
We didn’t start chemo to cure your cancer, but rather to extend your life and give you a better quality of life, however I’ve never before seen a pancreatic cancer patient’s numbers drop so quickly or so much. It usually takes surgery to remove the cancer before we see this kind of reduction. I can’t explain it, but if it continues to drop and goes below say… 100 or lower, we can consider stopping chemo, rescan you with a MRI and look at other options. Maybe directed radiation of the tumor or a less invasive surgery to remove it?
As crazy as it seems Mom’s CA119 blood tests; something that is done every Friday and viewed prior to chemotherapy on Mondays, have shown a continued reduction in the cancer antigens using just one chemo drug: Gemcitabine. Not just a few points, but big leaps each week!
Even crazier… that drop in her numbers started before she began chemotherapy. She attributes it to the prayers she is receiving each day from her church family and friends, and whether you believe in God or not, you can’t dispute that something greater than science is working in her favor.
At least I can’t… and I’ll continue to pray assuming God and His team are on it!
Currently Mom is taking a prescription that mimics pancreatic enzymes. She takes these expensive, yet effective pills with all her meals and snacks and it’s working to keep her nausea at bay. She is interested in eating, and eating normal meals so she is also keeping her weight up. (Something the doctor encouraged her to do.)
She is also sleeping pretty well with 6 mg of Melatonin per night and isn’t in pain other than the normal aches and pains experienced before her cancer was diagnosed.
There are a few side effects from the chemo: exhaustion for about 5 days after treatment, forgetfulness, gray spots on her skin, yeast infections, hair loss and achy bones for a day or two after chemo. While not great, they are tolerable when you know it’s for the greater good.
Mom says that in addition to seeking more ‘normal’ out of life, perhaps the hardest part of living with her pancreatic cancer diagnosis comes in the middle of the night when her head has time to wonder about what comes next. Time to worry, think about the things she will miss and how her diagnosis effects those she loves.
We lost a dear friend to pancreatic cancer last year. She was diagnosed and gone within 2 months. Elaine is often in our thoughts.
Yet another friend was diagnosed last year, had surgery to remove part of his pancreas along with his mass and amazingly has been declared cancer free, yet still battles other issues related to his surgery.
What stage am I?
I’m not sure whether or not we got the answer to that question or even if the answer matters. But I would like to believe that pancreatic cancer has met its match in my Mom, which will offer hope to others fighting the same battle.