Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Game Plan...Druggin', Cuttin' and Kickin' Ass

Well, I am going to start this post with, I HAVE HAIR!!!!!!!!
I am so excited!!  While it has been great to not have to worry about doing my hair this last year, I am pumped to have a warm head again!!  It has been growing so quickly, I had to buy shampoo and conditioner last weekend for the first time in over a year.  I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but for a bald, cancer patient it is.  

I officially started Votrient (Pazopanib) on December 15th, this is my new targeted therapy to battle this terrible disease.  I am hopefully that this new, little gray pill will do it job and shrink or keep stable the three tumors that I still have in this body of mine.  At $80 a pill, it better work like the doctors say it will.  I have never been so nervous to handle a tiny pill before, but when you are holding a white bottle with $10,000 worth of medication you are overly careful at your bathroom sink so that one none of them drop into the drain!!  Okay, enough with the funny stuff, this little pill is a very serious medication and we hope that it will essentially kill the tumors and keep the cancer at bay for as long as it will work.  Unlike some cancers, the type of cancer that I have and the nature of it will really not allow me to be off any sort of treatment ever for the rest of my life.  The idea of this medication is that it will block tumor cell growth in several ways.  Votrient targets  several proteins (called tyrosine kinases) on the surface of cancer cells, as well as targets within the cell. Several of these targets are thought to be involved in angiogenesis (making of blood vessels).  By blocking these targets, it is hoped the cancer will shrink.  It is not considered a chemotheraphy in the traditional sense but a targeted therapy since it is supposed to only target the actual tumor cells.  Traditional chemo, like what I did yesterday targets all cells in your both, it does not differentiate between the good and bad cells, hence all of the drops in my white cell counts over the eight months I was doing VAC/IE.  I am happy to not have to deal with the low white cell counts and all that comes with that.  However, Votrient isn't without its own negative side effects, but like the other, they are nothing that this girl can't handle.  

Just as 2015 started off with a bang, 2016 is looking like it will too.  Don and I are going to be traveling to California at the end of the month to celebrate our 8th Wedding Anniversary and essentially take our honeymoon that is long overdue.  We are very excited to head to the west coast, as neither of us have ever been.  We will be checking off a bucket list experience that we both have and dining at The French Laundry.  We are so excited and thrilled that we will have this time together to celebrate the life that we have made together.  The kids will be hanging out with grandmas and grandpas while we are gone, as this is a NO kids trip :)

Once we get back from our amazing trip we will be thrown right back into the world of cancer.  As much as I would like to continue to pretend that I am normal and don't have it, there are things on the horizon to continue this battle.  I will have full scans (MRI/CT and PET) the week of February 15th to see how the Votrient is working.  Since I will always have to be on some type of treatment it is in my best interest to give the Votrient a chance to see if it is working against my DSRCT.  We are doing this because if the Votrient works that means I will be able to continue with it for the foreseeable future as opposed to have to go back to other chemotherapy treatments or going the clinical trial route.  If the Votrient does what it is supposed to and shrinks the tumors that will be 1) amazing and 2) keep me from having to undergo a very serious and risky surgery to remove the tumors.  However, if the Votrient does not shrink the tumors (basically, they continue to stay stable, which is also ideal with this cancer) or there is growth on the scans then we will go the surgical route.  The surgery is a very delicate and risky surgery because of the location of two of the three tumors.  The tumor that is by my kidney will be the easiest to remove, however the other two tumors and their location is what makes this difficult, tumor one is located in the lymph node that is right behind and touching my inferior vena cava blood vessel, the IVC is the vessel that brings blood back into your heart from the lower portion of your body.  Tumor two is between my inferior vena cava and my aorta, the main vessel that pumps the blood out of your heart.  As you can see, these two vessels are very important and have a lot to do with why a human is alive.  Now I know this may seem frightening to most of you, but still for me, it's not as scary as the cancer itself and what I could do to me.  So with that being said, the plan is to have scans the week of February 15th and see the surgeon again on February 22nd, if the scans show any shrinkage we will hold off on the surgery until we need to do and when I say need, I mean that if any future scans show any kind of growth, my butt will be on that operating table, no questions asked.  If the scans show stability with no shrinkage or growth or just shows growth we will move ahead with the surgery.  The surgery will involve the removal of the tumors along with anything else the surgeon sees that can come out, also if he sees any areas that have cancer cells but no tumors he will preform the HIPEC procedure.  The HIPEC procedure will happen after all removal and will consist of the surgeon filling my abdominal cavity with warm, concentrated (the good stuff) chemo, they will shake me back and forth for at least and hour and half (hence the nickname "Shake N' Bake), then drain the chemo out of my abdominal cavity, sew me up and then a long recovery in the hospital and at home will follow.  Whether the HIPEC is involved or not in the surgery, once recovered I will then do 15-20 sessions of Whole Abdominal Radiation, or WAR as I like to call it :), this will be over the course of 3-4 weeks and the radiation will be everyday, Monday-Friday and will cover my entire abdominal/pelvic region.  This process will take just about 5 minutes each day but the side effects are not going to be fun.  I won't share those now as I don't want to offend anyone :).  

Well, since the above is a total mouthful, even for me.  I will leave you all to process this because I can honestly say that I still don't understand it all :)

The final quote from probably the sexiest TV character of all time and I find it quite true every day!!

There's an old saying, 'That what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' I don't believe that. I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad. Strength comes from the good things - your family, your friends, the satisfaction of hard work. Those are the things that'll keep you whole. Those are the things to hold on to when you're broken.
-Jax Teller