Friday, August 19, 2011

Looks Like It's All in My Head

And believe me, this is a good thing!

I got the results of the whole body PET/CT scans I had done last week, the first ones I've had since May, and they are literally the cleanest, nicest scans I've ever had. No evidence of cancer in liver, lungs, abdomen, or any other major organ. Even the bones are quiet and well controlled, though there are some lesions on my thoracic spine that could wake up at some point. For now they are dormant, and behaving and there is absolutely nothing of concern going on anywhere in my body except for my brain. Which, although clearly not insignificant, is way, way better than trying to fight a multi-front war. This is really great news.

That means the yucky I am feeling is mostly from the strong steroids that are keeping the brain swelling down while things heal, so I can most definitely take that for a few more months. It is so nice to know it is a medication side effect rather than new cancer growth. I am definitely NOT a fan of the steroid as it makes me bloat and swell and get really hungry, weak and weepy. It also disturbs my sleep patterns, but again, this is a small price to pay to keep the brain from swelling too much and pressing on the skull, which is even less pleasant since that gives me headaches and keeps the right side of my body very much on the disconcertingly numb side.

I will remain on Herceptin infusions every 3 weeks (which have very few side effects, similar to my previous trial drug T-DM1) and I take the targeted biological therapy oral medication called Tykerb every day. This is causing me a few side effects but has a molecule small enough to cross the blood brain barrier, so this is really the workhorse that is attacking those cancer cells in the brain for me right now. The Herceptin (along with the Tykerb too) is what is keeping things controlled below the neck. These two drugs are pretty amazing in that they work together to clamp down both sides of the HER2 protein that makes my particular cancer so aggressive. The Tykerb gets inside the cell and attacks from the bottom while the Herceptin takes care of the one that floats outside of the cell and caps it in a way that tells it to quit producing. I may have oversimplified the chemistry of this a tad, but at least it gives you an idea of what is going on.

The truly amazing thing about all of this is that, to date, I have STILL not had any general chemotherapy. At all. Or hormonal therapies. I have only been on targeted therapies have have found and killed my particular cancer cells and I think this is pretty amazing. Right now it is the effect of the brain radiation that is keeping me laid up, not the drugs (excepting of course the steroid which WILL be reduced over time) and I am pretty amazed by this. When needed, I have quite a number of drugs, including these two entire classes of chemos and hormonals, to throw at anything unpleasant that decides to come my way, so I am pretty happy with where I am sitting and so proud of all those cancer researchers who have figured out that you don't have to kill a ton of healthy cells to get at the cancerous ones, at least right away. You are buying me precious time with my family and I am so very grateful.

As always, thanks be to God and to all of you who are so faithfully praying for me. It is nice to share some good news. Next scans...November. So for now? We wait in hope!


Barb said...

I came to your site from Jennifer Fulwiler's link and have gone back and read the last two years of your blog. You and your beautiful family will be in my prayers...

Joy Beyond the Cross said...

Praise God!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yay! Good news! I am celebrating and praying for you! -AO

Janet W. said...

Wish there was a "like" button to click on!

Andrea said...


A friend of a friend of a friend told me about your blog and your challenge. I am a 14-year stage 4 breast cancer survivor. (The cancer was also in my spine and hip.) I had chemo and a stem cell transplant in 1997 that seemed to keep me in remission.

However in 2008, it came back in my brain. I know how the steroids cause hunger, muscle atrophy, and depression. I also got a blood clot during the treatment. But it's been almost 3 years since my brain radiation treatment - and my last MRI showed the tumor was just a scar. It kept getting smaller even after finishing the radiation!

I am very blessed. I wasn't afraid to ask any and everyone for prayers. Between a good God and good doctors, I am still surviving.

Continue to be strong, have faith and know that it is possible survive. It's a long hard fight - but the struggle is worth it. I will pray for you. - Andrea

Allaire said...

I will echo what Andrea wrote from her wisdom and "been there, done that" experience and SURVIVAL!!!! Thank you to intelligent great doctors, new targeted medicines,a great God and PRAYERs, PRAYERS and more thankful and grateful PRAYERS!!!
Here is to you Suzanne! Amen.
P.S. You are on more prayer lists!

anna lisa said...

Oh Suzanne,
I'm soooo happy to hear such beautiful, grace-filled news! We have been praying like never before.

Rachel Gray said...

It's cool to read all those details about how your targeted therapies work. Hooray for cancer research that comes up with stuff like this!