No Answers

June 20, 2014

After three rounds of The Red Devil of chemos (Adriamycin combined with Cytoxan), scans came back showing my tumors are ‘relatively unchanged.’

Bad news: nothing has shrunk.  Good news: nothing has grown.  But, essentially, it has been ineffective in killing the cancer.

Dr. K. suggested we switch to an oral chemo, Xeloda.  He explained that even though the Adriamycin is the most toxic thing we could have hit my cancer with, that sometimes it’s about finding the right chemo for the individual.  He was hopeful that the Xeloda might be more effective for me than The Red Devil.

I asked what my other options were.  If there was a way to be more aggressive.  He expressed that he felt Xeloda was the only next option we were looking at.  (This would consist of taking a double dose of 8 horse pills in the course of a day. Sixteen pills in total, every day, quite possibly for the rest of my life.  Most likely, for the rest of my short life.)

I wanted a second opinion.  I scheduled an appointment at Duke Cancer Center with Dr. B., who is one of the best in the field.

In the exam room with Dr. B.

“I can find no scientific reason why your cancer grew after your hysterectomy,” she says.  “I can find no scientific reason why your cancer did not respond to the Letrozole.” (Letrozole being the aromatase inhibitor I was placed on after my hysterectomy to get all of the residual estrogen out of my body.)

Reminder: there are three ways in which breast cancer can feed/test positive. My cancer has consistently tested as only estrogen positive.  So removing the estrogen source in January should have removed the problem.

Dr. B. is discomfitingly baffled by this.  She is unsure of how to treat me if she cannot find a methodical correlation between cancer growth and cancer food source.

“I need six weeks to retest all of your samples,” she says.  “I think something has been missed.”

She believes my cancer may have the slightest HER2 positivity.  If she is right about this, it would explain why my cancer continued to grow even after the estrogen supply was cut off.  And it would make a world of difference for my treatment plan, opening a lot of doors.

She is having unstained slides of each of my tissue samples… all the way back from my original breast biopsy in 2011 to my 2014 hysterectomy… sent to her so that she may re-examine everything in the hopes of uncovering an HER2 positivity.

I believe her hopes to be far-fetched.

That’s 5 tissue samples and at least 7 doctors that would have missed a HER2 positivity.  It just doesn’t seem possible to me.

Dr. B. speaking the words, “I can find no scientific reason why your cancer grew after your hysterectomy,” confirmed for me something I have felt for a long time.  I believe my cancer to be a physical manifestation of a series of emotional/spiritual cancers that have gone unhealed for years.  I believe my heart chakra is all effed up from old wounds and that’s why tumors sprout up on all sides of it.

Crazy.  Unscientific.  Impossible.  I’m sure are words a lot of people would use to describe what I just typed.  But I’m a believer.  A believer in the power of positive and negative energies.  A believer that the state of our spirit effects the state of our physical body.  And while I am convinced that western modern medicine is the best way to combat my physical cancer, I am also convinced that I have a lot of spiritual work to do in order to combat the emotional cancer that is, in my mind, feeding the beast.

But maybe I’m wrong and maybe Dr. B. is right about this hunch she has after all.  We shall see.

I will meet with Dr. B. again in 6 weeks.

And in the meantime, she does not concur with Dr. K. that The Red Devil has been ineffective.  There is a spot in my right hip showing up on scans that they suspect is cancer. Dr. B. said on the latest scan, that spot was ‘flared up.’ She said where Dr. K. interpreted this as cancer growth, she interprets it as dead cancer cells.  The flare up, she believes, is my hip healing where cancer used to be and is no longer.

So while she takes 6 weeks to pour over all of the bad pieces that have been removed from my body, she advises me to have two more rounds of The Red Devil.  If anything, it will hold the cancer at bay while she pokes around in the lab.  I had the first of these treatments (totaling #4 in the rounds of Adriamycin) on Wednesday.  So far, I’m feeling just fine. (Even kicked ass at a callback yesterday.)

So at this point, there are a ton of question marks.  And we still have no answers.

What we do have is one very harsh statistic:

Metastatic breast cancer gives me a prognosis of surviving for merely 5 years.

I believe in miracles.  And I remain hopeful that I will be one of the exceptions to this statistic.

The thing to focus on is that right now, I feel fantastic.  And I want to keep having adventures with the people I love the most in whatever amount of time I am blessed with.

So, come on, y’all.  Let’s take some risks together and do all the fun and daring things we’ve ever wanted to do.

End cancer:the sequel, chapter 4.

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5 Responses to “No Answers”

  1. Doug Says:

    Many more fingers, many more thumbs,
    Dum ditty, dum ditty,
    Dum, dum, dum. 🙂
    Keep drumming, cuz! Love you!

  2. Anne Bishopp Says:

    Gwen,
    I do not think that you are crazy at all. In 1997 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to have part of my cervix removed. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason I had cervical cancer stemed from unresolved issues from being raped when I was 12. After my surgery, I did a lot of healing and spiritual work . There is a close tie of mind body and soul! We cannot heal just one aspect we must heal all aspects, or we will continue in a vicious cycle! The cancer will just fester and grow, if we don’t clean it out .Your journey has not been an easy one but your a fighter and an inspiration ! I am sending lots of love and healing white light your way!

  3. Ashlee White Says:

    I am so glad you chose to get a second opinion. As I read the first few paragraphs, it was all I could think. I will continue to pray for you. For healing. For answers. For continued positive approach. I would love to get together sometime for coffee and dessert if you’re up to it.

  4. Tim Harris Says:

    What you have written is very honest, Gwen. Mental state has A LOT to do with the healing process. Figure that out and you are ninety percent on the way to better health. Good thoughts and my wishes are with you. You should always get second opinions, especially with serious issues like Cancer. So you are doing the “right thing.”

  5. Deb Wallace Says:

    I have regrettably been out of touch for too long and wanted to check in on your blog. I cannot express to you how much love and healing I am sending your way. Your sharing of yourself via this blog while I too was going through treatment was more support than you may have realized.

    You are an incredible human and deserve all the love and miracles and blessings in the world. You have a huge cheering section out here in Los Angeles.

    Just keep following your instincts and we will keep sending the love.


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