Chemo number 3

Thursday 12th
Seven days after the 3rd chemo session and I am finally beginning to feel somewhat human again. The main remaining side effects are dry mouth and fatigue. I seem to need 12 hours sleep per night. The sense of taste is slowly returning and last night I enjoyed the baked fish, peas and carrots that Stefanie cooked.

We had to rise early this morning for an abdominal ultrasound at 8.00 am. The CT scan report said I had a possible hernia, but it seemed like the ultrasound was looking for other things. The sonographer was a student and the procedure took an hour. She spoke fairly softly and would say, “breathe in” “hold it” and “relax”. Only sometimes I didn’t hear “relax”! She was pushing down in the same place an awful lot and by the end I was covered in goop. Report to my doctor in a couple of days.

Latest psa is 500, up slightly from 480. Not good news but not necessarily bad news either. Hopefully we will have 2 good weeks now and then back on the chemo coaster!

Pain wise, things have settled down with the 50mcg Fentanyl patches and there is very little breakthrough pain. I also seem to be more stable walking and am able to go out for short periods. So, it appears I will make a good recovery from the latest chemo session and therefore I say, bring on the next one! I guess the future of chemo will depend on the psa response, hopefully a significant downward trend.

I find myself thinking of fellow bloggers who have passed on. Overall I feel I am fortunate to have made contact with these brave men who faced their inevitable end with courage and dignity, and were prepared to share their experiences with the world.

Chemo continues

Chemo number 2 has been delivered and this time I feel so weak and lethargic, out of sorts. It is hard to get interested in anything for long and when I get up I feel wobbly and shaky. A couple of nights ago I got up to go to the bathroom and felt very faint. As I staggered back to bed I passed out, banging a rib on furniture as I fell. I have a sore rib as well as the chemo effects. And I took some skin off. My mouth is still very dry and I have bad breath due to the damage to my mucous membranes. However this will soon pass and I expect to feel better in a few days. Latest psa is 290, up by 48 from last time. This could be due to dying cancer cells giving off psa. Anyway I will hang onto that for now. I fancied Chinese today so Stefanie brought home some takeaway which I really enjoyed. So the plan for now is to continue the treatments and hope for a good result.

Chemotherapy Begins

Yesterday was the first installment of my chemotherapy regime. Besides the usual prednisone I was prescribed dexamethasone for the day before, during and after. My psa had dropped from 247 to 242 in 2 weeks. A pleasant surprise.

We arrived early and I was seated in a comfortable arm chair for the one hour infusion. The nurse painlessly inserted the cannula, hooked up the IV machine and the taxotere commenced to flow. There was no sensation of any kind and the hour passed quickly thanks to an interesting book.

I did not sleep well last night and was wide awake at 3.30. This morning I had a slight headache and a sore back thanks to overdoing it while lifting a box of groceries.

All in all it was not an unpleasant experience and it remains to be seen what side effects are likely to present themselves. Three weeks from now we will be doing it again. 6 sessions are planned at this stage. I have read of some promising outcomes from this treatment, so here’s hoping.

Greetings to my fellow sufferers, blog friends and interested readers. I appreciate your support.

More Decisions

Yesterday S and I visited my radiation oncologist, Dr W. We were a little early but soon I was called by a young woman who introduced herself as Dr W’s registrar. (Basically a doctor in training). It was soon apparent that she knew nothing about my condition. She read the clinical notes and said “you have to have chemotherapy, there are no other options for you.” She had almost as much empathy as a lizard. I say almost, because I had a pet lizard as a child and I am fairly certain that it was more caring than this doctor.

I asked her how soon could I see the medical oncologist? At least 3 months was the reply. I asked if I could see someone privately? She got her secretary to check. “You can see Dr L next week”. It then transpired that Dr L would not see me as I had no private health insurance. I told her I was prepared to pay for the consult. The answer was still no. She suggested I get private cover. Pre-existing condition? I think not. That was it. We were both very disheartened.

As we left the registrar’s office, Dr W was in the corridor. He saw the looks on our faces and told us to wait a bit and he would call us in. What a difference! Dr W examined the recent scan results and explained the extent of the cancer’s progression. He discussed why chemotherapy is the only treatment available to me at this time. The Australian government will not pay for any of the other treatment protocols until chemotherapy has been tried and proven ineffective. The only chemotherapy available is Docetaxel, or Taxotere. The only follow up treatment available is Zytiga, or Abiraterone Acetate.

I asked him about other treatments, Xtandi-(not available in Australia) and Provenge, known as Keytruda in Australia and is only available as part of a clinical trial after all else has failed.

My psa on 14 June was 160. I have been taking an Australian plant based substance called Gumbi Gumbi, a well known Aboriginal herbal medicine, 4 times daily. My psa 6 days later was 140. Is this a slowing of the rate of growth of the cancer? Or is it that the Gumbi destroys psa in the bloodstream? No way to tell apart from nuclear scans. However, I will continue taking it along with Curcumin and black pepper.

As if the cancer is not enough to worry about, I have a complete blockage of my sinuses with a severe fungal sinus infection, that can only be treated by surgical intervention. I was being treated with antibiotics and I am now told that they only made the condition worse. At least now I have an accurate diagnosis and a referral to an ENT specialist and treatment is in the pipeline.

Current status, I have been referred to a medical oncologist for chemotherapy. I am awaiting a date for my first appointment, and there are many pros and cons to weigh up. I have requested a referral to an independent medical oncologist for a second opinion. Now it is just a waiting game, so S and I plan to have a few days away at a seaside resort, while we await developments. After that, I will learn all I can about chemotherapy benefits and risks. All we want to do is get it over and get back to Canada to enjoy what remains of the summer!!