Christmas Came Early

It surely did! My Oncologist called me on Friday night with the best Christmas news I could ever get. After about 7 weeks of being off any (infusion) treatment the cancer did NOT grow at all! My scans showed zero progression in my breasts, lymph nodes, liver or spine. I think we were all a little surprised because we had prepared ourselves for the worst-case scenario. And guess what? That’s not the only good, no GREAT, news he had for us. He compared my first brain MRI (pre-radiation) to my most recent brain MRI and all the cancer shrunk! We were told by my Radiation Oncologist not to be alarmed if the first MRI showed no change or even larger cancer cells. Radiation is tough on the brain and causes swelling. That swelling can alter the MRI images so that lesions look larger. But that wasn’t the case for me!

I feel like the world has been lifted from my shoulders a little. I’ve actually slept two nights in a row! Real sleep; not Xanax sleep. Because let’s be honest, Xanax sleep is the only sleep I was getting after finding out I have cancer in my brain. I will say this, though: Both my Oncologist and I had the gut feeling that the cancer in my brain wasn’t truly “progression”. We both believed that it had always been there and was growing and spreading because it was untreated. There is something called the blood/brain barrier (BBB). It’s our body’s own self-defense. It won’t allow foreign and potentially dangerous substances to go to our brain. So the infusion drugs I was getting, Herceptin/Perjeta, that were keeping the cancer in my body in check were not able to get to my brain. And since I was showing no symptoms of having cancer in my brain we were not treating it; we didn’t know it was there. It wasn’t until the seizures that we even knew about it. I had a brain MRI last March and it showed nothing. We think the cancer was just too small to be picked up by the MRI at that time.

However, regardless of our “gut” feelings, the medical powers that be considered the cancer in my brain to be progression. That meant that the Herceptin and Perjeta didn’t work and were no longer a treatment option for me. I had to go off of them. That is why I was being untreated for 7 weeks (except for the brain radiation). During this time my Oncologist was arranging for me to participate in a clinical trial. The trial is for a new drug that’s being tested in cancer patients with the same cancer as me. The drug is comparable (maybe better) to TDM1 which is a standard-of-care and proven drug. TDM1 wasn’t an option for me, though, because I think I was considered to be a severe case. But since my scans came back and showed no cancer growth while being off treatment, my Oncologist and a colleague of his both decided that TDM1 would be the better option! That way we can save the clinical trial drug as another option if, God-forbid, I ever need it. And there is potential that the TDM1 can cross the BBB!

I will start TDM1 on December 31st. I’m looking at it like I get to end 2019 and begin 2020 with a new and better treatment plan. I’m feeling really good about it! And I have a sense of reassurance that all my efforts (i.e. eating right, exercising, some holistic practices) have been worth it! I am going to stay positive and keep looking ahead. But I’m gonna keep my Xanax prescription filled, too. I know I’ll have bad days and preparation is a good thing. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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