More Tests

Last week was a fairly eventful week on all fronts.  My husband, his sister and his niece all went for their chemo sessions.

For my husband the chemotherapy was significantly different from his first round with Cisplatin and he has not had the same severe nausea and vomiting (so far!). Not feeling great, the fatigue is significant, but it is not the nasty vomiting and consequently he has not needed hydration.  His biggest issue has been the persistent pain in his shoulder/neck area – this is what has knocked him down this time.  During his pre-treatment discussion with the Oncologist he identified this problem and the Oncologist reviewed his CT scan and shoulder x-ray stating that nothing really popped out to indicate an issue.  However, he scheduled my husband for a bone scan which set for this coming Tuesday; hopefully we will find out what is happening in his shoulder and neck.  The pain has become unbearable and he has had to increase his pain meds to the point where he is sleeping most of the day.  His mind, when he is awake, is whirring away wondering if this is the cancer back and spreading.  His one greatest fear is that it will spread to his brain.  So Tuesday is the bone scan and by Wednesday or Thursday we will find out what is going on, if the pain is related to spread of the bone cancer, if it is neural in nature, if it is arthritis, whatever, he just needs to know.

My sister-in-law had her treatment on Wednesday.  It seemed to go well, once they addressed her allergic reaction.  She’d had her treatment in the chemo suite and had gone downstairs to wait for her ride home.  While she was sitting in the lobby she noticed that her hands had gone quite red.  A few minutes later a nurse, one that actually worked for her Oncologist, saw her sitting in the lobby and asked her how the first chemo went.  My sister-in-law stated good, except I can’t believe how fast I developed the hand and foot syndrome associated with this chemo.  The nurse looked at her hands, actually saw that my sister-in-law’s neck was turning bright red, and hustled her upstairs to address the allergic reaction she was having.  After they pumped her full of meds and were satisfied she was okay, she left the hospital.  She was still hooked up to her “baby bottle”, which kept the treatment going for another 48 hours.  We saw her that evening and she was in good spirits, probably a little buzzed out by the meds to treat the reaction, but quite mobile and upbeat.  Her son was coming up to stay overnight with her and all seemed well.  The next day she was okay, had a bit of a headache and the baby bottle didn’t seem to be infusing the meds. There had been a kink in the line and once straightened out the meds started flowing.  The fatigue hit by Friday as well as high blood pressure.  She still is dealing with high blood pressure but looking forward to feeling better as the week progresses.

My niece has been flattened by the chemotherapy.  Her treatment is aggressive, she knows she will have severe nausea, she knows she will lose her hair, and she thought she was prepared for the fatigue – but she wasn’t.  What she could do previously without thinking about is now out of the question.  Just doing a load of laundry is exhausting. She doesn’t live close by so we haven’t been able to see her.  She’s phoned my sister-in-law on a regular basis and they are comparing their chemo experiences.  Fortunately this often results in a bit of laughter as they try to rationalize what the hell is happening to them.

The road ahead for all of them is quite different but likely the physical trials will be similar.  I have to say from my perspective, sometimes it feels like I am living someone else’s life and not mine, that is how different things have become.

Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word that loosely translated means “life out of balance.” (Ref – Wikipedia).  This is how I view my life.  It has no balance, it swings from high to low and it is like quicksilver, changing with a fluidity and momentum that defies description.

Today was results day for my husband’s most recent CT scan so went to the hospital to meet the Oncologist.  The results were not great but not the worst either.  In this CT scan the radiologist identified a blood clot in my husband’s lung that apparently had shown up on previous scans but not been mentioned or brought to anyone’s attention until our discussion today.  A little worrisome but hopefully the Fragmin (blood thinner) will continue to allow the body to break the clot down over time. The Oncologist advised that my husband’s cancer has progressed from his last CT scan.  The cancer’s progression has manifested in a couple of nodules and lymph nodes in his lungs.  Not huge increases but significant enough to put my husband back into the chemo grind starting this Thursday.  The original “mass” is still not in evidence, however, another large nodule was identified in his lower right lung.  So the chemo is without a doubt the way to go.  The drug administered, however, has been changed to Docetaxel which has different side effects from the first combination of drugs used. I suspect that the last of his hair will go and the fatigue again will be an issue – I am hoping that the nausea is not.  This remains to be seen.  The chemotherapy sessions are three weeks apart and there will be three.  So the next nine weeks are scripted.

The visit to the hospital today meant I got to meet up with my sister who works there.  She always pops over for a visit, if she can, her schedule permitting we’ll have a coffee or lunch.  Today was a brief chat – just long enough to hear that she had her own issue – the week before she’d had a minor heart attack.  She attributed it to stress, which is likely correct, but how do we remove the stress out of our lives?  Even when we think we have a handle on things oftentimes we still feel stress or strain or frustration or fatigue or concern (and so on) about events occurring within our lives.  The usual response to something like this is a prescription which makes it all seem better but never really addresses the underlying causes.  Needless to say hearing this news from my sister was very upsetting.

My sister-in-law commences her first chemotherapy treatment tomorrow.  She has a cocktail of chemo drugs that include Oxaliplatin, Fluorouracil and Leucovorin.  Her treatments are every two weeks and will continue for approximately six months.  She will have the chemotherapy treatment at the hospital but will leave with a “baby bottle” that continues the treatment and will be removed approximately two days after the initial hospital administered treatment.  Reading up on these drugs it appears that fatigue will likely be a significant factor throughout, but everyone has a different response and we can only hope that for my sister-in-law she has a good response to the treatment.  Her attitude is great going in – just get ‘er done.  Likewise tomorrow my niece (in-law) starts her chemo treatment for breast cancer.  This is the start of a very aggressive program since it is her second go round with breast cancer,  I can’t imagine how she is feeling.

This is the chaos of my life – all around me crazy things are happening – life altering or life threatening things.  It’s out of control – which is the one true thing, the utter lack of control.  This is the reality we all face, we do the best we can but still nasty stuff happens.  Right now it is “koyaanisqatsi” for our family and we seek ways to bring things back into harmony and balance.

#14 – OTS964

HopeA new lung cancer drug was highly publicized in the news this week.  The drug has proven to be successful in killing aggressive lung cancer cells in mice.  “It stops the action of a protein that is over-produced by several tumour types, including lung and breast.” (Toronto Star, October 24, 2014 – “Lung Cancer Drug Holds Promise”)

“When taken by mouth, the drug was well tolerated with limited toxicity. An intravenous form, delivered within a liposome, was just as effective with fewer side effects. …  OTS964 targets TOPK, a protein that is produced by a wide range of human cancers and is believed to promote tumor growth. High TOPK expression correlates with poor prognosis in patients with breast and lung cancer.” (Source: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/10/22/highly-effective-new-anti-cancer-drug-shows-few-side-effects-mice)

So folks, this is why patients like my husband, diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, opt for treatment rather than just facing destiny.  You never know what is around the corner.  Hope is a crucial piece in navigating the cancer journey.

#8 – Graviola aka Soursop

Graviola, also known as soursop, guanabana, custard apple and others, is a fruit that grows in the rain forests of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.  There are a number of claims that surround taking this plant, either by capsule, or as it was given to me, in a frozen mulched state.  Articles on the internet make mad claims about this stuff, it is supposed to be a miraculous healer of certain cancers.  Research organizations have countered the wild stories by cautioning that there are not enough studies, particularly on humans, to justify any claims made. 

When I consider this product I do it in light of the cancerous rates that exist in the home countries where the fruit actually grows.  So if claims are made that soursop is effective against liver and breast cancers, then in my simple world, the countries where the fruit is local to should have a low or lower rate of these types of cancers.  So, when considering liver cancer, I went to the World Cancer Research Fund International site, and found the following piece of information:  “The highest incidence of liver cancer was in Asia and Africa; and the lowest incidence in Europe and, Latin America and Caribbean.” (Extracted Aug 6, 2014 at http://www.wcrf.org/cancer_statistics/data_specific_cancers/liver_cancer_statistics.php).   It’s probably not that cut and dried but this was enough for me.

So what do I think about this product.  I think that in the form that I have it, which is a frozen slushy type product, that adding a little to a smoothie presents very low risk.  Like everything else I do, I try the product myself first to see if I have any adverse effects.  If, after a week, I have had no issues, I may introduce it into a smoothie every other day – in small dosages.  This fruit is used in ice creams, sweets and beverages in South America.  I won’t pin my hopes on this one, but I also don’t see too big of a downside.  The cautions about this fruit tend to be associated with ingesting large amounts of it and then there can be a neurological response.  Our use of this product would be quite modest, since anything in large doses has the potential to do harm.

(Disclaimer –  These articles are opinion based and not medically based.  These are my thoughts shared through my blog.  Please remember everyone is different and every cancer is unique to the individual.  Hope is all we have, and I hope by sharing my findings maybe someone out there has a remedy, approach, treatment, supplement that will help in my husband’s battle against cancer.)

#4 – Coriolus Mushroom aka PSK, PSP, Krestin

This was an immune system booster that I happened upon.  Friends had been visiting the house and suggested that I contact a place in Toronto’s Chinatown that prepares traditional Chinese medicine.  I was looking for a very specific blend of natural roots, leaves, mushrooms, etc., when I came across this.  The Coriolus Mushroom is listed in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as “Possibly Effective” for Cancer.  Specifically the database referrences polysaccharide krestin (PSK) which” orally may improve response and survival in some patients with cancer.”  Additionally, it states that “It has been used in Japan for several decades for breast cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, lung cancer, hepatic cancer, colorectal cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer.” (Source:  naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com, extracted August 13, 2014 – this database is available to subscribers only.)  The Coriolus Mushroom apparently has been used in folk medicine for a very long time.

The article had me hooked at “lung cancer”.  I searched for products on line that contained PSK and found one that I have since purchased.  When we went for our chemo session I asked the dietician if it was safe to use the product in conjunction with the chemotherapy.  She asked for more information and told me she wanted to check into it first.  Her main caveat was that any product that I considered must have been trialed on humans.  Since PSK has been in use in Japan as an adjuvant to cancer therapy she was satisfied about it’s clinical trials but still asked me to hold off until she looked further into it.  I have since heard back from her.  She was satisfied about the clinical trials and left the decision up to us as to whether my husband take this product.  Since the prouct is used to stimulate the immue system, improve energy levels and work towards minimizing the toxic effects while improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy, I believe this is one that we will commence using.  I have been taking the minimum dose as a preventive measure for myself, to determine if there were any side effects that I experienced.  It has been a week and I am fine.  We have discussed my husband taking the product and we have agreed to slowly introduce it into his daily dosage of medicines.  Slowly, while monitoring for any reactions.  I have also informed the visiting nurse, who has looked at the product I purchased and stated she knows of others using it during chemotherapy with no ill effects.  Wish us luck.

For those of you interested in this particular product, do your own research, don’t just  rely on mine – my research and my opinions are subjective.  I am only one person.  Do your own research or have other people help you.  Or if you come across something that you think may interest others, let me know, I will do a little investigating as well and see what I find.