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Archive for October 9th, 2009

Disappointment

[Does it ever end?]

It turns out I am not done with the chemo. Yes, you read that right. I got the word yesterday that I’m to keep taking the Xeloda pills – one week on and one week off – until the surgery in November. I am beyond despondent…

From the very beginning, I understood the plan was to have six weeks of concurrent chemotherapy and radiation, followed by about six weeks of recovery time before surgery. The idea was to try to eliminate the tumor and all cancer cells during the six weeks of treatment. Then there would be a “window” during which I would heal from the chemo and radiation, and get stronger in preparation for surgery, but not let so much time pass that the cancer would have a chance to return. I understood the optimal “window” was about six weeks between the end of treatment and surgery.

When I met with the surgeon, Dr. Rajput, back in August, I had Shawn with me. We both clearly recall him saying the optimal time for surgery would be six weeks after the end of treatment.

Recently, Dr. Fekrazad asked me when my surgery would be. When I told him it wasn’t scheduled yet but that it was supposed to be about six weeks after treatment, he shook his head. No. That’s too long to wait, he said. The cancer may have time to come back if we wait that long…

I contacted Dr. Rajput’s office. His P.A. Anita confirmed, once again, that they wanted to wait six weeks. When I informed Dr. Fekrazad about this, his response was: “Well, then we’ll just have to keep you on the Xeloda until surgery.”

WHAT?!  NO!!!!!!

In a cancer treatment environment, one of the things patients have to hang on to are goals. Six weeks of chemo and radiation was my goal. Despite setbacks and illness and blood clots and yeast infections and starvation, I reached the f—ing goal! Towards the end, when I was so weak, Dr. Fekrazad offered to reduce my dosage or even skip the last treatment, and the radiation folks also offered to skip the last two radiation treatments. But I said no, I would finish the entire regimen as planned. It nearly killed me, but I did it.

Now, just as I’m beginning to experience the very first signs of recovery, I feel like the rug is being yanked out from under me. I feel betrayed. 

I’ve been back and forth between the two doctors. They’re both oncologists at UNM Hospital. Dr. Fekrazad is a “Medical Oncologist” (meaning, essentially, his job is the administration of chemotherapy). Dr. Rajput is a “Surgical Oncologist” (meaning he specializes in performing surgery on cancer patients). They’ve discussed my case. And they seem to have a slightly different point of view. Anita told me that it’s not uncommon for the medical oncologist to want the patient to continue chemo nearly up to the date of surgery. The surgical oncologists basically just want to be sure you’ve healed from the radiation before surgery, so they don’t tend to get involved or object if the medical oncologist keeps the patient on chemo for a while after the radiation is done. Gee, thanks everybody, for having a nice clear plan for me and then changing it at the last minute!

A handful of hell (they don't look that bad, do they?)

A handful of hell (they just don't look that scary, do they?)

Although my inner child is having one hell of a temper tantrum and won’t stop screaming “NO!”, I’m back on Xeloda for a week. I’m going to take it and see how I do now that I’m not also taking Oxaliplatin and having radiation treatments. Maybe I’ll find that it isn’t so bad…(yeah, right). Maybe in a day or so, when that screaming baby in me gets exhausted and cries itself to sleep, maybe I’ll be able to look at that handful of Xeloda and remind myself what a good job it’s doing of keeping cancer cells from returning. Maybe I’ll even be able to look at that handful of pills with gratitude.

At the moment, I’m just not that enlightened. But I’ll work on it.

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