Well, I have an update. This may sound bad to many of you, but it is actually better than I expected. I have had another relapse. Just before I started my high-dose chemo, I felt a few lumps in my left breast, in the same area as the last time I relapsed. So we biopsied them (seriously fun times…or not…remind me to tell you all about it later) and they came back positive for Hodgkin’s. Then we did the high-dose chemo and hoped for the best. The spots went down, but they have come back with a vengeance. I call them my “stubborn spots,” among other things. I also call them my “not-a-tumors,” because they are actually enlarged lymph nodes, but they feel like tumors. We couldn’t do anything about the stubborn spots for a while because I was still recovering from the high-dose chemo and the transplant and any further treatment…well, let’s just say it would have had the opposite of the intended effect if we had done any treatment while my counts were so low. So now I have passed day 30, my counts are up, and on Monday I did a PET scan.
Today I got the results of the scan. There are 6 nodes in my left breast (several under the muscle – no wonder that junk hurts!) and 1 on the right side of my neck that are showing cancerous activity. Basically that means those are the areas where the Hodgkin’s cells are right now. So in a way, it’s a good thing that it hasn’t spread to the rest of my body like it did last time. That means we did have some results with the stem cell transplant. We just didn’t have a “complete response.” Fan-tastic. What do we do now?
Well, now we start treatment again. I am going to try a relatively new chemo drug called Brentuximab. It was approved by the FDA for use with Hodgkin’s in 2012 and the big study that was done showed pretty positive results. This is a smarter chemo drug. It targets the cancer cells specifically. This means it won’t try to kill me as much as the other chemo drugs did, because it can tell the difference between good cells and bad cells. Most of the front-line chemo drugs just kill all the cells, which is why there are such horrible side effects from them.
Now this doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park. There will still be side effects. But seeing as how I’m still dealing with stuff (like my skin turning gray and then peeling off) from the chemo that was over a month ago, I’ll be happy if it’s not much more than the usual (hair loss, fatigue, tummy issues). I’ve also decided that it’s a good thing my head is not all crazy-shaped, because I will still be bald for a while. Honestly, I don’t really remember that well what it’s like to have hair. Or take a shower, for that matter. I still have my central line, so I have to saran wrap it and take a bath still. Not terribly relaxing. Well, this post has turned into venting, so I think I’ll wrap it up.
No worries, friends. I am still confident that I will beat this. There are more back-up plans, like radiation and other drugs. We will fight on together. It’s just going to take some more time.