We came away from our meeting at the Cross Cancer Institute yesterday feeling relieved and very thankful. The doctor we met with actually used the words “good news” and spoke of long term survival.
The first piece of positive news is that the cancer has not spread to my lungs or any other major organs! Other than the growths that we were already aware of in my colon and my liver, the only definite spread is to one lymph node in my thorax. There may also be something in the left side of my face so I’m to have a CT scan of my head and neck sometime soon to get a better read on that.
The very best news is that my cancer proved to be receptive to both mIBG and Lutetium, the two radioisotopes that I was injected with last week. This means that I am an excellent candidate for the newest and very best treatment available for neuroendocrine tumours. How fortunate I am to live close to Edmonton, the first centre in North America to begin offering this kind of therapy! I will receive an injection of one of these radioactive agents approximately once every three months. It will basically seek out the cancerous growths and attack them. This has a very good chance of stopping the cancer from growing and spreading, basically making it dormant, or actually shrinking the growths. There are no major side effects and patients can live for many years on this kind of treatment.
Though it doesn’t happen often, there have been rare cases where the cancer has disappeared completely but we were cautioned that even if this happens it is very likely to reoccur. The goal of this therapy is control, not cure but I continue to hang onto the hem and pray for a miracle! Should God choose not to grant complete healing, however, it is reassuring to know that there’s still reason to believe that I’ll be around for quite awhile!
Surgery to remove the primary tumour from my colon may be an option at some point in the future but chemotherapy is not particularly effective in fighting neuroendocrine tumours and is only used as a last resort when other therapies aren’t effective. So, I won’t be losing my hair! I actually would have been okay with that and even have friends who were willing to shave their heads as a sign of solidarity but with winter coming on, perhaps it’s good that we get to keep our hair. Bald is beautiful but it could also be very chilly!
In addition to the radioisotope therapy, I’ll also be receiving monthly injections of Sandostatin, a medication that will inhibit the release of hormones by my tumours and thus alleviate the symptoms that I’ve been dealing with, particularly the nasty stomach cramps that have worsened recently. Unlike the radioisotope injections, which I will have to go to Edmonton for, my first dose of Sandostatin will be administered by my family doctor and after that, a visiting nurse will give them to me here at home.
Sandostatin will also protect my heart from damage which can be caused by excess hormones. That leads me to the final piece of good news; last week’s echocardiogram showed that my heart is in excellent condition. Though I’ve probably had this cancer for several years already, it shows absolutely no sign of damage and I don’t need to restrict physical activity or take any other precautions. I can continue doing my 20+ push ups every morning!
As yesterday was also our 37th wedding anniversary and we felt that we had a lot to be thankful for, we stopped for a lovely celebration supper on our way home. I was even going to indulge in a decadent dessert but when nothing on the menu appealed to me, we headed for Starbucks and enjoyed pumpkin spice lattes for dessert. After all, they’re practically hot pumpkin pie in a mug!
Next on the agenda is another trip to the city tomorrow, this time to attend an afternoon session entitled “A Journey of Well-Being with Neuroendocrine Tumours” where we’ll hear from the experts about a variety of topics including the latest treatments, nutrition and how to use it beneficially, and how to live the best life possible with this diagnosis. This will also give us an opportunity to meet other patients, their friends and family members, and survivors as well as more of the health professionals.