So What Happens Next?

I had my last radiation treatment on Tuesday… so what’s next? You can look at that question from two perspectives: how I feel, and next treatment steps.

It takes time to recover from chemoradiation. Having both at once enhances the effectiveness… but also enhances the side effects. I’m more than two weeks past my last chemo but still feeling its effects. The esophagitis will also probably continue into next week before it starts to improve (although getting rid of the thrush did help with the esophagus pain).

I’m still fighting some pretty powerful nausea, the worst I’ve had for the whole cycle of treatments. It could be caused by the radiation, since it went so low in my chest. I’m adding tablet Emend to the mix today, as long as the uninsured price isn’t ridiculous.

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Your definition of a ridiculous price changes when you’re dealing with cancer treatments. The anti-nausea patches, for example, were $300 after insurance for a single patch. If you find yourself in this situation, do a little research. For the patch, there was a coupon on the manufacturer’s site to help with the cost (and it dropped to $75). In the case of Emend, we’ll see what the cost is and if coupons help.

I’m also still pretty unfocused, but I suspect that’s the oxycodone as much as it’s chemobrain. I also still sleep a lot, as my body works on recovery. I expect this to last a couple more weeks before I feel like I’m making progress toward normalcy. Which, ironically, will be just in time for the next step in treatments.

We’re doing two consolidation chemo treatments starting in late January or early February. These are full dose treatments with Carboplatin+Taxol, three weeks apart. The treatments I got every week were lower dosage. I hear differing POV’s about which type of treatment is “worse.”

^BMODEL RELEASED. Cancer chemotherapy.^b Female patient receiving anticancer drugs from an intravenous drip bag. This continuously supplies the patient with a controlled amount of drugs that target cancer cells. The drugs target all rapidly dividing cells, which causes them to have a range of side effects, including hair loss. Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled replication of abnormal cells, which can invade and destroy healthy tissue. The drugs in use here are ^Icytoxan^i and ^Iadriamycin^i. Photographed at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.

Some say weekly chemo is tougher because you have no real recovery time (which is true). Others say the high dosage effects wipe out the extra time between sessions. I admit that I’m dreading these treatments because my nausea phobia isn’t completely gone. We’ve honed in on the right drug combos (which is pretty much “throw everything at it”) to help with nausea during the weekly chemos so hopefully that will help with the larger doses.

Beyond that, sometime in March I’ll have a PET scan so we can see the results of the treatment. The result we seek, of course, is the all clear: NED, no evidence of disease. If that happens, I’ll be considered to be in remission and we’ll go into surveillance mode–frequent scans to detect any recurrent disease. If the PET isn’t all clear, then we do sequencing and immune testing on the biopsy samples and start second-line treatments.

So that’s the road ahead for the next couple months, in terms of treatments. I’ll follow up with a post tomorrow, New Year’s Day, about the road ahead for me personally, and what I want to accomplish in 2016.

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