It's not quite the exciting package one hopes for that appeared on the front porch today. No fun new pair of shoes from Nordstrom or random gadget from Amazon. This package is filled with potential to cause a range of symptoms from nausea, vomitting, diarrhea, fatigue, low white blood cell counts and mouth sores...just to name a few. But, this small box of 21 capsules is also filled with hope, potential stability and the return of healthier days. The only thing I do know for sure is that this package is filled with a whole lot of uncertainty. And although I am used to living with a great deal of it, this time the unknown seems a bit scarier.
This new medication is one of two new drugs I will be starting this week. This oral medication is called Ibrance, and is also known by the generic name of Palbociclib. Ibrance is what is known as a "targeted therapy". In very simplified terms, targeted therapies aim to attack the cancer cells without harming the body's normal, healthy cells. Therefore, targeted therapies, while they come with their own list of side effects, aren't as toxic as traditional chemotherapy agents. Ibrance is a targeted drug that blocks proteins in the cancer cell which in turn helps prevent the cells from dividing to create new cancer cells.
I will be taking Ibance daily for 3 weeks, followed by 1 week off which will allow my body some time to recover and for my blood counts to bounce back up. Due to the high risk of my white and red blood cell counts dropping significantly, I will have blood work drawn every two weeks to make sure I am safe to continue on this treatment.
Not only does this week mark the start of Ibrance, but it will also be my first time receiving Faslodex. The drug has the generic name of Fulvestrant and is the intramuscular injection that I will receive every two weeks. The two of these drugs together have shown very promising results in recent studies. You could read about that here. Faslodex is known as an "estrogen receptor downregulator" which means it binds to the estrogen receptor site of cells and causes the receptors to break down, thereby preventing the normal cellular responsen to estrogen. This is important since my breast cancer is fed by estrogen. Even though I am in medically induced menopause, we want to make sure there isn't any other way these cancer cells can by fed by any stray estrongen that may be floating around.
I will receive my first injection of Faslodex on Thursday, along with my monthly injection of Zoladex that keeps my ovarian function supporessed. On Friday I will meet with a gynecological oncologist at Karmanos to discuss my surgery to have my ovaries removed.
Fingers crossed that I tolerate this treatment well with as minimal side effects as possible. And of course, that this treatment plan is successful! I have blood work next week to check how my counts are responding and will then see Dr. F the week after that to see how I am tolerating the treatment. It sounds like I will have scans in about 3 months to see how things are looking.
As always, thank you so much for the love and prayers. Please keep them coming!
ps - We just got back from a trip to California where I was invited to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation Metastatic Breast Cancer Collateral Damage Project. I am really looking forward to sharing more about that soon. But until I have the energy to write that post, enjoy these little snapshots of my free day spent with Mike. :)
Well, a delayed "Happy New Year" seems to be in order. It's been a couple months since my last post and as I revisited my last entry, I am once again reminded of the roller coaster of emotions this disease is. But I suppose that's just life for all of us. It ebbs and flows, oscillating between the good times and the tougher times.
The new year started off perfectly while Mike and I continued our road trip throughout California. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I am so incredibly grateful we decided to check this off our bucket list. We arrived in San Francisco the day after Christmas and explored for a few days before venturing through Carmel and Monterrey on our way to Big Sur. After a few phenomenal days there, we made our way down to Santa Barbara for some relaxing and wine tasting, then Pasadena for the Rose Bowl (pinch me!) and finally to San Diego for a few days! We couldn't believe that each day seemed to be even better than the last and that we packed a lifetime of memories into 9 days. It was incredible!
Here are a few of my favorite images I was able to capture with Canon 5D Mark iii ...
And since I didn't take my "big girl camera" into the Rose Bowl with me, here are a few iphone shots I caught during that incredible day!
The week after we returned home from California, my mom celebrated her retirement. Although I was so happy she was able to do this, it also meant that she would basically be moving down to Columbus to help care for my Aunt Bev. Since that time, my aunt has endured a lot. She has seemed to suffered complication after complication due to her ovarian cancer and has been in and out of the hospital since. She was recently stable enough to start chemo again but was once again hospitalized on Monday. Please keep her in your prayers so that she can get through this time and become healthy and strong once again.
As if all of that wasn't hard enough, my mom also suddenly lost one of her best friends of nearly 40 years. You might remember me talking about John & Paul and our visit to their vacation home in Florida here. Losing John was so tragic and unexpected - it sent all of us who loved him reeling. His funeral service in Michigan was just last Monday and was beautiful and heart breaking all at the same time.
Then just last Saturday, I attended yet another funeral service. This time it was for a dear, sweet friend who was part of my support group at Karmanos. My friend, Susan was kind, compassionate and courageous. She started her battle with metastatic breast cancer about a year before I did and we had come to be friends once I started our young women's group. The celebration of her life was beautiful, but of course it was especially difficult knowing she died from complications of the disease that I also live with. My heart breaks for her wonderful husband and children.
So the first couple of months of 2014 have definitely been trying at times, and reminders of how precious and fragile life is.
Despite all of that, I have been feeling really well - aside from being freezing cold all the time in this polar vortex. Thank God for the occasional hot flash, right?! I have really been enjoying work lately and have been treating a great group of patients, spending lots of time with family & friends, and enjoying the occasional lazy Sunday with Mike and Wrig just hibernating by the fire. I'm also grateful that I have been feeling stronger mentally and emotionally lately, especially so I can try to support others going through similar experiences. I can't tell you how often I receive emails, phone calls or facebook messages asking me to reach out to women who are newly diagnosed, or someone who has recently become metastatic. Or how often I receive emails from women who have somehow come across this blog and can relate and want to connect. Although I often feel guilty that I can't stay in close touch with everyone I hear from, I am grateful that I can try to be of some support to others as they experience a similar journey. However, with that gift, comes a price. I have lost more good friends than any 31 year old should ever have to experience, and each time I hear of another survivor going through a hard time - a treatment failing, a disturbing scan, or new side effects with negative impacts on quality of life - it is heart wrenching. After losing Genevieve, Lorri and Jen last year, it made me question whether or not I even wanted to reach out and become close with other women because it is so hard when I lose them. But, there is no way I could ever really do that. I would never turn my back on someone that needed a shoulder to lean or someone to talk to while they travel this road. And I would never want someone to treat me that way either - to give up on me during my hour of need because it was "too hard". I have had a few people pull away from me after my diagnosis and it just hurts. I tried not to take it personally and realize it was just that they didn't know how to cope with what I was going through - but it's painful none the less. I am really grateful for a close group of friends that I have who are all young women in their 30's living with metastatic breast cancer. I am grateful for their love, guidance and the support we all give to each other on what sometimes is a daily basis. Please always continue to show your love and support to someone who is ill or struggling, or who might seem fine but deals with chronic illness - you might never know what a positive impact that can have on them.
I hope everyone is surviving the longest, coldest winter EVER! I know all of us around here in Michigan are definitely ready for it to be over. I am so excited we are almost to March, which means that spring will be around the corner. I can't wait to open windows, see green grass and enjoy my beautiful backyard.
Thanks for all the love and support. Thank you to those of you who I may have never met but come across the blog somehow and reach out. I wish I could respond to every comment and message. Each one means so much.
I'll post an update again after I see Dr. F on March 13 - which will hopefully be a pretty uneventful visit.
My blog to keep you all