Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2 years after 1st chemo treatment

Friend call up to check with me some sharing about chemo treatment. When I refer to my record, notice that 23rd July 2008 is my first chemo treatment .
It is still fresh in my memory, I woke up so early in the morning to get ready to the chemo centre .
The nurses in the SJMC chemo centre is very helpful and it is a great help to take away much of my worries.
A day before the treatment, I am just like others, full of questions and keep checking on the net and with friends, try very best to know more about side effect and so on.
The treatment with Carboplatin + Taxol , went on smoothly and completed in the afternoon.
The immediate side effect surface next day morning, but, instead of the expected fever, I had serious hiccup .
Check with doctor and was informed it is not common for patient to have hiccup ( as side effect ), so, I am the lucky one .
Try on anti-hiccup medicine and it works only for 2 hours. Thereafter, start again . Finally, my wife find a solution for me . Boiled ginger water . It help to stop it and back after few hours. I goes on with ginger water and finally, it ends . ( Sometime, the natural food can do much more wonder than the western drug )
It's a blessing that other than the hiccup and some slight rise of body temperature, everything goes well for first 3 days .
Start from fouth day, I start to feel some poking pain in my bone and bone joint. Not really serious ,but , if I am going to focus and think / feel it, it is quite pain and disturbing. To solve it, I start to divert my attention to watch TV , read books , drawing . Anything that can divert my attention, I will do it . It last for two to three days and goes off.
A week after the treatment, the awaited hair loss start and I decide to shave bald to avoid hair dropping everywhere .
By then, I am back and start recovering to face the next cycle of chemo .
It goes on the same thing for the next 5 cycles of treatment.
At the end of the 6 cycles of treatment, I am bald , I am fair ( as there is no hair from head to toe, save my money for shampo ) and my daughter say that my skin is as smooth as baby skin .
About two months after the last chemo treatment, I was recommended to try the targeted drug , Tarceva . It is in tablet form and to take once a day, one hour before food or 2 hours after food. ( I check on drug information site and it mentioned that taking this drug with food can raise the levels of the drug in the body, which is why it is recommended you take it on an empty stomach. Avoid grapefruit or grapefruit juice during treatment Grapefruit and grapefruit juice are known to affect the level of erlotinib in your blood. )
A week later, I start getting the well expected side effect with rash start showing up on my face and upper body . Then, it follow by some ulcer in my mouth and next is the blister in my tongue.
There is also some infection in my throat and finally I decided to take doctor advice to proceed with antibiotic to solve the infection and reduce the rash effect on my face and upper body.
While I am on Tarceva , some good news , hair start growing . ( well, it is not becasue of Tarceva, it is normal that after you stop the chemo for carboplatin + taxol, hair will start to grow back )
Ulcer and blister take about two weeks to goes off and rash under control after 3 weeks, but, it is still there months after I stop Tarceva .
Maybe I am not suitable for Tarceva, I check on the booklet for Tarceva and note that my rash condition is consider the 3rd stage rash as far as the rash staging side effect for patient who's on Terceva treatment.
Anyway, Tarceva not helping me much and with doctor advice, I stop it after 2 1/2 month.

After a rest for 1 1/2 months from Tarceva and a nice vacation holiday with my family to Taiwan, I am back to treatment with Cisplatin + Alimta .
During the treatment , I start to undertand why doctor say different patient react differently to the drug . There is patient coping very well with Cisplatin, but, I am not . And there is patient having hard time dealing with Caboplatin, but, I am coping so well with it .
Treatment with Cisplatin + Alimta will take a long hours, about 8 hours to finish treatment.
I am having the same old problem a day after the chemo , HICCUP . And this time, boiled ginger water not working , so , I take a tea spoon of fine sugar and let it melt in my mouth slowly, it works . ( It is a treatment tips for hiccup that I learn from an old aunty when I am young ) But, it's not working again on second cycle, so , my wife start to boil ginger water again and add in lemon and honey . Amazing, it works . ( So, never give up and keep trying to find a solution, most of the side effect can be resolved )
I am having hard time with cisplatin for very bad nausea and feeling tired . But, manage to cope with it by keep thinking of what is the food that I can eat and my wife will cook or buy it for me. This help me to maintain my food intake and keep my body fill with energy to chase away the feeling of tired. ( So, don't give up eating when you have strong nausea or vomit side effect, keep trying different type of food or cooking. We need strong body and healthy body during treatment to cope with the side effect . Ice Cream , Chocolate is my good companion during treatment )
After the 3rd cycle of treatment and CT scan show there is no significance improvement , I decided to stop the treatment and take 3 months rest to have a recovery of my body system and immune system . ( After the 3rd cycles , I feel weak , it may not all because of the cisplatin, as I am already treated with 6 cycles of Carboplatin + Taxol and 2 1/2 months of Tarceva. So, it is time that I need a good rest with proper diet , exercise and so on to rebuild my body and immune system. Anyway, I discussed with doctor and he agreed with my plan and advise me to keep very close follow-up and not to rest too long from the treatment )
In Sept '09, I am back in treatment again with only Alimta . The side effect is minimum and I am coping very well with it . After the 3rd cycle, I took CT scan and again the result show no changes in size or quatity of the tumour, everything is stable. So, I decided to take a rest from treatment and spend my time to build my body / immune system .

By now, I am already 9 months out of treatment ( from my last chemo on mid Oct '09 ) . God bless, everything goes well and I am living my days with the tumour and cancer cell still inside my body .

What I learn in this 2 years about treatment is to be balance in everthing we do.
There is no guarantee answer to the curing of cancer . Doctor , reseacher are working round the clock to keep finding new treatment options , new drugs . Clinical trial is going on everyday around the world for modern or traditional therapy .
We just have to continue to pray and continue to keep our body stay strong, until the day when God give wisdom to someone to come up with a cancer treatment that will guarantee to cure cancer .
There is many opinions about cancer treatment . There are groups who oppose to chemo / surgery / radiotherapy and suggest only alternative therapy with traditional herbs or natural food, fruit juicing and so on . And, there is groups who suggest only chemo / surgery / radiotherapy as treatment options and totally disagreed to any alternative treatment option.

As layman in medical field and following are purely my opinion as a cancer patient, I feel that chemo/ surgery / radiotheraphy is still the main stream treatment. No doubts that there is lots of side effect during the treatment . But, there is no guarantee that alternative therapy not having side effect, just that it is not reported . It goes the same theory with chemo drug. Each patient will react differently . So, some patient will do very well with some of the alternative therapy and some not.

But, the bottom line is that we need to have healthy and strong body to cope well with the treatment. Be it Chemo/Surgery/Radiotherapy or any alternative treatment .

Then, question raise. When a patient have cancer, means he/she is sick, so, what are we talking about healthy body. My opinion is that "Cancer" is defined as the uncontrolled or unregulated growth of cells. It is not a disease . If we can change our diet gradually , our lifestyle gradually , we can rebuild our body/immune system and it will help to improve our self healing system to repair our body and once our body system improve, it will restore the healthy environment which will deter the cancer cell to grow . Cancer is not any bacteria or virus and it is not form just in one or two days ago. The lung cancer professor told me that it take years to form the size of tumour for my stage 4 NSCLC. So, it is possible to rebuild and restore our body system. Don't give up .

Meantime, complementary therapy, such as Qi gong , Yoga , Foot and Body massage , Acupunture and many others which is recommended by oncologist are good to assist patient to reduce side effect and rebuilding of body system.

Anyway, it is our body that will tell us whether the treatment is suitable for us , whether it works for us , whether it help us and therefore, to learn how to listen to our body is much more important than anything .

Doctor will give us advice and prescription base on our feedback , base on our scan and blood test report and base on our syndrome, without guarantee or confirmation that it will work for us. Same goes to the alternative treatment, the person who recommend us to the alternative treament will not guarantee that it will work for us.

So, be patient and attentive to take note of any body changes during treatment and after treatment . If possible , keep a daily record of how you feel in the morning , afternoon , evening and during the night . Then, keep your weight record ( fix a time of the day ) daily , keep your blood pressure daily ( I take record of blood pressure in the morning , noon and night , during treatment . And still continue to take once a day until now ) . It is important not to be panic when you find something wrong , as sometime we will become too sensitive, when we start being too attentive to the body changes. For example, when you wake up in the morning and suddenly feel chest pain , pls do not be too panic and start thinking about the tumour in lung start deteriorating. As it could be due to some excessive exercise you did for the past few days or because you carry some heavy stuffs a day ago. So, be calm and analyse it , monitor it and recall what happen for the past days . If it persist , take a drive to check with doctor for advice, instead of start worry . Remember that fear and worry is the worst enemy for us .
I feel great for still being around living my days with cancer and thanks Lord for his grace , blessing and healing .
I am looking forward to be here to continue my sharing and wish God blessing for all of you.
God Bless

Special Note : Each patient have different reaction to chemo drug, side effect . Therefore, what I have experience, may not be the same as other patient. I have read sharing from other patient, who have minimum side effect and good response with Carboplatin + Taxol ; Tarceva ; Cisplatin + Alimta or just Alimta . So, please just take it as my sharing and it is not any medical advice.