Monday, February 20, 2012

The Colorful Parrot

Topotecan! The name reminds me of a colorful parrot.
Today I get Topotecan. And tomorrow. And the following two days as well. Topotecan four days in a row.

So, what is Topotecan, you ask?

In one word, chemo.

Yep, my ovarian cancer has recurred for the third time. I don't know why we call it "recurred" because it has never once left my body. Oh, the scans have shown "no evidence of disease" a couple times, but everyone knows the scans cannot pick up miniscule areas of the disease.

Those ovca cells lurk here and there until they are once again ready to proliferate. Proliferate. Sounds like warfare, doesn't it? Yeah, it's warfare, all right. The battlefield is my body and the guns are chemo drugs. We do battle after battle, using one drug or another. When one drug fails (runs out of ammo) we try the next one.

They work, you know. Those drugs work (for awhile). They're spewing deadly shots at those cancer cells. The problem is that some of my other body cells succumb to "friendly fire" causing all kinds of symptoms...baldness being the most observable and well-known. I used to have a lovely white bob. I'll never wear my hair that way again. Sigh!

Oh, I'm not complaining. These drugs are keeping me alive.

The "colorful parrot" is my fourth chemotherapy regimen. In three years' time I've "enjoyed" the benefit (and side-effects) of the following:
  1. Carboplatin and paclitaxel (carbo/taxol) (Yep, bald!)
  2. Carboplatin and paclitaxel and avastin followed by 10 months of avastin as a maintenance drug. (Yep! Bald again!)
  3. Carboplatin and gemzar (Maintained my hair on this one!)
  4. Now - Topotecan. (Thinning hair - really thinning!)

In the past three years I've had 6 months drug-free.

I'm a walking druggie! (hahahahahaha....sorry, not funny) Thankfully, I take very few prescription meds. I seldom use ibuprofen or tylenol, preferring to roll through the difficult times. They used to tell us that as kids...roll through the punches. That's what I do. I roll through them. I'd rather put up with discomfort (spelled p-a-i-n) than toss something else into the cocktail for my liver and kidneys to deal with.

I belong to an online forum of other ovarian cancer patients. Some use supplements. Some don't. Some eat organic foods only. Some enjoy their chocolate and the occasional glass of wine. Reading their stories it seems to me that whatever diet/supplements they use does have a placebo effect....but not much. And so I just try to eat in a healthy manner and avoid junk foods.

Today I begin cycle three of the colorful parrot and will receive four consecutive days of the drug. Because the drug does a number on my blood counts, on the fifth day I will receive a neulasta shot. That's a bone cruncher! What I mean is that in jump-starting the blood producing areas in the bones, the drug also causes bone pain. But thanks to my online ovarian friends I've learned that taking a claritin the day of and the day after the shot greatly reduces the flu-like symptoms that are side-effects of the neulasta.

The next few days I will experience fatigue and malaise and perhaps some dizziness (assuming this 3rd cycle will affect me as the first two have done). By this time next week I'll be moving back to "normal" and I will be "drug free" for three weeks until cycle four.

Is the parrot working? So far. My blood tumor marker is improving.

How long will it work? Given the experience of prior chemos I can guess maybe 6 months. And expect in 9 months to be doing my 5th regimen, using yet another drug. Doxil is the drug of choice by my Oncologist...but you know the story there....there is no doxil available. The manufacturers claim a problem at the plant. Sure! We believe anything they say! Sure! Sure!

All in all, this has been one interesting journey. As a Christian I believe that all our days are known by God before they ever happen. (Psalm 139:16). And I believe that God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs (that fall out) on our head. (Luke 12:7). I figure I'll leave all of this in God's hands.

I'll do the things I'm supposed to do. I get up each morning, toss my legs out over the side of the bed, and recognize that this day is another day that God has given me. I'm going to enjoy it to the utmost. And I do.

P.S. Don't you think that topotecan parrot, wearing his straw hat, looks a bit like my profile pic? hahahahaha



Glenda said...

I so appreciate your sense of humor - and your trust in His plan - in the midst of your difficulties. I'm stopping just now to pray for you. May God touch you - from the top of your head to the tip of your toes!

Kelly said...

I, too, appreciate your sense of humor and have to admit the resemblance between the hats had already caught my attention. :)

I'm sorry you have to do all this yet again, but am glad you have such a strong faith to see you through.

I'll be praying.

Tina said...

Sorry you have to try out another drug! Hope this one gives you a better outcome. God is with you each and every moment, and He will continue to give you the strength to walk through this. You will walk through the fire and not be consumed!
Bless you Judy! You continue to be in my prayers!

Persis said...

Continuing to pray. Your attitude is a testimony to God's grace.

Laurie M. said...

Dang it! I really wish you didn't have to go through all this. But your hope, joy, and humor continue to inspire me and others to look to Christ - the Savior of the world.

Sandy said...

Sorry to hear this, I will pray for you. I do love your sense of humor though!

Sandy said...

I am sorry to hear this, I will be praying for you. I do love your sense of humor though!

Maryann said...

So sorry you have to do this again, praying that the "friendly fire" effects will be minimal and that this drug will knock the cancer right back into remission.
You have a wonderful sense of humor and your trust in God is evident...will be praying

Debby said...

Oh, gees. Your faith during the twists and turns of the last few years that I've known you has been inspirational. And not just for me, I'd warrant. For many readers.

Beth L. Gainer said...

I'm so sorry the ovarian cancer has returned. You are doing all you can do to fight this disease, and I'm sure your religious faith will pull you through. I hope this chemo regimen is as tolerable as possible.

Dee said...

When the ladies in my support group talk about getting their topotecan we always laugh and say they are getting the parrot drug. At least it is a way to remember the name with all the chemo brain in the room.

I also had tremendous pain from the neulasta.Then my doctor switched me to neupogen, You might ask to see if you could get away with one dose of that instead of the neulasta.

Every day is a Blessing!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hello White Stone,

I am so sorry, colorful parrot girl, that this cancer is taking you on another round of chemo. I have three friends whose lives have intersected with cancer now too, and I ache with them and pray for them. Thank for you for the honest glimpse into the world of meds and reactions. It teaches me.

Thank you for your honesty,
Jennifer Dougan

Diane said...

Even in this, God is there. Hugs and prayers for you, sweet sister.