This update is late and a new post way overdue.
A lot has happened since my last post, including an extended vacation overseas and the RWC which eventually produced an ‘inspiring’ outcome.
About two weeks ago – within a day or so of the anniversary of my original diagnosis – I completed my second PET/CAT scan since commencing the Tarceva medication. I immediately reviewed it with Trevor Fitzjohn and subsequently with Richard Sullivan (my radiologist and oncologist respectively, who I regard as ‘partners’ on my journey and now good friends).
The scan revealed very similar results to my first scan – the cessation of tumour activity is persisting. The small differences are all positive. The primary tumor (in my lung) has shrunk further and bones (shoulder blades, arms) , which had previously shown a small amount of remaining ‘damage’ from earlier metastatic activity, appear to have entirely ‘mended’.
Tarceva side-effects can vary from mild to sufficiently serious to preclude ongoing medication. The intial mild side effects I experienced (light facial skin rash which became nastier when exposed to the European summer sun) have now disappeared. I continue to remain fit, well and currently free of side-effects.
I am hoping the combination of my (excellent) response to, and demonstrated tolerance (absence of side-effects) of Tarceva is an indication that I may be able to get on the “right-hand tail” of the treatment outcomes for this drug. That could mean a period of 4/5 years (or even better) of remission.(There is an outstanding case in USA where the drug was first administered t0 an advanced lung cancer ‘patient’ in 2002 and continues to remain effective.)
The significance of achieving a right-hand tail treatment outcome was demonstrated in a recent edition of the ‘Economist’ which highlighted the breakthroughs that are occurring generally in the cancer field and specifically with a discovery that has discovered the ‘pathway’ by which cancer eventually circumvents the effectiveness of drugs that are targetted at cellular mutations (see my earlier posts) such as in my case.This is now enabling the development of new drugs that appear to be able to indefinitely prolong the effectiveness of existing drugs such as Tarceva. I understand that a new drug of this type will commence trials in New Zealand next year.
And this is one of just a number of breakthroughs that are occurring with increasing frequency in the field of cancer research (related, at least in part, to the application of enormously increased computing power to DNA analysis).
So far my journey remains on track. But the last few weeks have provided a sobering demonstration of how varied and “individually unpredictable” (see my second post) cancer experiences can be. Two good friends and great New Zealanders have been affected. Lloyd Morrison has had to return to Seattle to resume specialised treatment. Roger Kerr passed away last Friday and a number of you will have attended his funeral on Thursday. And one of my colleagues and a great companion from the Gawler Foundation course last year died a little more than two months ago.
It is a reminder (as I stated to a friend in a recent email exchange) that “..ocassionally you need a bit of luck to fall your way..” on the cancer journey.
I know that has happened for me – and I am grateful.
But in the meantime I will keep up the discipline of doing all those things that I believe make a difference.