Treatment Update

I am now in the middle of my 5th treatment cycle-and overdue to provide an update.

As usual the cycle commenced with a consultation with my oncologist ,Richard Sullivan.It confirmed that I am continuing to travel well.

The side-effects from my chemo remain negligible .I take no anti-nausea medication yet I have a healthy appetite.My energy levels in general remain high(I notice a couple of  ’slow’ days in the middle of my cycle)and the rash I experienced in the early cycles has not reappeared.

My blood tests show that my immune system is holding up very well. The usual ‘mid cycle’ dip in my white blood count is not major and it is  recovering well by the end of the cycle . My red blood count is staying within or above normal levels indicating that  I remain healthy.The higher calcium levels in my blood , noted earlier, are a sign that(litic) bone metastases have been mending.

I continue to feel well and have not experienced even minor illnesses during my treatment.The earlier discomfort and sensations from metastases appear to have disappeared or substantially subsided. 

 As a result of the data and observations outlined above Richard and I have decided to cancel the plan for a mid-term CT scan .We will instead have Trevor Fitzjohn undertake a PET scan at the end my next and final cycle(at least for the forseeable future)  .That will provide detailed data on my progress while undergoing the  current chemo treatment and a ‘base’ against which we can monitor(probably 3 monthly) my progress using Tarceva .

During my consultation Richard informed me that my progress to date places me within the top 5%  of  people(I refuse to see myself as a ”patient” ) with my advanced type of cancer.

I picture my situation as follows.

The typical survival ‘curve’(probability distribution) for people with advanced cancer can be envisaged as a rather ‘peaky’ bell-shaped curve with the left hand tail cut off(ie, truncated on the left with a high proportion of outcomes around the mean and a long right hand tail). This means that a small proportion of the ‘population’ of people with advanced cancer  survive for a relatively long time.

When I first visited Richard the distribution I faced had a mean of around 5 months.My very good starting health and ’never smoked’ status ,and my progress early on in the course of treament  indicated I would be somewhere well along the right hand tail of  that survival curve.

Since then the news that I tested positive for the EGFR mutation (for which Tarceva is an effective treatment) means that I face a similarly shaped distribution but with a mean of somewhere between 2 to 3 years(for a different population of  people with stage 4 cancer -those that have the EGFR mutation).Moreover my continuing good progress, as outlined above, suggests that I will also be well along the right hand tail of this curve also.

My objective is to ultimately move myself to the survival curve of the general population of people of my age -and still be on the right hand tail! That implies that my immune system(which ultimately has to do the heavy lifting) eventually  heals me of my cancer.At the very least I expect to ‘manage’ my disease with a high quality of life for some considerable time.

It takes just over 3.5 hours each cycle to administer  the three drugs  comprising my chemo ‘cocktail’.I approach each treatment positively-the medicine is my very good ‘friend’.I sit in a chair in comfortable clothing while it is administered via IV in the back of my hand.  During the first hour or so I relax,meditate and visualize the medicine ‘dealing’ to the cancer in my body. I follow  that up with  reading that is generally  related to the management of the disease(eg on ‘nutratherapy’, ‘psychoneuroimmunology’ etc).Finally I do a bit of work and make a few phone calls.

The intention is to make my treatment as small a departure as possible  from my ’normal’ life .And once the sticking plaster on the back of my hand is removed, shortly after I leave hospital ,my brief period as a patient is over and I am back to (my new)normal.(I have the same approach to my many blood tests-remove the sticking  plaster asap and avoid the ‘patient ‘ syndrome).

I have little doubt that medicine(my chemo)has played an important role in my progress to date and will continue to be important( Tarceva and possible medical advances which are likely already in the pipeline).However I am equally certain that the other aspects of my ‘integrative’ approach-rethinking my priorities and approach to life,my (strict)diet, the daily practise of meditation,relaxation and ‘visualisation’,and my exercise programme(I am currently rebuilding my stamina and strength)-have been critical inputs in my progress.(At the very least they significantly enhance my tolerance of and the effectiveness of my treatment).  They have provided me with a lot more choices and  more tools to control my cancer.

Ultimately they will be the key to my healing this disease.

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11 Responses

  1. Rob Cameron says:

    Dad.

    You are legendary!

    xxxlot’s of love, Emma

  2. Grant Kemble says:

    Rob,

    Grant Kemble here (back from France now). Your site is inspirational reading. Stay strong, and travel well.

    Grant.

  3. Dawa says:

    An inspiration Rob, as always.

    Thank you for the generosity of spirit that shares this journey. At first I thought the blog was to keep interested folk updated without having to make a million phone calls. But now I see it is a guide and inspiration for life – with or without dis-ease.

    Please pass my loving good wishes on to Maureen in her journey with this too.

    All the best to both of you
    Dawa

  4. Phyl says:

    Rob
    great news but not unexpected in your case. You are providing a lesson for all in facing life – with or without what you are dealing with.
    We all send our love to both you and Maureen.
    Kia kaha brother
    Love
    Don and family

  5. Jim and Eve says:

    Rob

    You continue to inspire us with your attitude and resiliance.

    Keep the faith in yourself, and those around you.

    Jim, Eve, Conal and Siobhan.

  6. Mark McGuinness says:

    Rob
    Great to see you haven’t lost the leadership gene. If anyone is going to beat the curve it’s you. All the best
    Mark

  7. sally Munro says:

    Rob,
    Great to see your intent and success at cracking the cancer. Kia kaha, stay strong. Love to you, Maureen and all the family,
    Sally and Pat

  8. Bloody amazing effort and discipline Rob… a frighteningly strong inspiration for all the rest of us.

  9. Rob, Your disciplined and organized approach to your situation is inspiring, keep strong.

    Our love & best wishes to Maureen & yourself.

    Winifred & Robin S

  10. diane zwimpfer says:

    thinking of you today rob for your next scan.

  11. Danise McEvoy says:

    Best wishes Rob, I have sent your links to a NZ friend undergoing treatment in Germany.
    Danise

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