2012 came and went rather quickly. There were moments I thought time was at a stand still. It was difficult to imagine we would ever make it to 2013. Sure enough, here we are in January. The start of January meant Carmen was due to start her 7th cycle of Oxali and Xeloda and switch from Kaiser to Cigna so we could begin to go directly to the UCLA oncologist. The reason was to get better access to any new experimental drugs that Kaiser would have a hard time getting access to.
Her cycle began on 1/9. By this time her hands and feet were pretty messed up. She had a tough time buttoning the girls’ shirts or even picking up small objects with her fingers. Her feet were darkened, cracked, dry, and peeled constantly. The closest thing I can describe it to is a burn. It was difficult for her to walk for any distances, at least not without pain.
The other major event in January was her scheduled CT scan. It would be the 3rd one since July and the one we were anxiously anticipating. How would the tumors look? Her stomach pains were all but gone, so the ulcers were probably healed. And she healed extremely fast from the C-section, so her only real pains were her hands and feet and occasional leg cramps in the middle of the night. We took Olivia that day and finally took a picture. Seeing how well she was taking her chemo treatments we expected good results.
Well, the results were indeed good. Her stomach mass looked like it was still there but was rather ambiguous. The way it was described to us is that the mass is in the wall of her stomach so a tumor isn’t clearly defined. Therefore it was difficult to compare to the prior scans. However, it didn’t look like it grew. Her ovarian tumors however are defined so it’s easy to see progression or regression of this tumor. Her January scan showed that her ovarian tumor’s size remained unchanged. In the world of cancer, no progression is a good thing. We would’ve like to see regression, but this was much better than progression. We were certainly happy, but not completely thrilled. It seemed strange to us that the stomach mass looked like it responded well to the chemo treatments (size from July looked like it decreased), but the ovarian mass didn’t budge. I did read of other cases where the secondary site doesn’t respond as well as the primary even though they’re supposed to be identical cells. Perhaps these cells change ever so slightly when they settle down in another location. Who knows.
The Oxaliplatin does much damage to the nerves in the patients’ hand and feet so it’s normal protocol to drop it after the 7th or 8th cycle. So this would be her last Oxali treatment. Also throughout all of these cycles we were carefully monitoring her tumor markers. One in particular is called CA 125. This is a protein that is produced by normal cells, but that an ovarian tumor also makes. So when someone is diagnosed with an ovarian tumor, they begin to monitor this marker. The normal range is 0-35. Carmen’s very first one in July (baseline) was 91. Since then it bobbled between 50-60. The lowest she’s ever registered was 47 which was right after this last Oxali treatment. How would she do once we dropped the seemingly stronger drug of the 2 that she was on? Would Xeloda alone help to maintain and contain the cancer? I once again began my search online of other things people were doing to “assist” chemo in battling this disease because I wasn’t comfortable with how long it was taking for us to see (more) meaningful results.
So the journey continues…