It was early May and we were excited for our upcoming family vacation. After an exhausting 10 months we booked a trip to the Aulani resort in Oahu set for June. I had never been to Hawaii so I was looking forward to it. But I was realistic about our trip with a baby and 2 crazy children in that we would just be relaxing at the resort and not site seeing much. Carmen wanted her hands and feet to heal a bit before our trip so we asked her oncologist if we could take a little break from Xeloda. He was Ok with the idea but first wanted to see one more scan to make sure things were still in good condition. So we agreed.
The date was set for May 28th for Carmen’s 5th scan since last July. These scans are not much fun. It’s not anything like an Xray. First you’re not allowed to eat 3 hours prior to the scan. Second, when you arrive, they make you drink a “smoothie” before the scan. These “smoothies” are to give the scan contrast. My personal favorite is the “vanilla smoothie”. Yum. Carmen will disagree on the taste because she’s the one that has to drink about 30oz of this stuff. The instructions are to drink this in 15 minute intervals just to prolong the agony a bit more. Once the nice headache and stomach issues set in, it’s now time to take off all the gold jewelry, metal studs, nose and belly rings, etc. After she puts on the hospital gown she’s off to the scan room and sit and wait, again. The actual scan takes about 15-30 minutes depending on how many sections of the body are scanned. Oh, one more thing, an IV is placed in her arm. When she had her PICC line this part was easy. But now that she has removed it, she gets to face her old nemesis every time she gets a scan.
The next day was her appointment with her oncologist to review the results. Looking at Carmen and seeing her blood markers we were expecting good results again. However, a curious thing happened right before the actual appointment. I had parked the car on the street and was looking at my phone just killing some time as I waited for Carmen to get ready to leave the car when I noticed another car stop right next to me. So I look up and signal to him with my finger that we weren’t leaving. I had assumed that he was going to ask if I was leaving. What he was doing was getting ready to park behind me. I didn’t realize the car behind had left. He then gestures back in a very offensive manner which caught me by surprise. So I calmly got out of the car and began talking to him. He was probably having a bad day and decided to act that way. It was cleared up quickly, but right then, I got a bad feeling about the day in general. Also another event happened which I can’t recall which also lead me to this bad feeling.
We finally made it to the appointment. The result? Not good. The stomach tumor looked unchanged, the big one on the right looked unchanged, but the left one did change. It grew, at least from what appeared from the scan. I began getting flashbacks of 10 months ago and the feelings from that time began to creep in. The left mass grew from 4×4 to 4×6. This mass was right next to the big one so it was difficult to measure accurately, but the radiologist for this scan felt the need to compare this scan to the prior one to see if any change had taken place. So he went back and (I’m assuming because there was no measurement from April) measured the April scan to compare. We were in disbelief. How can the tumor marker show such a drop all the while a tumor grows? One piece of information indicated one direction, and another showed an opposite direction. Could this increase be attributed to inflammation of the tumor, or is it cancerous growth? I was holding out hope that the nutrients she was getting in conjunction with her own immune system would be the reason the tumors grew by way of inflammation. In the Gerson book they do talk about inflammation and that scans will mistake this type of growth to cancerous growth.
We were certainly disheartened. As if it wasn’t bad enough the oncologist follows this news up with “I think it’s a good time for you guys to go on your vacation now”. That statement floored both of us.
We then discussed what other chemo treatments we could try. He recommended going back to Oxali, or try another drug, or another one, etc. If Oxali didn’t shrink the big one the first time around, would it on the second try? All that I had read told me no. Oxali looked like it kept things at bay (for now), but what were her chances long term? My definition of long term is measured in (many) decades, not years. It’s great that Oxali can help to hold back further growth of cancer, but she can’t be on this indefinitely. Eventually she will succumb to the chemo drug and will have to stop taking it. If the cancer is still around at that time, it will grow unimpeded and run its course on Carmen. I didn’t want a temporary solution for her. I wanted a long term solution. We felt that chemo would pretty much guarantee that she will not achieve the long term one because how it would affect her body. Plus the stats on stage 4 stomach are grim at best.
So she started her little break from chemo so we could go on vacation. This would give Carmen time to heal her hands and feet (gotta let those toes shine in the Hawaiian sun!)
Time to regroup and rethink strategy…