Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A new direction--breakthrough?

When I saw the PA after my last surgery (July 1), she told me about a clinical trial the Head and Neck Division at UAB is doing with  a medicine not ever used for head and neck cancer patients. It is for patients who have had recurring tumors and radiation is no longer an option. It is a pill, Tarceva, taken once a day for a year. I told her I'd like to talk it over with my local oncologist. I told her I was already on Erbitux, and she said he might not want me to change. The next Monday the research nurse called to ask me if I would be interested in being a part of the clinical trial. I told her I'd be seeing my oncologist in 2 weeks, and I'd like to talk it over with him. She said she would send me the information about it so I could look over it and share it with him.

I fully expected I'd be getting my Erbitux treatment when I saw him 2 weeks later. I gave the information to his assistant so he could look over it before seeing me. He was very much in favor of me doing the clinical trial. He has four lung cancer patients who have been using the drug long term. He knows all the doctors at UAB involved in the study. This clinical trial is Phase II of the study. He said that meant they had to have had positive findings in Phase I of the study to move on to Phase II. He encouraged me to participate. He said I could be on the breaking edge of something new. He said he would be glad to assist in whatever way he could.

I sent the papers and a note to the research nurse and she called me when she got them. She said I would have to come for an initial appointment to get set up and sign the papers with her. She said that since it was UAB's study, only they could monitor me. So she set me up for an appointment to see Dr. M again. We went to Birmingham on Tuesday, August 23. She said she had contacted my local oncologist, and he had sent a note agreeing for me to take this course of treatment.

I had the initial blood work and the chest x-ray, but they had to wait for one other report. When the dr. was examining my mouth he saw a small ulcer on the area that is now a part of my tongue. It was actually where my top molars were resting. I had not even noticed it. I was more concerned about what felt like a lump on the left side of my neck. So I was not expecting to hear that he wanted to do a biopsy on something in my mouth. I then told him about the lump on my neck. After examining me he told me it was not a lump or a lymph node but part of my neck's anatomy. The look on my face must have said, "You're going to have to do better than that." So he went and got a model of the neck to show me what I/he was feeling. He even had me feel the same area on his neck. I was then okay with what he was telling me...though the 'lump' has only gone down to feeling normal to me in the last day or two. Anyway, the nurse contacted me last Monday to let me know the biopsy was negative for cancer! Also, the blood work and chest x-ray were fine. So she would have the Tarceva pills in the mail to me.
I started the Tarceva on Thursday, September 1. On Sunday I had fatigue and was achy like when I had Erbitux treatments. The same kind of rash started on my face over the weekend, too. I am also using Nystatin for thrush in my mouth. I'm really thinking that is a reaction to the Tarceva though it is not a common side effect. So, hopefully, just things I've dealt with before.

I didn't know when I'd finish another post, but this devotional today about a breakthrough seemed most timely. I couldn't find a direct link to the devotional without posting the whole thing here and it's kinda long.

It used Isaiah 64:1 - "Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your Presence…"  It included this part in a prayer from Carolyn Baker: Why is it, My Father, that so many people are presently sitting on the edge of a great victory – a great breakthrough - and don’t even know it? I suppose part of it is because You rarely do what we expect You to do – so we are not looking for it! Your victory often looks unlike what we thought it would. We are, as humans, skeptical all too often. This gives us a worldly mind set – not a heavenly mind-set. Therein lies our confusions. You are first in my life - and because of that, You have often rewarded me with a greater wisdom and understanding. All along my path You have shared your insights with me – continually reminding me that breakthrough was at hand.

Whether I 'deserve' it or not, He keeps reminding me :)