Saturday, 4 July 2015

Second Line Therapy for a Second Chance

I'm back on cannulas, blood tests, and CT scans! No matter what people think and say, that I look good, fact is I'm still stage 3B and the latest scans show progression. So on to my quest to keep the cancer stable at least. A radical remission would be sweet. 
I'm on what's called second line treatment. My first line of conventional treatment was over a year of chemotherapy combined with alternative modalities. It's kept me alive and stable. An Oncologist would recommend second line therapy if the first line treatments didn't work, if the side effects interferes with your quality of life, or, if the treatment works and then stops working. I didn't get any of these, but I quit chemo myself. I felt it did what it can, scans show very minute changes, and it was time to detoxify. But, those cells are still in there. I considered a clinical trial but found the conditions too invasive and turned it down. My tireless Oncologist, bless him, then found me a relatively new immunotherapy drug. This is FDA approved but essentially still on trial phase in the UK for lung cancer, I got in through an Expanded Access Programme. The drug has shown promise in melanoma patients and is now being used in the US for lung cancer which is why I'm on the study in the UK. They had made it clear, it's not a cure, and the goal is to keep me stable and to prolong my life. I signed the fine print. But then again, they also said I wouldn't go past two months. I'm eligible for the programme for two years but my Oncologist said I won't need it for that long, that only means one, or the other. 
This breakthrough drug has created a lot of buzz in the media. A simple explanation is it takes off the protective protein that surrounds the cancer cells thereby revealing it, so the immune system can then attack it. If you want to read on, here are links. 

The chances that second line treatments will work is dependant on a number of factors. The type of cancer, the stage of the cancer or where it has metastasised, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. Another one is how well and how long you responded to the first-line treatment, like how you managed the side effects. I think I got an A- there. I've read that in many cases, second-line treatment is more successful if a year or more has passed between the two treatments. It's only been half a year for me but we needed to do something. I'm on my second dose now, we won't know what it's doing until my next scan in seven weeks. As far as side effects, I've had none so far of those listed, fingers crossed, it's only the second time. Patients who have been on it say it is more tolerable than chemo. With chemo I needed recovery time, but with this I was up on my feet doing my usual routine right after treatment. Please let it stay that way! Aside from the chemo-like side effects to look out for, what's scary is Pneumonitis, Rash, Colitis, Hepatitis, Allergy, and other Endocrine Disorders. Hopefully it does its work before I develop such conditions.
Cancer is individual specific, one treatment may work for someone else and not for you. Sometimes you come across people who've read or heard a cancer getting cured by something and they then say "do this and that, easy" , it's annoying really. I've learned to weed out the "know it alls" and appreciate real advice from those who truly care. I read the links and research sent to me, thank you. 
Cancer is very personal and unique to the person going through it. It's similar to finding yourself and what makes you whole. It is hard to describe the emotional and mental state that cancer creates, just as it's hard to say which treatment will definitely work in the time you're allowed. I don't know how long I'm going to be on this treatment, I hope it works, I pray I'm given strength, and perseverance, and the will to keep defying odds that keeps getting thrown at me, even outside of the cancer. 

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” » John Diamon 

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” » Cayla Mills

 “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” » Jim Valvano 

 "Hope" is the thing with feathers— That perches in the soul— And sings the tune without the words— And never stops — at all.... ~Emily Dickinson, c.1861 
Where art thou my four leaf clover?
Caroline Reyes-Loughrey Photography