Warrior Stuff

Preparing for the Fight of my Life-Kill ALL the Cancer

There was a lot of preparation that went into the plan to kill all of the cancer.  This post is more about the appointments and tests that lead up to me actually starting treatment.  Our game plan changed a little bit once insurance approved me for the clinical trial.  The biggest change was that I would be receiving radiation with chemo first, having a brief break and then doing chemo only.  The decision about surgery (rectum removal and permanent colostomy) would be made after scans were done once completing all of the treatment.  If my scans were clear then I would be on the “wait and watch” agenda of getting scans every 3 months to monitor me and if anything changed or returned in the future to have surgery then.

*To read from the beginning of my cancer journey, click here.

From May 2016:

Great news!  After much harassment from my hubby, our insurance has approved the clinical trial for me!  I swear, it seems like no one is in a hurry to get anything done.  We feel like we are the only ones with any urgency in this matter.  I want to scream at them, “I have cancer, hurry up!”  I think I just feel like every day that we aren’t treating the cancer just means another day it is growing inside of me.  It needs to be stopped!  ASAP!  Now that I am signed up to do the trial at UCI, everything needs to be conducted at UCI.  Yep, that means any tests I had previously done through Saddleback Memorial now need to be done at UCI.  We actually don’t mind this though, because they are doing more thorough tests.  They are definitely giving us a better picture of my cancer and how best to treat it.  Knowledge is power!

So here’s what has happened at UCI so far:

May 4th-(morning)  I have an MRI.  It wasn’t too bad.  Hopefully we get the results tomorrow.

(late morning) We meet with Dr. Jason Zell who will be my chemo oncologist.  We really like him.  He seems very smart and very knowledgeable about the most current cancer treatments.  He has also been involved in numerous clinical trials and has published many things about rectal cancer.  He spends a long time with us going over the clinical trial, the chemo process and answering any of our questions.  The chemo given in conjunction with radiation will be started in a fanny pack that I will wear M-F, giving me the weekends off.  Radiation is also done M-F.  The chemo only portion will also be given through a fanny pack, but I will only wear it for 2 days and it will be started every other week for a total duration of 16 weeks.  We also got a tour of the infusion center.  I have to say, it was a little depressing.  There were so many people of all ages and all races getting chemotherapy.  It really makes you realize that no one is immune to cancer, anyone can get it.

I should mention that we also meet Vanessa who is the clinical trial coordinator.  She is about to become our new best friend.  She is so nice and helpful.  She is the one answering a lot of questions for us, helping us fight with insurance in getting the trial approved and she is getting me in for appointments very quickly.  We love her!

(afternoon)  We meet with Dr. Hanoko Farol who will be my radiation oncologist at UCI.  We really like her too.  She is very nice and sweet.  She explains the process of radiation.  She will actually be administering radiation a bit differently than the doctor at Saddleback Memorial had planned.  Dr. Farol says that since my tumor is so low in my rectum that she is going to do a type of radiation (I can’t remember what it’s called right now) that pinpoints the tumor and will hopefully spare a lot of the organs around it.  We are happy to hear that.  She also goes over the possible side effects of radiation…yeah, I didn’t need a reminder of those.

May 5th-We have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Pigazzi (surgeon).  He has the MRI results for us and it’s good news-they are down staging me from a T3 to a T2!  The cancer isn’t quite as invasive as previously thought.  We are grateful to hear this!  He also says that the MRI did show a few very small localized lymph nodes involved, but not to worry about those because they will be treated during the radiation as well.

May 10th-I have a CT scan and get some blood work done at UCI.  Both were quick and easy.  We also had to go to Saddleback Memorial in the morning and get my biopsy slides to take with us over to UCI.  They want to run their own pathology on my biopsy, per the rules of the clinical trial.

May 18th-I go back to Dr. Farol’s office and have my initial scans so they can get started on the radiation planning.  They say that the planning will take about a week and then I go in for a dry run.  After that I will start treatment.  So it looks like treatment will start Monday, May 30th.  Dr. Zell also called a couple of days ago to say that I will be receiving the chemo pills.  You take 5 pills in the morning and then 5 pills in the evening.  I guess the trial doesn’t approve of using the chemo pack for 5 days & weekends off, I would have to wear the chemo pack for 7 days straight.  This would mean being hooked up to it for 5-1/2 weeks straight, not being able to shower or anything.  I’m a little nervous about this because, although it’s definitely more convenient to take the pills, I’ve been told the side effects can be more severe.  So wish me luck!

I’m starting to feel like I need to prepare for battle.  This will be the fight of my life.  To kill all the cancer.  I feel like I need to get my house in order.  Like I need to get things ready for the girls to finish out the school year.  Like I need to stock up on food and supplies.  And that I need to try to get ready mentally for what I’m about to go through.  I know that the first 5-1/2 weeks of treatment (plus longer for recovery time) are going to be brutal.  But there is no other option.  So I will be brave and I will be strong and I will get through this!

*To read from the beginning of my cancer journey, click here.

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