I think of “progress” as being such a positive thing. Moving forward, getting through, etc. But when reading PET scan results, progression is the last word you want to see. Because it’s the cancer that is growing in spite of treatment, like the blackberry bushes that climb over my back fence all summer. My cancer is like goddamn Kudzu, invasive and resistant to the efforts to obliterate it.

The great news is that my liver still looks fine, there is still just the one spot and it’s stable. It’s my bones that aren’t so lucky. This is not horrific news, there is nothing to panic about. The bone mets aren’t even larger, they are just more active than they were at my last scan three months ago. This is why we watch it so closely, so we can catch things as they first get started.

We have decided to switch the bone drug I have been on for more than two years. There is a new osteoporosis drug, Xgeva, that does the same thing as Zometa but some women have a better response to it. So making this change might result in a better reaction, it will shake things up a bit. This drug is given as an injection and not an infusion, so I will just go in every 4 weeks for a quick shot. Easy! There shouldn’t be any side effects.

We are also going to increase the dosage of my chemo, Xeloda. My doc doesn’t think the current progression is big enough to warrant changing chemotherapy drugs, since Xeloda is the only one I have left that is oral and not terrible. We are going to see if increasing the dosage for another 3 months will hold things back until a new clinical trial starts at SCCA that would be great for me. That’s a whole other story, but I have to do some research before I get into that.

Overall, this is good news, even though it doesn’t entirely feel that way. My cancer is controlled, limited to the bone mets, and we caught the progression early. There is nothing to cause immediate worry and as my doc said today, she expects me to live a long time yet. But it’s still a bummer that the chemo continues and is increased. The dream of a break from chemo is totally dead– it’s never going to happen. I am tired of Xeloda and taking even more of it is just a bummer.

So what happens now? Well, I take the next three months and have as much fun as I can. It is more than likely that I will change treatments after the next scan, so I need to enjoy this time and all the freedom I am getting from taking an oral chemo. I’m going to Arizona in March, Cannon Beach in April, and need to plan something for May. And for whatever changes are coming after that, I’ll be distracted by Hawaii in June. It could be a lot worse.

19 thoughts on “Progression”

  1. Karen,
    Your mother has fowarded this lastest posting to me; she keeps me somewhat up to date while we fit in occasional walks here in Scottsdale. You must be aware of how incredibly remarkable we both think you are to face this challenge so intelligently and so pragmatically. Your willingness to share your thoughts with such candor is a true testament to your courage. Brava!
    Al and I wish you all the best,
    Marla Moss

  2. Dear Karen,
    You continue to amaze us with your calmness, grace and matter of fact approach. Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts. One should always have travel plans (my theory!), and you do a great job of planning for the next adventure.
    Our love to you,
    Carol and Chuck Farrell

  3. Karen,
    We admire your strength and positive attitude so much. Thank you for the blog. Also, thanks for not abusing us on Words with Friends anymore :-). I do think more Phase 10 in the future!!! God Bless!
    Love, John and Sharon

    1. Oooh, I kind of got out of the habit of Words with Friends. Gave John a little time to buck up his skills, maybe? Now I will have to challenge him again!

      Wish you guys lived closer 🙂

  4. Karen: I am impressed that despite your own challenges, a focus of your updates is on calming your community of friends/family/supporters. Appreciate your wise perspectives. Glad you have some fun trips coming up!

  5. Karen,

    Keep the faith. I’m from Kudzu country–North Carolina. Until recently I hated the drive from the airport to my home there because there was a stretch of road that was totally taken over with the stuff. Depressing!! Last trip it was ALL gone. Whammo–they finally found a conrol agent. We pray the researchers will do the same for you.

    Alec Purcell

    1. Alec, that is good to hear! If they can control Kudzu finally, they can do anything, right? Here in Seattle they’ve started using herds of goats to eat the blackberry bushes. Gotta think outside the box, I guess! Hope cancer researchers are doing the same.

  6. K,

    Your Dad sent me your link…. You totally rock and I understand the problem with GD blackberry bushes…. But persistence and dogged attention to picking them off is the trick. We are thinking of you and appreciate your posts.


  7. Karen,
    While I don’t know you personally, I do know that it takes a brave soul to live life “consciously” even under the best of circumstances. But to live it so consciously under the conditions you now face is both unique and extraordinary. Unique because you have the gift of a strong system of support and extraordinary because you’ve taken full advantage of that support to do the bravest thing imaginable; face your own mortality. To say I admire your courage sounds contrite – it is so much more than that. I am overwhelmed by your strength and ability to, not only look at the hand life has dealt you but, to play it as if you’ve got a “full house” no matter what. Thank you for reminding me that a “good life” doesn’t just show up; it must be discovered in every circumstance…even ones that aren’t so great. I wish you much “healing” as you continue to discover good moments in your life.

    Sue Ellen Katz

  8. Dear Karen, Though I have not met you personally, I feel I know you through the friendship that I have with your Mother here in Scottsdale. You are indeed an amazing strong soul that teaches the rest of us a great deal about life and living! I wish you Peace and God’s healing.

    Dorie Underkofler

  9. Hi Karen,
    We so appreciate the education you are imparting to us with your wisdom and honest, calm, clear writing style. This illness is so relentless, but you are very brave and a true source of inspiration to the rest of us. The trips all sound great. If you’re looking for a “dog friendly” spot closer to home, check out Iron Springs on the Washington coast. If you go, bring rain gear 🙂 We keep you in our thoughts each day, stay strong.

  10. Karen,

    You continue to amaze me with your calm and practical approach to all that has happened these last years. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.

    Aunt Sue

  11. Hi Karen,
    You amaze us as well – and are a wonderful model for controlling your own world! We continue to pray for you… and hope to see you at Whidbey again this summer too.
    Blessings be yours,
    ~ Barbara and Bill

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