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A New Treatment & Traveling to an Out-of-State Vanderbilt Specialist

Just a quick update about treatment changes, traveling to a research center, and how my health is. I'm doing okay. :)

Bevacizumab - not so scary after all!

My oncologist added a new medication to my treatment, and once again, God has been very gracious with side effects. She always planned for me to be on Bevacizumab with FOLFOX chemotherapy, but I was fresh out of intestinal surgery when I started treatment and Bevacizumab can cause gastrointestinal perforations. My oncology and surgery teams agree I've recovered enough to relieve their concern.

Apparently Bevacizumab prevents new blood vessels from supporting tumors, which sounds pretty hard-core! And I guess it is. The side effect booklet that came with it has all the "1 in 2 people will experience X and need immediate emergency care," "1 in 2 people will experience Y and need immediate emergency care," "1 in 3 people..." I'm very ignorant about medicine, but is it really that serious? Either way, I'm tracking my symptoms and keeping my doctor in the loop just in case..

FOLFOX was introduced to me in a similar fashion, with an infinite list of serious side effects, but it turned out to not be so bad so far. New medications could mess with my comfort, so I'm wary on changing, but it's not like you can expect cancer treatment to be easy. Anything to fight the tumors, right?

Thankfully, I slept two days after my first and second infusion, and other than that, never really experienced any side effects. Things could always change, but I am so thankful to God to once again take my medication well. Even more, four days after my first infusion, my tumors stopped hurting. They have hurt consistently for like 10 months. I privately wondered if I would be in pain forever, so this is a very big deal to me. After four weeks without pain, I'm starting to think I like Bevacizumab as much as I like FOLFOX. :)

Traveling out of state

My oncologist works closely with a Vanderbilt specialist researching my specific type of colon cancer, so she referred me to meet her in person. My in-laws are very interested in all the clinical trials, so my mother-in-law came, too.

Honestly, like I said, my treatment is already effective, so messing with my plan is a little scary for me. Especially after I was pressured out of concern by relatives into taking a turkey tail supplement (a herbal cancer cure) that dropped my blood pressure from perfect to concerningly low (and months later, it's still low). But at the same time, I'll cooperate with whatever treatments my oncologist has planned, so long as all my questions and concerns are respected. I just don't get the same hype for clinical trial treatments as my relatives, though. Surely they aren't that dangerous, but aren't they in clinical trials because they don't really know what they do yet? My cancer isn't that hopeless or that untreatable...

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect when I got there, but the atmosphere was very comforting. Before I even met a nurse, there was an abundance of resources available everywhere for education, financial aid, support groups, and artistic outlets. Everyone I met was so sweet and knowledgeable, too.

My specialist is everything you could expect. She is involved in all the studies and knows everything about all the medicines and mutations and changing health climate. She travels to all the summits and meets with all the sponsors. If there's an expert, for my type of type of type of cancer (who knew it got so specific), it's her. I wasn't exactly sure how much my mother-in-law could help by traveling with me and my husband, but I'm glad she came. The trip definitely relieved some of her concern.

What's really amazing to me, though, is that she confirmed that my current treatment is best for me right now. She considers me to be top of the spectrum for response to treatment, particularly enthusing over my CEA levels dropping from 166 to 20.5 after 8 treatments and the comparison of my CT scans.

She also remarked that my tolerance to oxalplatin is unusual. I think she said round 4 is around when patients need a break from chemotherapy, usually dropping to just the leucovorin and fluorouracil, because the progressive cold sensitivity becomes debilitating. I also experienced this, where even lukewarm water was like swallowing needles and my hands locked up when touching anything at all. Sucking on ice during infusion cured it in a snap, though. I didn't even ice early enough this time, and I still can drink ice water with only a little zing. Results tend to plateau, too, but my levels are still improving. My mother-in-law even calculated they are actually improving at a more rapid rate since before starting Bevacizumab, but I haven't tried checking the math with my chemo brain.

Isn't that amazing? Early on, when my oncology and surgery teams admitted options were less than optimistic and they weren't sure how to procede, I called in some friends to pray for the right treatment early. Then, back before all the initial test results returned, God provided a treatment that a cutting-edge researcher approved after seeing months of charts. God gives wisdom when you ask, just like what the Bible says!

Of course, it's good that she knows me personally now and is keeping me in mind during her research, should better things arise later! I even participated in a little research while I was there, since it only requires some bloodwork and questionnaires.

Feeling good, feeling good

If you've been wondering how I've been, I've been on more effective medicine, taking it well, and finally found some relief from the constant pain! I'll praise God in the good and the bad, but isn't it nice to see good numbers for once? Especially when the loving people around me are desperate for reassurance. It's so much easier to share my specialist's praise of my CEA levels than it was to share my life-saving gastrointestinal surgery (I for real almost died that weekend), even if both are amazing demonstations of God's hand over me.

I wish people would accept both good and bad news as part of the process. Personally, I feel very little control over my life, like I could be totally healed or fall into critical condition at any time. I really don't want to fixate on the future, good or bad. Tomorrow has its own worries, right? So managing the here and now is all I care to be responsible for.

My support group is very focused on the future, though. They are watching for a miracle. I like to be able to share good news, but God's clearly taking care of me. Like in Satan's control over Job, God has established a line that cancer cannot cross. He has surely placed it at my soul, so I am eternally safe. But if it at my life, then no matter what rollercoaster takes place, no matter how long this goes on for, He will restore my health on this side of Heaven. Is any health update really that bad in that kind of context?

I don't know His plans, but I know they are good and have already brought a lot of spiritual growth and opportunities to restore things with my family. I've already been through a slew of my worst fears and life-or-death situations, and the Holy Spirit breathed peace over all of it. What worth is there worrying anymore?

I mean, I want a lot of years with my loved ones and to be able to enjoy all the lovely things on earth, but honestly, God will take care of everything better than I could. And no one will remember anything from this side once we all get there anyway. But more than that, David believed so firmly in God's character of restoring multi-fold in this life after tragedy that I think I'll see God's goodness soon, too. No matter what His plans are, though, I'll trust Him. He's a good God.

I get it, though. People are concerned because they care about me. And I really appreciate all the love. :) Thank you always!