On the surface it seems we have been successful in relegating my case of stage IV renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) into acting like a chronic disease. Something like diabetes. Something you can live with and keep at bay with medication. It doesn’t appear to be actively trying to snuff me out and thankfully it also appears that the oral chemotherapy I’m taking daily, although it is making me very nauseated and giving me constant diarrhea, has done a number on at least two tumors on my left adrenal gland. The tumors are gone!
Jill and I met with Dr. Andy Pippas yesterday morning. Except for a slightly elevated billirubin count, my lab work is exceptional. The higher than normal billirubin is a direct result of my taking the Votrient, which is an oral chemotherapy drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Our discussion with Dr. Pippas went toward the shocking weight loss I’ve experienced — now almost 100 pounds! He looked at my chart and proclaimed that I’d lost about 10 more pounds since I last saw him just 4 weeks ago. He is concerned, as are we, that I’m really starting to lose muscle mass and tone.
We talked about my nausea a lot during this visit, I guess because it has gotten worse over the past month. I am really having a difficult time eating almost everything EXCEPT Vietnamese food. I’m surviving on a dish at Uptown Vietnam Cuisine called hu thieu, which is a pork broth based soup, similar to pho (pronounced /f?/). It fills me up. It makes it happy and it is a very healthy dish, according to Beth Bussey, my nutritionist. Other than that meal, I am finding it very difficult to eat a single other thing without feeling nauseated. For a former fat foodie, this is really quite difficult to take.
Dr. Pippas prescribed a timed-release patch containing a drug called ondansetron (trade name Zofran), and the idea was for it to provide me with a constant infusion of the drug for a solid week and keep my nausea at bay. I applied the patch yesterday afternoon and so far, I have been nauseated almost every waking moment. I’m not sure if I’m experiencing a “breaking in” period or whether there is something else going on, but I’m at the edge of a dry heave all the time. So far, today hasn’t been much fun.
Dr. Pippas also told me about another product which is a wristband that gently stimulates the median nerve in the wrist and signals the “vomit center” in the brain not to fire. Who knew the brain had a vomit center? I am doing some research on that product now and may add it to my anti-nausea regime to see if we can get me back to a better place.
So, all things considered, I am in a pretty good position right now for someone with stage IV cancer. I’m not in immediate danger of dying. I’m able to enjoy my family and friends. And, even though I have a real intimate relationship with my toilet, I can enjoy and fairly respectable amount of good time during a day. As I see it, things could be a lot worse. If this is all there is, I’m happy to have it.
The other news is that I’m feeling like I might be able to write again and I hope that will translate into my being more communicative in this blog. Time will tell. In the meantime, I hope you have a fabulous Christmas with your family and friends. If you celebrate other holidays at this time of the year, I hope yours is a great one! For all my brother and sister cancer sufferers out there, hang on, there’s a better year coming.