Drew and I met with our awesome Oncologist, Dr. Hellerstedt, yesterday morning. (Have I ever said how much I love our doctor, the office (Texas Oncology), and the staff there? They really are awesome and take such good care of me.) We discussed several new options for my treatment plan during the visit. Since my immune system is taking too big of a hit with each round of this chemo treatment drug (AC, adriamycin cytoxan), our current protocol is just not working. My white blood count is just being hit too hard and I am unable to safely take the immune boosting drugs that are normally given with the chemo, since I have had allergic reactions with the first round. This is the bad news.
The good news is, however, that the AC chemo seems to be working pretty well. Yesterday, at my appointment, Dr. H palpated the areas of cancer and thought they felt significantly better--smaller and more mobile. However, Drew and I had recently felt a new area of concern in my right breast. Dr. H also felt this area of concern and thought we should get it looked at via ultrasound. Since it was about time for me to see the breast surgeon again anyway and because she has an ultrasound machine that she can use to look at areas of concern in her office, Dr. H. texted her to see if we could get an appointment. I received a call from the surgeon's office within 5 minutes while I was sitting in the exam room. They happened to have a cancellation for yesterday afternoon, which was awesome because the doctor was going to be going out of town the following day.
Back to the a.m. visit with Dr. H: After the oncologist's office drew labs from my port, we found my neutrophil count (ANC) was still too low to get chemo (it was at 1.0 and needs to be at least 1.5). So, after discussion, we developed a new plan for me. We decided I would move on to the next chemo drug I was planning to receive after completing the AC treatment. This drug, Taxol, will be administered weekly, and the hope is that my immune system will not be weakened too much during this treatment. Most people undergoing this treatment do not need assistance in increasing their white blood counts. Of course, I will still have the hit every week, where my immune system dips down into the low numbers. But, it should pick back up in time to receive another round of treatment the following week. I will receive this weekly treatment for 12 weeks, beginning on Monday, and then we hope to pick up the last two rounds of AC treatment after that. I was originally scheduled to receive 4 rounds of AC, every three weeks, and the 12 weekly infusions of Taxol. I felt at peace with this change in my treatment plan. The other option was to move my AC regimen to every 4 weeks. However, this extra week would give the cancer time to regroup and grow between treatments. I really don't want that. So, we made a plan, scheduled the Taxol chemo for Monday, and left the office. I will tell you all about the Taxol treatment on Monday from my chemo chair as I am receiving the infusion. But, please pray that I do not have any type of allergic reaction to the Taxol. During this treatment, they load you up with Benadryl and steroids before administering it. Then, once they give it to you, they administer it extremely slowly. Some people have very scary allergic reactions to Taxol. So, if they take this cautious measure, the hope is they can catch it soon if you are going to have an allergic reaction and administer some life-saving drugs. Since I have had some allergic reactions to several of the drugs they have given me in the past, Dr. H. is going to have me load up on steroids and benedryl the day before as well. They are being extra-cautious with me. Again, please pray that my body handles the Taxol with no issues. :-)
We visited the surgeon yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful visit, filled with great news. She also felt that the AC treatment was definitely working. She noticed the original ultrasound report documented at least 5 lymph nodes in my left arm pit area (axillary) that were enlarged. It was from one of these lymph nodes that I had the lymph node biopsy and found out the cancer was, in fact, in my lymph nodes. With her ultrasound machine, she could only see 2 enlarged lymph nodes in that area. Also, the cancer in my left breast definitely looked reduced. Lastly, the area of concern in the right breast looked like just dense breast tissue--benign. Great news---praise the Lord again! It was also perfect that we were able to get the appointment yesterday afternoon, since I am starting Taxol on Monday. We now have a baseline ultrasound so we can determine whether the Taxol treatment seems effective. Again, God's timing and orchestration is just perfect! (In case you are wondering, the plan is to start the surgery process following chemo. Chemo is administered first to try to get the cancer under control, since it is in my lymph system and can spread to other organs).
Thank you everyone for your continued prayers! I will provide more updates on Monday.