Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm going to kick this cancer's butt

The good news from my appointment: I've managed to lose one pound since January, and I got weighed with a big sweater on and everything. I feel I have to focus on the one highlight of the appointment since the rest of it wasn't so good.

My hemoglobin has continued to drop, despite the extra iron I've been taking every day. It's now 11.2 (normal is 12). My white blood cells have now dropped below normal, and my M-spike is up to 4.9. My albumin has also dropped below normal. I asked Dr. H to explain the albumin. She said it's a good protein that your body needs. It does a lot of different things for you, and if it gets really, really low, your blood vessels get dehydrated and you puff up like the Willy Wonka Blueberry Girl. OK, she didn't actually use the medical term "Willy Wonka Blueberry Girl", but that's what I gathered from her description of albumin-deficient people. And we don't need that to happen to me, so ....

I have to start taking medication. A Big Bad cancer drug called Revlimid and a steroid.

Crappity crap crap crap.

The dumbest part is that I don't feel ANY of this going on in my body. Maybe if I felt yucky all the time, I'd be more into getting the medication, like, "Yeah, give me something to make me feel better." It's actually not an emergency for me to get started on the drugs right this second, but Dr. H said we need to start the ball rolling in the next month or so before I break a bone or something. I guess I'd rather be on drugs than break a bone.

So. I need to make an appointment to see Dr. GPO here in Kansas City sometime in the next few weeks. Dr. H is still going to oversee everything -- she's going to give him a call to discuss my case -- but I have to see a doctor every month in order to get my prescription refilled, and we can't drive up to Mayo every single month. We will still go up there every few months, though. It'll probably be about a month or so before I'm actually taking the medicine.

Dr. H made it sound like it wasn't going to be all that bad. Each cycle is one dose of Revlimid a day for three weeks followed by one week off. One day a week, I will also take a steroid pill. For the first month, I'll probably need blood tests once every week or two to see how I'm tolerating it, and if I'm doing OK, I'll only need to go to the doctor once a month to get my refill. It's not really chemo, so I'm not going to go bald or have to spend time at the hospital or anything. Really, things could be a lot worse.

Revlimid is a brand new drug that was approved by the FDA last summer. It's been shown to have really good results -- especially on people who haven't had any treatment before, like me. Some people who started taking it in the clinical trials have been able to keep their myeloma under control for several years. Dr. H said it is also really well-tolerated, as far as side effects go. The bad side effects (moodiness, overall yuckiness) will come from the steroid. Moodiness! I can't wait!

Anyway. I reacted to the news by not being able to eat anything for dinner except a couple sips of a McDonald's milkshake, which I cried into and then later threw up at a rest stop in Iowa. I'm not sure which was more mortifying: the public puking or the public crying. I don't cry in public as a general rule. Not at funerals, not in oncologists' offices, not when I saw Steel Magnolias in the theater. It's not that I don't feel like it; I just don't do it. So. That's enough with the public crying. There's no crying in baseball.

Now I'm feeling better, and I'm trying to think of this as a chance to FINALLY kick this stupid cancer's butt. You messed with the wrong girl, you stupid cancer cells. Put 'em up! Put 'em up! Which one of you first? I can fight you all together if you want. I can fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I can fight you standing on one foot. I can fight you with my eyes closed.

I'm not afraid of anything. Not nobody. Not nohow.


Janet said...

Dear friend,
I just wanted to tell you that I really don't think that Revlimid is a big, bad cancer drug! My 90-year-old mom has been on it for over a year, and it has saved her life. She has myelodysplasia syndrome. I just want to tell you to "hang in there." You'll be OK! There are new treatments all the time. You're a member of our Club, and we want you to know that we're with you all the way. You are in our thoughts.
Your friend,
Albuquerque, NM

Don said...

Karen - I know people in the Twin Cities who go to Dr H for their myeloma. Actually there are two female Dr H's, both very well regarded. I'm still going to a local oncologist, but if either Dr H told me Revlimid and steroid, I'd do it too.

From what I've heard the steroid is the hard part, but everyone who comes through that jokes about the ups and downs. It's in my future too, possibly very soon (doctor tomorrow). The hope, though, is that we might achieve a very nice spike-free plateau that will last for months or years.

Of course there's crying in baseball, regardless what they say. But we CAN fight that cancer and we will! You go girl!

Brooke said...

If you managed to watch Steel Magnolias in the theatre without crying, I have no doubt that you can most definitely kick some cancer ass!!

Beth said...

Hi Karen,

In my 4 years with MM, I've never felt bad from the MM either, so I know exactly what you're talking about. It's the drugs that make you feel bad! What I really hope for you is that you don't have any icky side effects and that the rev/dex combo DOES kick the cancer's butt.

Hang in there,

ben said...

That cancer's butt is so kicked!

I have the feeling you will mentally berate every single one of the cancer cells while the Revlimid molecules go through your body and act like little bouncers.

But, if I were your family, I'd duck if you started getting moodier ;-)

David E said...

"The dumbest part is that I don't feel ANY of this going on in my body."

I hear you!! My doc has a look of bewilderment every month. My numbers aren't the greatest but I countinue to feel like $1,000,000. He looks at me like 'how can this be'???

I also believe that a big part of you KCB (kicking cancer's butt) is mental. You have the attitude and the support.

I am not much of a public weeper either but I can cry with the best of them in private!! I am proud of that, crying is good for the soul!!

However, I won't cry after someone gets voted off American Idol tonight!! Sanjaya was horrible, I think the cute factor is about to run out. Go KiKi!!!!

Anonymous said...

I posted a comment here a couple days ago and it seems to have disappeared.

Anyway...I'm sorry you have to start meds. Richard is doing really well with the Revlimid. His total protein and IgG are down to normal after only two cycles. He hasn't had any side effects.

Wishing you a quick and durable response.

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