- My pain has decreased to the point that I was able to take the fentanyl patch off a few weeks ago. My pain specialist said it was okay for me to start taking ibuprofen again, so that and the hydrodocone have been all I’ve needed to control my pain. I don’t have to take the hydrocodone around the clock anymore, either, so I’m hoping to be able to get off that soon, as well.
- I feel great! With the patch off, my brain hasn’t been so fuzzy and my energy seems to be returning. I’m to the point that I want to go out and start enjoying life again.
- My sodium is under control. I’m down to 15 mg of Samsca every third day. That should give me enough medication to last until around the end of May. Hopefully, by that time, I won’t need it at all anymore. But if I do, I’ll go back to the hospital and hope the drug company gives me enough to finish out the summer.
- I’m able to eat again. It’s still difficult and some things are harder to get down than others, but eating has become much less painful. And I’m able to eat most things if given enough time. I even had steak when we went out to celebrate my husband’s birthday! The ENT said I’d most likely need more surgeries to keep my esophagus open, but he also said it could be a year or more between procedures. I can live with that.
- I started walking again. I’m up to about 20 minutes a day, but am pretty sure I’ll be able to up that to 30 before long. I’m not going very fast, but my goals right now are to improve my muscle tone and increase my energy level. I’ll worry about cardio once I feel stable again.
With all that good news, I have just a few minor complaints:
- I’ve been having a little trouble swallowing, in general lately, even though I can eat. My ENT said it’s because the radiation therapy damaged some of my salivary glands. And it may get worse because radiation therapy continues to do damage years after the fact. There’s no way to fix the problem, but avoiding dry foods could help. As of now, it’s nothing I can’t deal with.
- My hot flashes are also back (all day every day). One minute I’ll be freezing and the next minute I’m on fire. I talked to my OB/GYN about it, and as I suspected, I may not be a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy because of the increased risk for more cancer (no, thank you). I’m going to ask my oncologist what he thinks, but I may just decide to tough it out.
All in all, I’m pretty happy right now with how things are going. But in the back of my mind I’ve been worrying some about the fact that my tumors have grown, even though the oncologist told me that would happen while I was on the Keytruda until after treatment #6. He never said why, and I never thought to ask, so it didn’t make sense to me.
When my pain specialist was here a few of weeks ago, I mentioned this to him while we were talking about how things were going. He said since Keytruda is an immunotherapy agent, it triggers a normal immune response in that when it attacks the cancer cells, it causes them to swell (AHA!). It’s just like when you cut yourself and the site swells before it begins to heal. So now it all makes sense!
Even though I’m not quite as worried as I was before, I’ll feel much better when I hear there’s been a substantial decrease in the size of my tumors (or that there are no tumors at all), and that the cancer hasn’t spread. My next scan will be after treatment #8 (sometime around the end of April).
That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading my blog. Your prayers and support are much appreciated.