31 January 2009


Cancer update

I haven't written about my cancer treatment much here recently, but that's not because nothing is happening. It has been exactly two years since I first found out I needed major cancer surgery (though I didn't realize at the time how long this would go on). I've been through several such surgeries, radiation therapy, numerous bouts of chemo, and a whole range of side effects. In some ways, despite its severity, my cancer treatment has become part of the background of my life.

Since this past November, I've been taking a fairly hefty dose of cediranib, a relatively new experimental anti-cancer drug. I take a pill or two once a day, which is an improvement over the hours-long IV infusions I've had before. And of course I have side effects.

They're different this time. Rather than overwhelming fatigue and several days of nausea every couple of weeks, they are intestinal, and less predictable. To summarize and not be too graphic, my family has come to call the bouts of symptoms I get every couple of days "the Poopfest." When it happens, I'll often be in the bathroom for an hour or two at a time, or leave the washroom to come back to bed, then have to turn around and go right back. Sometimes I get what I call "Jurassic Gut," where my abdomen sounds like a Spielberg dinosaur growling, and those substantial gas bubbles can be painful.

For other patients, the drug can also cause tiredness, skin symptoms, and high blood pressure. I've been lucky not to get all of those. My blood pressure is naturally a bit low, for instance, so even when it has risen a bit, it's well within normal range. But this week has been particularly harsh.

I developed a chest cold—the rest of the family got it too—but it has hung on, and that's when the fatigue set in. The past few days I have slept, and slept, and hardly been out of the house. The Poopfest has turned into diarrhea that sometimes lasts most of the day. Last night we all went to a friend's party for a few hours, but when we got home my Jurassic Gut was simply astounding, and lasted for well over three hours. I couldn't get to bed till 2 a.m., and while I think I'm slowly getting better today, it is exhausting.

When I'm feeling well, which I do sometimes, I could almost imagine going back to work. But then things go a bit sideways like this, and I know I'm still pretty ill. In a couple of weeks, I'll find out after my next CT scan in mid-February whether the cediranib is helping to slow down the growth of my lung tumours. Hope so.

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I hope so too.
I know what it's like to live from one scan to the next (even if I try to not do this, it still happens in one way or another). These days, I hold my breath for my scan results as well as those of two friends. I'm wishing you well ...
It sounds like you're getting the best treatment and that you're in good hands. I hope for the best.
Sending you good and positive energies, Derek.
Is Vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and extreme fatigue worth it? I would stop the chemo if the tumors don't shrink.
Just to be clear, there has been no nausea or vomiting whatsoever. I've been able to eat well and pretty much anything I like. While I do have bowel symptoms pretty regularly, the full diarrhea and fatigue only came on when I got my chest cold. I was fully capable of shoveling snow, doing yoga, and walking long distances earlier in January.

So, overall, while it sucks, these side effects are not as bad as I've had with other medications. But if the cediranib is doing no good, my doctors and I must look at something else. On the other hand, even if it's keeping the tumours stable rather than shrinking them, it's probably worth it.
Wow, let's hope for the best!
I hope the new meds work in shrinking the tumours. Would be so wonderful to have you back here at work.
I notice that "ANONYMOUS" of course says he/she would quit if they were vomitting, diarrhea, etc...

This person has never probably dealt with anyone who unfortunately has been touched by the deadly problem.

My Wife is a RN who works the oncology dept at her hospital in Milwaukee. As she puts it to me, Cancer Victims want to be Cancer Survivors.. Only way they can do it is to fight. And Fight they do.. the good fight..

Our thoughts are with you Sir. Derek!!

Best of luck Derek, hang in there and keep us posted.

There is so much interesting stuff in development!

In the field of non-debilitating cancer treatments, I think "Tumor Treating Fields" are very interesting. This is a treatment for brain tumors that consists of an electronic device that generates rapidly alternating electrical fields that interfere with mitosis. Although it sounds like quackery (and there are untested, low-powered quack gadgets on the market that sound similar), this device is actually in phase III clinical trials. If it passes trials, there would likely be trials on other tumor types.
"Your Health is your Wealth" how true it is! Sadly most of us take our health for granted - until we lose it; you are an inspiration to us on how to fight the good fight when life deals us a bad hand. Hang in there, Derek and get better!