Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chemo Number Four, A UCSD Second Opinion and My Little Soldiers

I was so proud of my kids yesterday. I knew there were a half dozen people who would have watched them...but as I thought I was only going to be out of the house for about three hours for chemo and two for my appointment at UCSD, I knew that they would prefer to stay home. As Harrison is nearly 12 and Maddie nearly 8, Steve and I were OK with that. Besides, I was a latch key kid at that age.

Madison called me once during the day. It was around lunch time and I was in chemo. She says to me, "Mommy, are you bringing home food?"

My response, "No, I was not planning on it." This, I had already told them. I think it was wishful thinking on their part, as I we have been depriving them of fast food lately.

Madison replied in a chipper, non-whiny tone, "OK, Momma. I was just checking," and in the same efficient manner that I tend apply, she ended our conversation. Harrison made them peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

When I got home from chemo later than I expected, all was fine. Their laundry was put away, as I had asked. They had both read their books for an hour, as I had asked. My friend and colleague, Lori Mathios, had dropped off a beautiful salad and fixings for us to have for dinner that night, which was fabulous. The house was a mess, but I was fine with that. My kids were safe and not arguing.

Chemotherapy had gone well, but I was more tired than I expected. During my session, Dr. Sweet came to see me to answer a few questions that I had with regards to my blood counts, which was nice. After I got home, I had time to spend a few minutes with each of my kids and then managed to fall asleep on the couch for a bit. When Steve picked me up to take us two our second opinion at Dr. Sara Boles at UCSD, I was glad that he was able to do so. I was much too tired to drive.

Dr. Boles was a great match for us. Not only was she warm and friendly, she has a specific interest in metastasized, triple negative breast cancer. Jeanie Spies, RN, my long time friend and confident from Rady Children's Peckham Center Cancer and Blood Disorders, came to the appointment with us.We started reviewing my case with Dr. Boles. Steve and Jeanie chimed in where appropriate: Jeanie, having a great outsider's view of how I had handled this disease/past chemo and Steve filling in a few pertinent blanks in my two year ordeal.

Dr. Boles had reviewed my chart thoroughly and talked to the doctor who is PI on the Phase I clinical trial for my disease, Protocol No. P276-00/52/10. We talked in depth about the status of the clinical trial and how I might fit into it. There is a current waiting list (that I am now on). I would have to be a UCSD patient...which I could become during Steve's district's open enrollment period in November (taking affect in January). If we decide to go this route, more than likely, I would be entering this clinical trial in Phase II, the randomized part of the trial, where a computer would authorize the use of the new drug, currently referred to as P276-00. I would have a 50/50 chance of receiving the new drug. Either way, I would receive gemcitabine and Carboplatin chemotherapies concurrently, i.e. if receiving P276-00, I would be receiving a third chemotherapy drug. This makes sense to me. Jeanie states that gemcitabine is one that use at the Peckham Center regularly...and it is well tolerated. Since I have never had either of these drugs before and I know my body responds well to chemo, we think these drugs may be good for me to try.

We talked about other chemo options, as well, such as parb-inhibitors. However, I felt that the most important part of my visit was this: I learned of the glowing results of my pathology report from my mastectomy. It was a good as they come. All of the matter that Dr. Deree removed during my modified radical mastectomy had no signs of cancer. In other words, the matter removed was just scar tissue and lymph nodes. I knew that chemo had shrunk the tumor by 75%. However, what I did not understand...is that while the tumor was still existing, the cancer was not.

Obviously, a cancer cell got away. But the good news in all this is that chemo works for me. This gives me great hope.

With 6-8 known tumors on my liver, Dr. Boles explained that to her, the state of the cancer means that there is probably cancer is another organ. The cells are currently too small to detect through a CT scan. If this is the case, I am guessing it is in my lungs, where last month, a CT scan showed  two "non-descript" spots that Dr. Sweet is watching. For this reason, chemo is my best option.

That being said, I feel stronger than ever. If anyone has the tools to fight this, it is me. More important than body chemistry and a strong disposition, love surrounds me. More and more, I am convinced that modern medicine alone is not the answer for me. I am the answer. My family is the answer. You are the answer. Bring on the chemo. I can take it.

On another note, I ate almost all raw food yesterday! I think I had a small piece of foccacia at dinner and a few Wheat Thins during chemo...and that was it for processed food! I am also replacing a meal (or two) a day with green shakes. Yesterday's was honey dew, spinach, organic honey and flax seed. It was not too bad! This morning's is kale, spinach, apples, bananas, flax and maybe some honey. I might throw something tart in there too. Maybe some lemon juice.

This is a very long post. But before I close out, I wanted to share with you what Steve and I came home to last night: a show, carefully rehearsed by our kids. Performed on our trampoline, it was a choreographed gymnastics routine to the song, "Look at Me Now" by Chris Brown. Our little soldiers...always fighting to bring a smile to our faces.


  1. Marsi, I always knew you, Steve and the Kids were special people. But YOU are all AMAZING! Your blog shares are great and going to help so many. You are a True inspiration and give HOPE to many. You are right you are surrounded by Love. I am so proud to say that I walked in your HONOR last year in the 3-day and this year I walk again for Maria and you and everyone else. Keep on Fighting and know you are backed by LOVE from Family and Friends. With much LOVE & RESPECT, Cherokee & Family

  2. Dr. Boles successfully B treated my friend Sarah Walker who subsequently turned me on to what she learned from UCSD support teams about mushroom supplements helping with chemo. I found two that look very efficacious. CurQLife and PSP50