Well shiver me timbers, yesterday was another big day at Fox Chase and it’s already been, like, 12 days since I posted an update! So let’s catch you up on the last couple of weeks and preview what’s next.
In the “So How Are You???” department, the answer continues to be somewhat of a moving target. Sherri has again experienced most of the main predicted side effects since her previous treatment, but she seemed to space them out pretty evenly. That’s good in that she generally was only dealing with one at a time, but on the other hand she ended up with only one symptom-free day left before yesterday’s return to the infusion lab. The docs continue to tweak the doses a smidge (their term, not mine!) each session to try to find a balance. Sherri is already famous over there at FCCC for the facial twitching reaction that is rare enough that some of the veteran oncology nurses have never seen it–not that anyone particularly aspires to have a chemo side effect named after them. This mischief is mostly managed now, but the twitch continues to manifest ever so slightly at seemly random times during the infusions; must be channeling her inner bunny rabbit. The cold sensitivity effect has come on much more prominently these last two times. Sherri drank some ice water after her previous treatment and exclaimed, “That felt like swallowing broken glass. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.” She also gets a prickling sensation in her fingers that lasts for some time after she touches something cold. Last time that went away after a few days, but it seems to be cumulative so we might have to clip some gloves to the fridge. The rest of it is pretty much about trying to feel up to doing the things she knows she is supposed to do, like eating.
We continue to get positive signs about Sherri’s overall health. “Dag nabbit, you don’t look sick!” they all say (paraphrasing). Her blood tests show recovery between treatments, so she is bouncing back after each blast. She is keeping her weight steady, which indicates that the nutrition is getting through the fog. Thanks food angels!
In the “What’s Next???” department, we also have some interesting developments. Last week we met with the Clinical Genetics specialists at FCCC to participate in their Risk Assessment Program (RAP). We were referred here based on the fact that certain gene mutations are associated with both breast and pancreatic cancer (yup, had ’em both). This is a new and evolving field that needs our help to save lives. Basically (and basic is all you will get out of me on this subject), there are gene mutations (“typos” in your DNA) that are associated with the diseases and disorders we conjure up. We also have other genes that identify and fix these typos (your “proof reader” genes). But the proof readers are also fallible, so when they get a mutation, they don’t catch the typos correctly and bad copy gets past the editor. That’s just the way life is. The RAP is designed to identify key genes that could be associated with cancer incidents in one way or another. At this point, though, more known cases are needed to help make the associations accurately. Our hope is that associations to pancreatic cancer will continue to be made so that additional and more effective treatments can be designed.
Apparently this type of research is taking off for a variety of reasons, so it turns out that Sherri is a candidate to get a panel of 25 genes tested and analyzed. Because genes are passed around among relatives (i.e., inherited), it’s really important to know about family history to make the most of what they find in the sequences. (Note that they can also, in some cases, use this info to predict risk to other family members if said family members want to know…) So Sherri has been learning more about all her grand aunts and great uncles and creating a really wide family tree.
Lastly, we both want to let you all know that in less than two weeks, just prior to her next scheduled treatment, Sherri will be getting a CT scan checkup to gauge the progress of this chemo regimen called FOLFIRINOX. Just to manage expectations, we’ll tell you that even though this is the best known treatment for pancreatic, it is effective less than 50% of the time. Now granted, Sherri is above average in every way, but nonetheless this is why we need all these B plans along with your prayers, good vibes, love, mental telepathy, and pancreas kicking cosmic energy!