I'm not sure where to begin today. My heart and mind are so full. I know you probably want more details about yesterday's visit, so I will begin there, but there is much I want to share.
As brother said yesterday, Dr. Gilbert did think the tumor had responded, if only a small amount, to last week's treatment. She was forthright that it did not show a drastic response, but still, there was a response, which is finally a move in the right direction. We have to keep in mind that until yesterday, this thing has been moving rapidly in the wrong direction with that relentless quality of which Dr. Sinard spoke. This week, it appears there has been some relenting, and I am so grateful to God for that news!
Let me change directions for a second here to mention that I am not surprised, and I don't think you will be either. God wouldn't tell us to pray without ceasing if it were a fruitless activity. Granted, our desires may not always be in line with his great plans, but it sure is nice when they are! Thank you for praying for this response - thank God, giving Him all the glory, for providing it!
As you'll recall, we were hoping for this news yesterday. Otherwise, I was looking at starting radiation therapy this coming Monday along with a more aggressive 2-drug chemo cocktail. Here is the new plan and the reason for its selection. Radiation has been in my future since almost the beginning. The only way I could have avoided radiation would have been if the tumor had been small enough to remove surgically and there were no positive lymph nodes. Since there was a positive lymph node in my neck from the beginning of testing, I was at least looking at radiation on my neck. After the tumor exploded, it became clear that I would need chemotherapy along with radiation on both the oral cavity and neck. When Dr. Gilbert first took over, she envisioned doing a 9 week round of my current chemo regimen, which would hopefully get a dramatic response from the tumor and also create a fertile ground for radiation to follow. Since I have not responded quite as dramatically to my current regimen as expected, Dr. Gilbert thinks it best to change directions. While she does not believe the really aggressive plan discussed last week is necessary, she does want to get more aggressive than originally planned. She cites my youth and healthfulness along with the "unkind" nature of my tumor as good reasons to do so. Besides, since radiation is down my road anyway and we haven't seen the typical response to chemo alone thus far, she wants to get radiation on board more quickly.
The good news here is that I do not have to start radiation on Monday. I will start it soon, though - probably Monday after next. Also, my chemo regimen will be changed from the current regimen to one stronger drug instead of two stronger drugs. (For my medical friends who are just dying to know which one, send me an email. I don't like cluttering up my blog with the names of chemotherapy drugs.) I will receive infusions of the new drug once every 3 weeks in addition to radiation treatments. These particular chemo sessions will still be outpatient, but will take about 6 hours due to some extra monitoring that must be done. Radiation treatments will last for about 25 minutes (actual treatment time) each and occur every day for 33 treatments. Once these are finished, I will be reassessed. Hopefully, no surgical intervention will be necessary. It is possible, though, that a less extensive procedure might be recommended. There could also be additional chemo in my future, but more than likely, there would be a break from treatment to monitor my progress with serial imaging. Bottom line is they won't stop until they think they have done everything possible to increase my cure rate percentage.
I'm sure you're wondering how I feel about all of this, and I want to assure you that I feel very pleased with yesterday's visit. I am thankful that I have another week or so before radiation begins, but also glad that Dr. Gilbert wants to get a little more aggressive. I am grateful that it doesn't have to start this Monday, which will give me another week to gain some more strength since I am now responding somewhat to chemo. I continue to feel like God has me in the palm of His hand. He has great plans, and He will accomplish them all. He already has revealed so much of his greatness throughout all of this, and I am confident He will continue to do so.
I do not walk blindly into the dark days ahead. Instead, I go with the command in Joshua 1:9 ... "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
One more short, encouraging note from yesterday - Dr. Gilbert gave me yet another anti-nausea medication. This is the big daddy of them all. I took it yesterday before treatment, today, and will take another tomorrow. She hopes this will completely eliminate the post chemo vomiting. Please add that to your prayers, as well.
I do have so much more I want to share outside of yesterday's visit, but I will save it for a later post - perhaps later tonight or tomorrow.
Hope you are all having a great weekend. Again, thank you for your amazing support!