Chemotherapy keeping cancer at bay
by Paula Levy
published: March 31, 2004
The first time we met Rosanne Himmelman, she was beginning a regimen of chemotherapy to fight metastatic colon cancer. Through periodic updates, Rosanne is sharing her experience. This is part seven of her journey.
Going back on chemotherapy has proven to be the right choice for Rosanne Himmelman. On March 12, her oncologist, Dr. Danny Rayson, told her chemotherapy is once again helping in her fight against metastatic colon cancer.
"There is good evidence of tumour response in the lungs especially," said Dr. Rayson after reviewing the results of a CT Scan she had on March 9. In addition to the tumour response in her lungs, he said there are also early signs of positive changes in the liver.
Rosanne said she was relieved when she found out the chemotherapy had at least stopped the tumours from growing. But she felt she was taking the right treatment when the pain from the cancer had disappeared.
"Intuitively, I had a sense that things weren't worsening because I didn't have any symptoms of the disease," said Rosanne.
To be sure that Rosanne was on the right path with her treatment, Dr. Rayson ordered a scan to be completed in six weeks instead of the usual 12 weeks.
"We did the CT at this early point to make sure we were moving in the right direction and it appears we are," reported Dr. Rayson.
For the past six weeks, Rosanne has been on what is known as Folfiri regimen. Although it contains the same chemo drugs that she has always received, the doses are higher and one of the anti-cancer drugs (5FU) is administered slowly through an infusion pump over a period of two days.
||Capital Health X-ray technician Denis Doucet instructs Rosanne for a CT Scan.
This regimen wasn't as easily tolerated in the beginning as Rosanne's former treatment. The first treatment she received in February resulted in about three days of severe nausea and vomiting. In addition, she had an allergic reaction to a support drug. She could not tolerate any food and the only liquid she was able to ingest was a sports drink. But that was the initial reaction to the amount of chemotherapy drugs in the system. The next two treatments were more easily tolerated, she said.
"The treatments are getting more tolerable as they go on. There are side-effects but they are more tolerable," she said, noting the side-effects from the chemotherapy mean that she contends with nausea, lack of appetite, has less energy and deals with continuous hair loss.
"I've had side-effects of the chemo and that's what made me not feel 100 per cent," she said.
Recognizing the amount of drugs was too much for Rosanne to tolerate, Dr. Rayson adjusted the dosages to ensure she's continuing to live a good quality of life.
"Now that we have adjusted the dosages to minimize the toxicities hopefully things will continue to go well for Rosanne," added Dr. Rayson.
Rosanne said adjusting the doses has meant that she is not vomiting but she continues to be affected by nausea. Although not as bad as it was initially, it continues to affect her appetite.
Although she cannot eat at all on the day she receives chemotherapy, she does force herself to eat in the following days, recognizing that now isn't the time for her to lose strength and weight.
"I'm pretty good at making myself eat even when I don't have an appetite. It's never been a problem. I know that's smart and I can't lose weight at this point so it's important to eat," said Rosanne.
But also on Rosanne's mind is the fact that her hair is continuing to thin and it might not be long before she feels she will have to cover her head with a wrap or wig.
Until the next scan, Rosanne will continue with her alternative therapies and focus on her faith and prayers.
After 12 weeks, her progress will be rechecked with another CT Scan.
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