Thursday, 9 October 2014

Another roll of the dice

My oncologist called me yesterday afternoon and gave me the results of the scans I had two weeks ago. The good news is that the brain scan showed no change. We'd had some concerns that it might show something more sinister as I've been somewhat unsteady on my feet for a few weeks now and we weren't sure if this was caused by a brain problem or by the muscle wastage I've been experiencing as a result of taking steroids. The bad news is that the scan of my torso confirmed that the cancer is growing in my liver and in my abdomen. There are also some additional tumours showing in my lungs. It's clear that my most recent treatment, cyclophosphamide, has ceased to be effective.
Waiting for the scan results has given us time to agree a clear plan for my next treatment. I will start on a combination of two well established chemotherapy agents, gemcitabine and docetaxel (gem/tax for short). As mentioned in my previous blog post I had six cycles of gem/tax back in 2011 and have concerns about whether or not I will be able to tolerate the side effects this time around. I'm now waiting for an appointment for the first session. 
My oncologist proposes that I have three treatment cycles before having another scan to determine how effective the drugs are being. If there are no delays this scan will take place around eleven weeks after I have my first infusion. In the meantime my oncologist thinks we will be able to get a good idea as to whether the treatment is working by monitoring my liver function. My general health should also provide an indication however it is very difficult to separate problems caused by the cancer from chemo drug side effects.
If the new treatment doesn't work there's a high chance that I won't be able to have any further treatment afterwards. The majority of systemic anti-cancer drugs require the patient have a sufficient level of liver function, it is very questionable whether my liver function would meet that requirement; there's a chance then that this could be my last roll of the dice.
I plan to focus now on what I can do to enjoy life during the treatment. I've got a number of books I'm looking forward to reading and I'm regressing to a younger version of myself by playing a football management simulation game on my iPad (I was completely addicted to this game on my PC about twenty years ago). These might not sound too exciting but if I'm only feeling well enough to sit on the sofa they're an attractive alternative to daytime TV! I'm really hoping that I'll remain fit enough to get out and about, we still have a lot of new restaurants in Bath to try and, on the photographic front, I have ambitions to visit Stourhead for the autumn colours, Gigrin Farm to photograph red kites and, later in the year, Slimbridge to photograph the visiting Bewick's swans.
A month or so ago I went along to Bath races to take some photo's of the action. I'm not really interested in horse racing but the horses look very impressive running at full speed for the line. Here are three of my favourites (click/double click the images to view larger versions).


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