On the evening of January 18th, 2017 I took my very first Tagrisso pill. It had been 14 days after the CO-1686 boat unceremoniously abandoned me at sea. Captain Poksceva aka rociletinib refused to play with me any more. It was okay with me. It’s the attitude I take when bawling and squalling are not an option. I square my shoulders, primp my growing platinum blond hair, and sashay forward.
Now it’s August and I realize getting on the roaring Tagrisso train after progression on Poksceva was a good third act after Tarceva and Poksceva. My last CTscan which was done in April this year, showed Tagrisso had devoured 80% of the tumor. The shrinkage calculation used simple mathematical proportions. The cancer medical professionals probably have a more sophisticated discombobulating method of computing the shrinkage of the nasty main tumor at the bottom of the lower lobe of my left lung, but who cares? Shrinkage is shrinkage in any language.
Let’s look back at the distant past a little.
I have been around the shrinkage bend a couple of times. The first time was five years ago after 100 days (3 months 10 days) on Tarceva. It was the same thing. Tarceva gobbled 80% of the tumor right off the bat, leaving 20% to hang around my lung. For the next 17 months the CTscan image every three months showed the same 20%. The good Onc, one exchange Irish doctor, and myself hoped it was only scar tissue. There was really no CTscan image afterwards that showed the 20 percenter increased in size, but the world-class Onc got a wild-haired notion to make fine-toothed-comb analysis of my lung images. After careful and thorough eyeballing of old and new images, he noticed three tiny nodules that weren’t there before. It was an Aha! moment for him. I forgot what kind of moment it was for me but it would be safe to say it was a hacked-off moment. Henceforth he referred to the three tiny discoveries as little fellas that confirmed his suspicion of a progression.
Nearly 3 years of CTscan images under the CO-1686 trial showed the same 20 percenter. Nothing grew nothing new. Not a word on the little fellas. I imagine they are still there among the tiny nodules too many to count in both of my lungs. They may be cancerous, maybe not. No one knows what they are. What matters is that they are not giving me anything – no pains, no shortness of breath, no coughs, no loss of appetite. Maybe they are like freckles on a redhead kid’s face. They are just there.
Back to the present…
Then the 20 percenter showed progression in spite of the CO-1686 drug. The clinical trial folks, with whom I developed a good relationship, had to transfer my care to a one-man-band onc whom I named Dr Smiley.
Dr Smiley examined me the other day 4 months after the last scan. He jammed his bare hand in my armpits to feel swollen lymph nodes. He found none. He felt dampness instead. Walking in the hot sun even under an umbrella drenched me. He kneaded my neck to feel swollen lymph nodes. He discovered none. He noticed instead hidden on a fold on my neck the faint seam of my long-ago parathyroid surgery. He looked for swollen feet and ankles. Nothing there. He was dictating his findings to a young techie girl. He listened to my lungs and said, There is a velcro sound from the left lung. I said, Whoa! What is the velcro doing in my left lung? He answered, That’s probably where your cancer was. I liked the past tense.
Dr Smiley concluded the visit by announcing that he will not order a CTscan this time because the images and report from the last one are fantastic, my present vitals are great, and I have no unexplained weight loss, pain, shortness of breath, coughs, and other symptoms. He set the next appointment: November 28th, bloods and CTscan. That would put me on the every-six-months schedule.
I am not complaining. He seems to know what he’s doing.