Update - arcane medical stuff

G'day all!

Today I saw the oncologist leading the study I am participating in. When I think about it, it is pretty impressive that he sees the women in the study cos he must be pretty busy. He seems to be my oncologist cos I've seen him every time for my chemo follow ups.

We discussed my progress, any problems I am having - a new one! Snotty nose and runny eyes. Controlled by antihistamines. He said some people develop this runny nose and eyes syndrome whilst on chemo and most find antihistamines control it. So there I go. I've already found the answer. I've got something not quite as common as indigestion and hair loss and a minor amount of fatigue and oh the phlebitis in my right arm and the PICC line in the left that means I can't pick up more than 2kg with that arm (yeah, right! I try to avoid it but some times I must pick something heavy up - I just try not to carry much stuff on that arm. But then Mr Phlebitis gets annoyed in my right arm. Never satisified, these arms!). I have had three FEC, the last one is on Friday. Then I start the taxane.

The lymph node in my armpit is small and flexible and pretty much "normal." It is getting quite hard to find. The breast lump is also much smaller than it was and now is getting hard to detect unless you prod it in just the right way (like I put my finger right on it after the oncologist couldn't, but I do have an advantage in that I live with it and check it regularly). He said that if I presented to a surgeon today, without them knowing my history, they would go with a lumpectomy and axillary dissection rather than a boobectomy plus dissection.

So that is good news!

All I need to know now is do I carry the breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and 2 are the currently described genes)? If I do, well I can go the prophylactic bilateral boobectomy route (DH would miss them more than me I think) - off with their heads! If I don't, then I am likely just to have a lumpectomy and dissection.

Plus we discussed the study. They have started testing the tissue samples. They are doing a screen of 44,000 genes for each individual to see what genes are expressed in the tumours. They are focussing particularly on certain families of genes to see what ones are expressed by different people and also which of these are affected by what chemo. FEC affects cell replication by inhibiting DNA synthesis and also apparently cell metabolism. Taxanes affect the division of cells by stopping spindle formation during mitosis. They've already worked out that cancers that light up with PET scans (these use a radioactive glucose to highlight very metabolically active tissues) are very likely to respond to FEC. They want to develop a protocol that says, "Ah, you have a breast cancer that expresses these gene families. The best chemo for you is FEC." Or maybe the cancer expresses genes that will respond better to a taxane. At the moment, they just don't have the data to do anything else apart from hammer the cancer with the available chemotherapies, which means exposing the person to highly toxic chemicals that they may not really need to have to treat the cancer.

All in all, a productive visit. I learned some. He held back a bit on the science cos really I am not a specialist in the area but I mostly grokked it and the stuff I don't know about I can bone up on.

I still haven't shown off pics of stuff I finished last week, or the prezzies I've been getting. I am very slack! I've been busy Doing Stuff like quilting rather than emailing. Not sure why. Here's a little peek at Silly Frilly.


It is getting dark so early now that we are off daylight savings. The sun sets just after six pm. Last night we visited the PiL's and were wilting at the extremely late time of twenty past SEVEN! LOL Plus it's been very smoky at our place for three or four days now and it is driving me nuts. Smoke gives me asthma (though as it turns out, the chemo seems to be helping with my weird immune system stuff - some of the chemicals I am on are known to have such effects) and sore eyes and I can't do any washing of clothes and nor can DH and given the mountain of dirty clothes in the corner.... ARGH!

Finally, I give you Yet Another Picture of Nutmeg, in a mutant pose. She really enjoys being patted, when she is in the mood for it. Look at those whiskers!



  1. I think it is very good that the oncologist is spending time with you. Nice that your horrid die effects are not too horrid and easily treated!!! Oh the arms, my arms are boogelly, well shoulders really. It is amazing how often you use your arms.
    Isn't it dark early?? I am staying up now because I slept all day and nights are the worst time when you ahve a head cold. Well mine are.
    Nice knitting.
    Nutmeg looks very like the cat that got the cream!!

  2. Youre fortunate to have a good specialist willing to give you time,and as they should considering the inforamtion they are gaining from you as their patient.
    Im thinkiing of you heaps as my SIL is expecting quite drastic treatment and I dont think shes being looked after very well at all!
    I look forward to seeing your knitting too and of course Nutmeg!!!
    Im knitting up Tealeaves and cant put it down despite a huge essay begging for my attention and black ink winking at me in the little cupboard on my desk!!

  3. I am so glad to hear that the nasty tumor is shrinking!!! Fingers crossed there are no BC genes.

    When my sis went through chemo for breast cancer, she found that some of her allergy/immune issues changed. Some things she was sensitive to, she wasn't anymore, but she was sensitive to new things. Just can't win sometimes :)

  4. Good to hear things are progressing well, the study sounds like it should give some great results, with more targeted treatments. Interesting how it is affecting your immune response re the asthma, etc. I guess the medications can do quite odd things! Most impressed at the specialist too!

  5. Yay for good news! I'm really enjoying following your blog... not a sewer myself, but watching that quilt fabric go together is pretty mesmerizing. :) Hang in there and thanks for your blogging!


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