I Have Mixed Feelings About Ending Cancer Treatment
Last updated: March 2023
My lung cancer journey started in December 2018. I have GERD and have dealt with it for many years, but I had pain in my abdomen that wasn't going away with over-the-counter medication. I decided that, as much as I avoided doctors, it was time to see mine and get some prescription medication to help with the GERD pain.
The beginning of my lung cancer journey
I stopped smoking in January of 2018 but had a cough at night, so I wanted to be checked for COPD as well. He referred me to a gastroenterologist and a pulmonologist. Also, he said that since I had not had blood work in over 2 years, he wanted to do a full blood workup. And that is where it started.
My liver enzymes were through the roof. He scheduled me the next week for an ultrasound on my liver. Two days later, I went to his office. That morning, he scheduled me for a CAT scan, and the ultrasound showed multiple "lesions" on/in my liver. I asked him if they were tumors, and he said they could be.
My CAT scan was that morning at 10:30 am. At 4 pm that day, he called to tell me it was CANCER.
Diagnosed with NSCLC
A week later, I had a biopsy. The next day I found out that it was actually non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that metastasized into my liver.
I met with the oncologist for the first time the next week. I still didn't realize that I was stage 4. He told me at that time that surgery and radiation were not options. My only treatment option was chemo. He started me on two chemo drugs along with an immunotherapy drug, Keytruda.
Lung cancer treatments
I began my treatments in February 2019. Treatment was 6 rounds of Carboplatin chemo, 3 rounds of Taxol chemo (was taken off due to some neuropathy), and 6 rounds of Keytruda. My infusions (I had a port installed, and I'm so glad that I did) were every 3 weeks.
Halfway through my chemo treatment, I had a CAT scan to see if any progress had been made. I had EXCELLENT results. The large tumor in my lung was reduced by half. The two largest tumors in my liver were also reduced by half, and many of the small tumors were completely gone. Me and my team were very happy with the progress, but the fight was still on until it was ALL gone!
I had a PET scan in July 2019 after I completed all the chemo treatments to see if we were still progressing as before. I received a call the afternoon after my scan in the morning. A complete response to treatment. Everything was gone, with no evidence of disease!
A change in treatment while NED
I continued on the Keytruda, every 3 weeks. Earlier this year, the FDA approved a new dosing regime. My doctor wanted to try it on me since I had such good results.
I got a double dose every 6 weeks, and I tolerated it very well. The standard duration of this drug is 24 months of just the immunotherapy. July of 2021 marks two years that I have been on Keytruda only.
Ending cancer treatment
I still go in for CAT scans every 3 months. The last one was in June. Scans are still clear with no evidence of disease. Therefore, my doctor decided that it was time to give my body a rest, and July 16th will be my last cancer treatment.
An emotional rollercoaster
I am not sure how to feel about the fact that I'm ending cancer treatment. While I am so grateful and blessed to be "NED," it also scares me not to have any treatment at all.
They are assuring me that Keytruda continues to work. I will have to continue to have CAT scans every 3 months for at least another year (which might move out to every 4 months after a year).
How am I feeling now?
I know that my body needs rest and that I am blessed to be NED. Sometimes, I feel bad that I am doing so well when so many are not. I know that it is very likely that my cancer will come back at some point (they have made that very clear). I'm afraid that it will come back quickly without any treatment.
This has been my life for 2 1/2 years, and moving to the next phase is scary. I will finally be able to ring the bell....but I'm terrified of what's next. I just have to face this like I faced the diagnosis, have faith, be strong, and live every day like it's my last.
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