Keeping up the Good Fight
On April 4, 2016, 4 months before my 54th birthday, I was having trouble breathing and nearly passed out when getting up that morning. I had been having trouble breathing for about a week and thought I might have pneumonia. I was already going to visit my primary care doctor, but the episode brought me to the emergency room.
Imaging tests and fluid build-up
An ultrasound and x-ray showed a build-up of fluid in the pericardium. It was decided to monitor the fluid. Two weeks later, I passed out, again just after getting up in the morning. This time, they decided to tap the fluid. Instead of being a normal yellowish color, it was a dark reddish color. Also, instead of there being 3 tablespoons worth of the fluid, there was 2 liters.
Diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma
Pathology confirmed metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of non-small-cell lung cancer. The primary site location was found in my right lower lobe and there was a smaller tumor in my lung along with some lymph nodes nearby that also showed signs of the disease.
For anyone that knows anything about metastatic cancer, having the disease spread to the pericardial fluid is not good, in fact, the prognosis is 4-6 months. Some people, hearing this would simply give up and my oncologist had another patient in the same situation who decided on palliative care only, they died about 6 months after diagnosis.
Deciding to fight
I am not one to roll over and decided to fight this disease with all the strength I could muster. It was decided to begin my treatment with a standard chemotherapy regimen, 6 cycles of Pemetrexed, Carboplatin, and after 2 cycles, Avastin (bevacizumab). The newer immunotherapy drugs were only just coming online for primary treatment options. The drug Avastin was continued as a maintenance drug. This worked decently and the cancer was reduced to the original site. My treatment was changed to Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in January 2017. I remained on that regimen for almost two years. While receiving Keytruda, I underwent cryoablation of the remains of the tumor in September 2017.
Cancer treatment is tricky
Cancer treatment is a tricky thing and sometimes cancer can be difficult to eradicate. My cancer returned and in early August of 2018, I received another 4 cycles of Pemetrexed and Carboplatin, along with the continued Keytruda. Again, the cancer was knocked back for a time. In late August of 2019, it was decided to try a different chemo drug combination, 6 cycles of Paclitaxel and Carboplatin along with Avastin and Tecentriq (atezolizumab). After a reaction to the drug Carboplatin, the 6 cycles were cut short to 4. In December of 2019, I had a reaction to the drug Avastin and was taken off of that medication. One of the side effects of Avastin is increased chance of stroke and it was determined that I had experienced a TIA.
Next treatment steps
I am now moving into the next phase of my treatment. I will have another consultation to consider ablating the tumors again and then perhaps a new pairing of drugs. I have been living with lung cancer for 4 years and the disease has not progressed very much. I currently have three small tumors (marble sized 1-2 cm) in my right lobe. As time moves on, new treatments are coming on-line all the time. I am still hopeful.
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