Viva Tarceva! May 22, 2013

Friends and Family,

First, I want to tell you what a gift this week has been. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me in so many ways. Your show of love is the most healing thing that could have ever happened during what was otherwise a very tough week. So many of you sent encouraging emails and called me. At work they had an Aloha Spirit da
y, so most people wore Hawaiian shirts to show their love and support for me. Thank you to Kristina and Cindy for the idea, and Kristina for the amazing graphic work! I’ve attached it so you can all see what a gift this has been. Barb brought over some of her incredible soup to nurture the soul, and it works! Rebbecca has been texting me her visualizations of beating the cancer every day, and Marje and Dick are planting a row in their garden with my name on it. Growth! How wonderful! Genevieve bought a purple “energy plate” to “charge” the Tarceva to do its job more effectively. (She made me put this in here.) So many other people have sent messages, prayers and positive energy. I am blessed to have the best kind of people around me that anyone could hope for when going through something this challenging. Or any other time, for that matter.

We got the results of my bone scan back a couple of days ago. It confirmed that the cancer has spread to a few places in my spine, my hips and one rib. But cancer schmancer! It’s time to take the cure.

I have been thinking a lot about what would have come next if I didn’t have Tarceva as an option. It makes me feel extremely fortunate to have this treatment available. Tarceva wasn’t even an FDA approved drug until just after I first saw my oncologist (almost two years ago). Now I have the option of taking the most successful lung cancer drug in the entire history of the world. Not only that, but I’m also one of the lucky few to live in a country where I have access to this drug and have health insurance.

The good fortune doesn’t stop there. Everything had to line up just right for me to get this chance. When my cancer was first diagnosed, it was tested for EGFR, which is the only genetic mutation that Tarceva treats. The results came back negative. I didn’t qualify for Tarceva. However, since I moved my treatment to OHSU and agreed to be part of a research study, my cancer was re-tested using the same lab as the other research subjects. It is only because it was re-tested that the cancer was found to have EGFR. There was an error in the earlier testing that would have never been found if I had not switched clinics. I would never have had the chance to start Tarceva. Only one out of eight people have this mutation in their cancer, so I’m coming out ahead against long odds.

Add it all up, and the odds against getting this far are extraordinary. What a gift!

Given how quickly the cancer is now spreading, I’m at a true crossroads now. If the Tarceva doesn’t work, my health could get worse quickly. If it does work, it could either stop the cancer from growing, or shrink it down to nothing. I could become cancer free for years, or even for life. As long as the side effects stay manageable, I will get a CT scan in two months and we’ll see what kind of success we’re having. Think dried prunes! (But not too many – diarrhea is another likely side effect.)

It has taken 10 days to get to this point because I’ve had to deal with one insurance company and three pharmacies (don’t ask), but Thursday morning I will finally be starting Tarceva. All I have to do is take a pill once a day, and the side effects are usually minimal compared to chemo. The most likely side effect others will notice is if I get a rash on my face that looks like mild to severe acne. Too bad the raging hormones don’t come along with it! I can deal with the acne again, as long as I don’t have to deal with being an insecure teenager all over again. Once was plenty!

This is it! Think dried prunes!