Tarceva, Four Weeks Later June 17, 2013

Friends and Family,

Genevieve and I saw the doctor today, but there are no test results to tell how I’m doing after four weeks on Tarceva. Dr. Lopez-Chavez said that the best indicator of whether it is working is how I am breathing. Genevieve and I both think that I have less shortness of breath, so it looks good for now. Keep thinking prunes! It’s working!

I’ll do a CT scan next month, so we expect to have concrete results to confirm what already feels right in our guts.

Dr. L-C said that the average length of time that this drug is effective is about 8-9 months, although about 20% of the people keep taking it effectively for up to 3-4 years, and a smaller percentage for much longer. Our hope is that all that prune shrinking will reduce the cancer down to NOTHING long before the Tarceva stops working! Dr. L-C thinks this is entirely possible, particularly considering that I have many little spots that are easy for the Tarceva to attack, rather than one big tumor.

So far the side effects of this medication have been entertaining, if nothing else. The rash on my face was thankfully at its worst when I was in Eastern Oregon and away from work for a long weekend. My skin got rough and flaky. My doctor told me to use a sunscreen which, when applied thickly enough to work, left me looking like a ghost. Except that on the rashy areas around my nose the white cream filled in all the rough areas, leaving me looking like Bozo wearing a white clown nose. If only I knew how to make balloon animals, I would have been a big hit with my grandkids at the pool!

It also spread to other less noticeable areas, one of which I’ll tell you about. When it covered my scalp, I was told to apply a skin cream. It made my hair look like I put my finger in an electric socket, so I only apply it at home in the evening. When it started working, my skin started flaking off. The first time I noticed it was right after I brushed my hair. My shirt looked like I had given it a good dusting of talcum powder. I never thought of a leaf blower as a personal grooming accessory until now.

Since I don’t have a cordless leaf blower to take with me out of the house, I had to come up with a Plan B. When I take off my coat, I shake it like a matador. And if you look very hard, you may discover a little bull.

The rash has spread to a few other areas as well, but the only funny part about that is attempting to be nonchalant while applying cream to all these places in the locker room. Nobody has said anything yet, but there seem to be a lot of empty lockers around me lately.

On to the really important stuff. You have my heartfelt and eternal gratitude for all of your support, which has come in so many ways. It says so much about your character that so many of you have become closer to me as I have gone through this. The easier, less painful way would be to avoid being around someone who has what is usually a terminal illness. I admire each of you for this, and only hope that I would do the same if I was in your shoes. I have regained enough perspective to find my sense of humor again, but there are times when it is still pretty scary. You make that so much easier by being there. Better yet, your being there for me makes being alive a joy every day.

Enjoy the weather. It's another beautiful day. No matter where you are.