One Week

It’s been a crazy week.  Last Wednesday we meet with my oncologist to go over my blood work and scans.  My scans didn’t show any major progression, but my tumor markers were almost as high as they’ve ever been.  There are many different kinds of breast cancer.  I have lobular breast cancer and one of the characteristics of lobular breast cancer is that it tends to grow in a more diffuse pattern and it can be much harder to detect its spread in ct/bone scans.  Tumor markers don’t tell the whole story either.  For some people they are totally unreliable.  However, in my case we have 9 years of data on my markers and know that they are a pretty good indicator of what’s happening in my body.  I’ve also been having some more pain in my back and other areas.  All of this information put together lead my oncologist to determine that the current drug I’m on is not working.  I agree. Problem is, the next course of action is IV chemo. There is one new drug that was just approved this month called Ibrance or pablociclib, but the chances of it being available and approved by insurance were very, very slim.   So, I was scheduled to have a port placed in my chest this morning and to begin my first round of Abraxane.  I’d receive an infusion once a week for 3 weeks and then have one week off.  This would continue indefinitely.  One of the major side effects of Abraxane is hair loss.  Darn!  I was ready for moving to IV chemo, I knew that was the next line of treatment,  but I hadn’t quite prepared myself for being bald again.  I didn’t wear a wig last time, but this time I went to the wig store on Saturday and was fitted for a wig, then I called my hair stylist and scheduled an appointment for this Friday to have my hair cut short.  You usually lose your hair within 3 weeks or so on Abraxane and having it cut short now would make it easier for me when it started to fall out.   On Monday my doctor called me back.  He had been talking about my case with other doctors in the oncology clinic and one of them had just been able to obtain Ibrance for a patient in the clinic.  Hold everything!  So, we decided to cancel the surgery for this morning and see if we could obtain the drug.  Ibrance is a new oral drug that works differently from other aromatase inhibitors I’ve been taking.   Most drugs currently available for er/pr+, Her2- breast cancer target the hormone receptor pathways and try to disrupt those pathways.  Ibrance takes a different approach and targets a family of cell proteins (CDK4/6)  that are responsible for cell growth and stops those cells from dividing.   Well, I just received the call today that insurance has approved my trying this drug.  Whew!!!  Talk about in the nick of time! Need I say more about the importance of additional research for metastatic breast cancer and treatments?  It’s unlikely that when this drug stops working there will be another newly approved drug to take its place and I will have to start IV chemo.  But for now I’ve been given a period of grace.  There will still be side effects and I’m hoping I handle them well.  I’m heading to Europe in April and for me this is all about quality of life and being able to have a great trip with my friends and my son.  We’ve talked about this trip for years.  We had always said that when he was accepted into med school we’d go to Europe together.  It was making me pretty sad to think that the pictures he would have for memories would be ones of me in a hat or scarf and looking like a cancer patient.  I’m pretty happy with flying under the radar sometimes.   It’s funny how having your hair allows you to look normal and healthy even though you are far from it.  So today I was grateful that I was at the club exercising instead of waking up in the recovery room and then heading over to oncology for my first infusion!

11 thoughts on “One Week

  1. Oh my goodness, what a blessing the approval came quickly. I’m glad you had an option/alternative and have a trip to look forward to…something else positive.

  2. Can’t wait for you to tell us that the new drugs work. And I want to see the photos from Europe with you full head of hair! All the best always.

  3. My gosh, Judy. Was it nine years ago that I did a story about your breast cancer? I was taken by surprise to learn what has happened since; stunned in fact, to learn that your five-year check up didn’t turn out as planned, and that you’ve been on this journey since then. Quality of life is important, and I am in awe of your grit and forbearance, and your blog to let us help understand what you’re going through and feeling. I’m so glad to be in touch with you again, even if it is by FB. (It’s how I keep in touch with most people these days), sad to admit, but it’s so CONVENIENT! And, I love emojis…

  4. I am happy your insurance covered this new drug. My sister also had breast cancer 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it mestasticized to her bones. This was discovered when she went in for back pain to her doc. Her insurance company has denied her coverage for the new drug, Ibrance. I contacted pfizer to see if they had a program to help low-income patients. They will not help at all. Her doc wants to start her on chemo once a week. When she asked him how long, he said we will have to play it by ear. She called me, crying, saying she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life being sick again from the chemo. We are at a loss. She will be getting medicare in December and hoping they will cover this. Sorry for such a long reply. I guess I am feeling desperate and wanted to vent. I pray all will go well for you. If you have any ideas for my sis, you can e-mail me at pdnfl@charter.net.

    1. Hi Patty, I don’t have a lot of information on ibrance and help in getting it, but some women I know who have lost insurance, or had problems getting it approved have had lots of great help from Pfizer. I know you said you did not, but maybe try this link. http://pfizerrxpathways.com/?step=1 You could also try the PAN organization. https://www.panfoundation.org/ Many are on medicare and ibrance is covered. I would also try to meet with the social worker in your sister’s oncology office to see what other financial supports they can offer. I’m sorry you and your sister are feeling overwhelmed. It is a tough marathon and there needs to be more money put into metastatic research so that more treatment options are out there.

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