Last Friday, I had an appointment with a new oncologist at Group Health. On Thursday, after the disastrous news from the genetic mutation testing and the delay in informing me from GH, my daughter and my friend, Diane, convinced me that it would be in my best interest to see a doctor as soon as possible to get a new plan in place to treat the cancer. So when I called Group Health Thursday afternoon, the only doctor who was quickly available, was the new doctor from Tacoma, Dr. R, who had appointments in Seattle, on Friday. I made one for 11 am, so both Diane and my daughter could attend.
Dr. R was a warm, empathethic and competent oncologist. I was impressed with her overall knowledge and the level of care she provided in our initial visit. She was of the opinion that the next step for third line treatment would be chemotherapy with either taxotere as a the single agent or gemcitabene (gemzar). Taxotere has significant side effects, including major fatigue, and total hair loss, with a 35% chance of some success. Gemzar had fewer side effects and its success rate is 25%. Given my luck with the odds through this entire process, neither seems palatable to me.
At about 1pm, Friday, I received an email from Dr. C at Group Health informing me that Group Health would cover my care with Dr. M at Seattle Cancer Care. At least they would cover the cost of appointments with him. So, although I am initially very impressed with Dr. R at Group Health, I am going to take GH up on their offer and turn my treatment over to Dr. M.
Tonight, I also got a call from my dear friend, Mary Pat, the friend I went to Hawaii with. It turns out that she's the administrator for the medical school at the University of Colorado and friends with an internationally known oncologist, Dr. Ross Camidge. You would have thought this might have come up in our conversations over dinner or at the pool with our umbrella drinks in hand, but NOOOO. Dr. Camidge is one of the pre-eminent experts in the field of ALK rearrangement, and as a personal favor to Mary, he has agreed to review my medical records to see if he can come up with treatment recommendations that include other clinical trials that I might qualify for. As Joni Mitchell used to sing, "two heads are better than one." So, that helps me end today on a positive note.
It has been a tough week. Along with the disappointing test news, I am noticing that my cough is getting worse and so is my shortness of breath. I had to take an Ambien to get past the cough last night.
The prospect of a less than 50% chance of success with the 3d line chemo, which promises to take away most of my current quality of life was also causing me a great deal of heartache and I was far more weepy today, than I have been in a very long time.
I saw my family doctor today for my annual checkup and I mentioned to her my disappointment in the Group Health system and how she handled my cancer diagnosis last fall. I had intended to do this when I met with her, but it's hard for me to bring things like this up with the people who have disappointed me, and it left me feeling depressed rather than relieved. So Mary's call tonight helped bring me back out of the abyss. As did dinner at my friend, Anne's, and the cheese cake from Juniors in Brooklyn, that my friend Katy sent as a surprise. It arrived today and has been rather well sampled and appreciated.
And the other good news is that the Lung Association of Washington through their great attorney/fundraiser, Brent, gave me 4 tickets to the Mariners/Yankees game on July 8 with the promise that my guests and I can also go to batting practice. That, despite the M's terrible season thus far, is also something to look forward to.
Blessings on those who continue to follow me, and those who send me emails during the sometimes long stretches between posts. I appreciate them so much.