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Chemo #2, Cycle 8, Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire Baby!

Had an interesting chat with my oncologist yesterday. I went in, expecting a pretty routine appointment (shake hands, make a few off-handed jokes, then head up to infusion). However, he came in without the usual smile on his face so I was a bit worried. Here’s what he had to say:

Turns out the immunotherapy drug I have receiving (lartuvo/olaratumab/olara) in addition to my chemotherapy drug (doxarubasin/adriamycin) was recently in a stage 3 trial for FDA approval, and it turns out it was found to be ineffective in patients with soft-tissue sarcoma, so the FDA is planning to pull approval of the drug once the gov’t shutdown let’s them. Real bummer right? If you also use Lartuvo (olaratumab/olara) you can find the press release here.

So what does this entail for ya boi? Well, let’s take a step back and look at what the plan was before the FDA was expecting to pull approval on my cancer drug. Originally, the plan was to give me the maximum dose of adriamycin in combination with olara (8 cycles) and then continue getting doses of olara for an undetermined amount of time until the cancer either returns or is deemed to be in remission. Basically a forever plan to ultimately control my cancer forever. Unfortunately, now that they will no longer be able to give olara, that dream is out the window (much like my hopes of ever not being bald). So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll notice the title of this blog says (cycle 8), which means yesterday will be my day of adriamycin ever, which means that now I just won’t be receiving any sort of cancer drugs in the forseen future.

Here are my thoughts on this matter:

  1. D’oh!
  2. Wild timing for the press release. The week before I finish adria? Uncanny!
  3. Silver lining: my oncology team has a number of patients who have been receiving just olara after finishing their adria for over 20 cycles. If my math is correct, 20 cycles at 2 weeks a cycle, is like a long time. And now that it turns out that they’ve been getting infused with a drug no more effective than a bag of saline for the past long time, that means they’ve basically had no growth in their tumors due to the lasting effects of adriamycin. What that means for me is that it is not out of the question for the adriamycin I just finished to be able to keep my cancer under control for an extended period of time. Not forever, but maybe a few years. And in the world of cancer research, that’s a pretty long time.
  4. Other silver lining: I’m finished with chemo for the forseeable future!! Yippee for me!! As is tradition when I finish chemo, took a nice snapchat of myself shotgunning a nice brewski. I even have a fiance this time so she joined in as well!! Now it’s recovery time which means a few weeks of feeling shitty per usual, then some energy return, then hopefully the loss of my hemorrhoids, then being able to start hitting the gym again, and hopefully come wedding time I’ll be fit as fiddle with a baller moutache to boot!
  5. Whatever the opposite of a silver lining is: even though this is good news (sorta), it does come with some stipulations. For starters, I’m not in remission. Last time I got off chemo, I was in remission with no visible tumors or growth. This time, I have plenty of visible tumors, they’re just not growing. That means that my cancer will likely return faster than it did last time (I think?) and I’ll have less time to catch it. Not the worst thing in the world, but still worrisome. This also means I’m going to have a still existing disease in my body that I am choosing not to treat, which means one thing: anxiety. Right now I’m doing the cancer equivalent of not finishing a bottle of antibiotics. The symptoms are gone, but Lord knows that cancer is still there waiting for me to get comfy. So per the title of this blog, I am out of the frying pan that is chemotherapy, but I’m heading right into the flames of living with the knowledge of having untreated cancer. On the bright side, I’ve been here before. I know what to expect and I’m ready with a therapist and ativan this time.

So per the cardinal rule of cancer treatment, all good news comes with bad news, and yesterday was no different. Yes I’m off chemo, no I’m not cured. Your classic “give me a cookie then kick me in the nuts” situation. So that leaves me with this: let’s have some beers and celebrate. I can’t control how long my cancer will be stable for, so no point in worrying right? Let’s just celebrate the good news, and deal with the bad news when it comes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy a Four Loko, because nothing says celebration like 16 oz of malt liquor that takes like cough syrup!

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