Thursday, August 15, 2013

dad update

for any new readers, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer back in october. you can read more about it here

i wanted to give an update on my dad, first and foremost for my memory, but also because i know people wonder how he is doing and ask me about him often (which is very much appreciated). we are nearing 10 months since his diagnosis (i must add, he is past the "average" survival time for his type of diagnosis. crazy to think!). i would say the last month or so has been his toughest yet, but he is still doing really well overall. he bikes or walks nearly every day (heck, he biked 14 miles the other day), and enjoys pretty much everything he did in life pre-cancer, which is amazing. 

a little over a month ago, he had a routine scan which showed that although his cancer did not spread anywhere new (thank goodness!), his existing lung tumor did grow a little bit, which meant the drug he had been on for the past 8 months was no longer working. this was to be expected. a patient's success with any particular chemo drug can range from no success at all to staying on the same drug and seeing positive results (or at least not negative results) for a few years. most people, like my dad, fall somewhere in the middle. the doctor said we should not panic and the next plan of attack was to put him on a new drug and see how it goes. my dad has a very rare gene mutation, so there isn't much data out there on how he might react to the various drug options. so, everything is sort of a shot in the dark. the doctor decided to put him on tarceva, which is a pill-form chemo drug that he takes everyday. it has some side effects (most commonly a rash), but can be very effective for certain cancer patients. 

his first week on the drug went pretty well. he had heard that getting a rash was a sign that the drug was working, but he didn't get one the first week. finally it showed up...with a vengeance! he had a couple really miserable weeks with a bad rash all over his face, scalp, and chest. it looked like horrible sunburn/acne. poor guy. it was painful and he had trouble sleeping at night. he was thisclose to quitting the pill because he didn't think he could take one more day. he called the doctor and they told him if he could stick it out, it should improve. they prescribed him both antibiotic pills and cream to help. and luckily they did! a few days after starting those, the rash started to clear up a bit and became less painful. a few days later, he went to the doctor and they agreed that he had a very extreme rash, but they were happy he kept pushing forward. the doctor said while it's not always the case, more often than not the people who get the worst rashes have the most success with the drug because it means that their cells are sensitive to it. that was really great for my dad (and us) to hear. he's gotten used to his low grade rash now and things have sort of gone back to normal. 

he had his first scan since going on tarceva on monday and the follow up appointment with his doctor yesterday. the scan once again showed good news and bad news. the good news is that his secondary tumors (spine and shoulder) did not grow at all and seem to be in-active. the bad news is that the primary tumor is his lung has continued to grow, slowly. a bit discouraging, but definitely could have been worse! his doctor decided to take him off tarceva to try another option. so, now he will go back to having chemo every 3 weeks with a drug that has little to no side effects. my dad is feeling good about this new plan. he is keeping a positive attitude that they will eventually find a drug that will keep things in check, since "cure" is not a word associated with lung cancer. he has a wonderful doctor, who told him today "we're not even close to game over, so you can relax." we are holding on to that hope! 

this is my new favorite picture of my parents with azalea, taken on my dad's 58th birthday last week:

13 comments:

Kris said...

Thanks for posting an update. I hope the new drug keeps the tumors at bay. I'm keeping you and your family in my thoughts!

Becky said...

Thanks for the update, Melissa. Prayers for your dad and family. I'm sure it is so stressful to be thinking/worrying about his health and well-being. Love that pic of your parents and Azalea!

Brittany said...

I am glad that he is still staying active and enjoying life. Definitely praying for your whole family.

Lisa said...

Keeping your Dad in my prayers. He sounds like a fighter! With such a wonderful Doctor and a great support system and family, he has many people to fight alongside of him! Sending all good thoughts!

Katie said...

Thanks for the update, I am glad to read some good news in there too! It sounds like he has a great doctor,and I hope that the new drug works well for him. Keeping you in my prayers!

Sarah said...

So glad you posted this- I was just wondering the other day how he was doing! Keeping you, your dad and family in my thoughts!

~Dawn~ said...

Your dad and whole family are in my prayers often. Thank you for the update. His positive attitude and all the support from family and friends is what will get him through!

Bridget said...

Thanks for the update. Thoughts & prayers for your dad & family. I'm glad to hear he is being positive. I hope this knew treatment nips it in the butt!!

ajs {of MN} said...

Thanks for sharing an update, I often wonder! I am glad things are being caught and worked out- i love the pictures of Azalea with her grandma & grandpa, so happy!

Syndal said...

So sorry Melissa that you and your family are going through this with your dad :( There's nothing easy about it. Are you doing ok?

Faith said...

I'm so sorry to read this. But I'm glad that your dad has a great doctor. Sending prayers and positive thoughts for your dear dad.

Leah said...

I just read your first post from back in December and now this one. Prayers for continued progress, no matter how small it is, right?

Sally said...

Good to read about how things are going. What a tough road for all of you. That picture of your folks with Azalea is so precious... definitely a keepsake.

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