I have been so grateful for the encouraging messages I've received from all my readers over the past few weeks. So I thought I'd give you a quick update.
I began a new cancer treatment a month ago. I'm assured it's the most progressive type for me. It's as if the researchers went into a lab and developed a treatment that is tailor made for the type of cancer I get. In order to avail of it, I needed to tick a couple of boxes. I needed to have triple negative breast cancer - tick. It needed to be brought on by the BRCA1 gene - tick.
So, as we know the fundamental cause of cancer is damaged or faulty genes. Genes are encoded within DNA, so anything that damages DNA can increase the risk of cancer. However, a number of genes in the same cell need to be damaged before it can become cancer.
PARPs are a family of enzymes involved in various activities in response to DNA damage.
The new medicine I am taking are called PARP inhibitors. In basic terms (which are the only ones I can grasp) Parp inhibitors are a group of blockers of the enzyme poly ADP ribose polymerase. They have been developed in the lab by scientists and the are all about 'fixing' the cancer, rather than obliterating it and 'killing' it the way chemotherapy or radiation can.
Blocking PARP may help to stop cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, causing them to die.
What all that translates as for me and other patients with a similar strain of cancer is this:
I've to take tablets twice a day. There are no bags of chemotherapy and no radiation. So I won't loose my hair and my blood isn't effected. So I'm not at risk of low blood counts.
I figured it would be akin to popping two paracetamol, morning and night and flying around as normal.
Oh no... The reality has been rather different.
I began by taking four tablets twice daily. Each one is a bit larger than double the size of a normal paracetamol tablet. So big enough to tranquillise a tyrannosaurus rex. They are snot green with nasty black stripes and look scary enough to frighten the cancer away by simply waving them at the lumps. After day one and eight T-rex bullets, my vision began to separate. Next came violent vomiting with a head ache so terribly painful that I feared my brain was trying to escape out my ear. I couldn't bear daylight, so I wore sunglasses in bed or while crawling to the bathroom to vomit.
Never in my previous nine diagnoses have I vomited from any cancer treatment. So this was a new one on me. Anti-nausea medication didn't help and I honestly would've dug a hole in the back garden and climbed into it, if I'd had the energy. Next followed two days of sweats alongside the other vileness. Sounds, light and general living were all a trial and I would've happily passed out but the final insult was that I was wide awake - all day and all night.
Mercifully my oncologist allowed me to reduce the dose.
The world began to come back into focus and a tiny spark of hope sprang forth. I have a definite pattern established at this point.
I must eat before I take the tablets. I cannot drink coffee (boo) or anything with caffeine in it. I haven't drunk alcohol for months, but I'm assuming that wouldn't help either. And the most frustrating part is that I've the energy of a sloth. I'm managing my day by doing things in short spurts. I can get up and do the school run and a few bits around the house before going back to bed. I rest for an hour and I can do a few more things. Thankfully I am sleeping now - but perhaps my body is making up for the lack of sleep in the beginning and I now have my own version of narcolepsy instead. I could literally sleep on the side of a mountain on a bed of nails.
But I am fighting back. I'm attempting to do a mind over matter thing where I tell myself I'm not a bit tired and I make myself move. I've just started adding a walk to my day, which is a blessed relief. My weight has risen steadily even though I'm not eating half as much as before. I feel this is grossly unfair as I had envisaged myself having a perfect bikini body as I vomited my way through the beginning stages of this treatment. I know being ultra thin is completely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things, but all I'm saying is that it doesn't add up so therefore it's not one bit fair - grrr.
Moaning aside, there are incredible things happening with my cancer tumours. Yes, I do realise that this is without doubt the most important factor. Up until now, the cancer has been dotted happily around my neck, shoulder, underarm and head. The tumours have been enjoying a fabulous party, speeding, getting bigger, sorer and more rock hard by the day.
Oh how the tables are turning my friends! Some have shrunk and others are deflating and softening like butter in a microwave. So long bastards! I hope you're choking and feeling the pain as much as I've done for the past few months.
I'm off my nerve blocker painkillers and surviving on over the counter ones - only when I need them.
So things are going in the right direction! I am very hopeful that my cancer will be obliterated. I am crawling out of the pile of ashes and patting myself down.
I will continue to walk. Some day soon I hope I can swim again and who knows maybe my jeans won't be as tight!
For anyone reading this, if you have been diagnosed with cancer, or if you know someone who has, new and amazing drugs are seeping through. The hope and positivity surrounding cancer treatments in the future knows no bounds.
Research is the key element in all of this. Without funding for clinical trials the tablets I am now taking wouldn't exist. So if you've donated to cancer research and wonder whether or not it actually makes a difference, I can assure you it does. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Many of you will know I am an ambassador for Breast Cancer Ireland. Their funds are all raised by the public and go directly to research. If you can spare €4 please text CURE to 50300. For readers outside of Ireland I urge you to make a donation, no matter how small to your local cancer RESEARCH group.
Thank you all for the kind wishes, messages of support and general tsunami of love that I constantly feel. I am certain that talking about cancer and showing peer to peer support is vital. I know it keeps me going. I'm off for my walk now. I'll look like a clock work dolly as I shuffle, but I have an image in my head that I look like one of those swift power walkers, so once I don't pass any mirrors I'll be fine!
Love and light to you all