Since being on Xalkori, I have been fortunate to have had few cancer-related problems. Most days I enjoy good-to-excellent health. This past November and December were rough, however. After returning from a trip to Japan in mid-October, I had trouble recovering from the usual jet-lag. The jet-lag turned to exhaustion, which led to fatigue, of the undescribeable variety. I also experienced bone achiness and weeks of headaches. (Headaches, for those of us with metastatic lung cancer on Xalkori, are particularly bothersome. Despite this targeted chemotherapy's ability to control cancer growth from the neck -> down, Xalkori doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, leaving our brains vulnerable to metastatic disease.) To complicate things, I'm a person who gets headaches; I've had them since childhood. So in November and December, I couldn't assess if my headaches were part of my overall fatigue, or if my cancer had spread to my brain. The worry of having brain cancer robbed me of much needed sleep...adding to my exhaustion.
In the Summer of 2015, because I had been doing so well, I had negotiated with my oncologist, Robinson Ortiz, MD, a less frequent tumor marker testing and imaging strategy. We had settled on blood drawing for tumor markers every two months, CT scans every six months, and brain MRI annually. I felt comfortable with this schedule because I had met with Ross Camidge, MD, PhD at the University of Colorado in the Spring. Dr. Camidge, responding to my concerns of over-exposure to radiation, reassured me that tumor marker testing would direct if I needed more frequent CT scans. I knew that this, a more relaxed testing schedule, was out-the-window if/when I became symptomatic.
So...in November and December I was symptomatic. I had blood work, CT scans of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis, a bone scan and a brain MRI in early December. I was shocked and equally relieved when all testing showed that my cancer remains stable. Toward the end of December, I started to feel better. Although I still have bone achiness, I no longer have daily headaches and I've started to have more energy. Added energy allows me to exercise more regularly, which always helps me feel better and stronger.
I don't know why I felt so crappy for those couple of months. Perhaps it has something to do with colder outdoor temperatures...I struggled last winter as well. My guess is that it's a problem, several layers deep...cancer, piled on top of my age, piled on top of winter, piled on top of my knee injury, frosted with run-of-the-mill stresses. Unlike my pre-cancer era, I'm no longer able to juggle life as successfully as I used to and I need to be more mindful of managing stress. I reminded myself of the mind-body-spirit triad that used to be so central to me. Somewhere along the way, I've become sloppy about conscientiously nurturing each facet of the triad. I allowed stresses at work, coupled with the craziness of the holiday season, (Halloween to New Year's Day), to override my well-being. I was turning into a depressed cancer patient.
It is now obvious to me how easily a person with a chronic illness can slip into a dark place. Although there are plenty of resources for taking care of my physical maladies, I have been less attentive to my mind and spirit needs, lately. So as part of my New Year's resolution, I plan to refocus on and rebalance the triad. Hope it helps...