Saturday, August 12, 2017

Throwing Stuff At The Wall

My new medication came yesterday. It's called Zytiga. It comes with a side of Prednisone, and it comes in this attractive packaging. You know something's seriously wrong when you get deliveries like this.

What it says on the bag is wrong. Zytiga is not chemo. It's hormone treatment. But apparently CVS Pharmacy thinks all cancer medication is chemo. Or maybe they just don't have hormone therapy bags. Xtandi came in the same bags, and it isn't chemo either.

I've been expecting these pills. I took my first pills today, and I'll keep taking them for as long as they work. There was much more in the box than the two bottles of pills pictured. There were two pill boxes marked with days of the week. There was a timer so you can time when to take your pills. There was a glossy brochure filled with pictures of attractive middle-aged people who are apparently dying of cancer. Actually, I think they were models. I'm pretty sure I've seen the same people in Viagra ads.

What makes this one different than the treatments that came before it is that, for the first time since I began treatment for my cancer, I am not doing doing what my oncologist recommends. He wants me to do chemo. He doesn't think Zytiga will be very effective for me, or at least not for very long. But he can't guarantee good or long-lasting results from chemo, either. At this point, we're just throwing stuff at the wall to see if anything sticks. Nothing has so far, but we keep throwing.

I think that expression was originally about pasta. Has anyone actually thrown pasta at the wall to see if it stuck? If it sticks, it's done, right? Well, my pasta has apparently been al dente for two years.

Starting this medication did not come without some drama. Very little does in my life these days. When the package was delivered yesterday, I pulled all of this stuff out of the box it came in and looked it over. The more I did, the less comfortable I became. When I looked at the bottle of Zytiga in the chemo bag and contemplated opening it and taking four of the pills inside first thing this morning, I was filled with a feeling of revulsion. A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt an unexplainable aversion to taking these pills. On the one hand, it felt like my brain saying yes but my heart saying no. That happens a lot. On the other, it felt like I was just tired of taking pills. I wanted to be done with that. To be honest, I still do.

I told my wife about how I was feeling. She made all of the rational points in favor of taking Zytiga. But it wasn't about rationality. It was just a feeling I couldn't explain. She's lived with me long enough to know how big I am on following my heart. Ultimately, I have to do what I feel is right, no matter how it looks.

As I thought about it last night, I decided to make a list of pros and cons for taking Zytiga. Here's what I came up with.

1. Little to no expected side effects.
2. Expected to add a few months to the six I can expect before I start to experience symptoms.
3. It's 100% covered.
4. Prednisone may help my sore shoulder.
5. Melanie thinks I should.

1. My heart tells me not to.

Not much of a comparison, when you think about it that way. But to tell you the truth - which I always do - if I had felt this morning like I felt last night, I wouldn't have taken my first dose of Zytiga this morning. I would have waited until I felt differently, if I ever did. But the aversion passed with the dawn, and I took my pills.

But this is it. Unless a clinical trial is discovered for me in the next six months, this will be the last conventional treatment I'll take for my cancer. These pills and one more Lupron shot. Maybe my aversion episode was a case of senioritis. I can see graduation coming, and I'm tired of being a student. It would be one thing if this treatment was expected to cure me, or significantly extend my life, but no treatment is expected to do that.

Even so, I am not sad or depressed. It's a gorgeous day here in Denver, Colorado. My wife and I will go to lunch and see a movie this afternoon. We're looking forward to spending time with close friends next week, and so excited about Morsefest at the end of this month we can hardly stand ourselves. I feel fine. I just get tired easily is all.

I am thankful for every day with no symptoms. Each one is a gift from God. He gives me these good days, not treatment. When I'm done with this treatment and keep having good days that no one can explain, he will get all of the credit. I just have one more strand of pasta to throw at the wall. If this one doesn't stick, it will be time for dessert. #waroncancer #bearingwitness


  1. Always makes me cry so blessed by your honesty and for being willow to share it so openly still praying in ohio