When Traztuzumab Ceases To Be Just An Item for the Test…
When someone you know, most especially someone in the family, falls ill – diagnosed with cancer of the breast, a recurrent one after close to 5 years of being in remission, it is just not about multiple choice anymore. I could prepare myself for a gazillion multiple choice questions in the written exams or how to nail the CS eventually, like anyone out there hoping to get into a specialty program, but for many unnerving moments I found myself just stopping blank and coming to terms with some seemingly crazy reality that makes me say to myself, “… this could not be happening.” I do still have that “syndrome” that always allows a space for disbelief producing a sense of unspoken but ironically believed invulnerability, that because we are in the medical field (my sister included), we are invincible. And of course that includes cancer. (No matter what the books and logic say!)
Reading and knowing about Traztuzumab to me has been previously, apart from it being an anticancer drug for Her2 positive cancer cells, just associated with a pain to spell, to pronounce, and a big hunch that it is not coming out in a basic examination for licensures. (But who really knows?!). But that is just it. A drug I read often in the books. A drug I should know or be familiar with. For those with certain types of cancers. Other people. Not for me. Certainly not for someone in my family. Anyway, that is until I’ve learned of my sister’s recurrent bout with the big C. That I started paying more attention to this drug that almost sounds like one of Saruman’s minions.
[With one of her friends who, together with the rest of her work friends, regularly go with her to her chemotherapy sessions. This same group of people have regular prayer get togethers with some Karaoke afterwards (I’ve been to one!) to pray for and with my sister, her family, and our family.]
[These latter two photographs have been grabbed from one of my sister’s work friends’ social page. Thanks, A!]
After 12 rounds of her chemotherapy with Traztuzumab (Herceptin) along with Paclitaxel (Taxol)…after so many battles with undesired hypersensitivity reactions, on many occasions idiosyncratic…after many many trips to MD Anderson Cancer Center (if there was a mileage program for such, she would have gotten a lot of round trip tickets wherever she wanted to go!) for diagnostics, consults (including ER visits and overstays), and an emergency admission, her recent diagnostics showed a reduction of the tumor by 1/3 its size (I’m not writing down many specifics on purpose here like the original size of tumor, location, staging, etc…). With that, we all breathed. And by this time, I’ve fallen in love with Traztuzumab already! And its partnership with Paclitaxol did wonders for my sister thus far.
After she finishes her 16 rounds total of chemotherapy, she will undergo surgery and radiotherapy and will be made to continue enjoying my best friend, Traztuzumab for a course of one more year.
This blog obviously understates the entire experience, especially the suffering and the fight. It fails to mention her doctors and nurses’ dedication. It fails to recognize her family’s and my parents’ daily effort to be there for her. But that perhaps will be for another day.
For now, I will hold on to this good news and her continued strength and bravery as an individual and as a patient.
Just another story on my end. Another learning. Not the kind we find in our books.