I finished round 3 of chemo today, which means - barring any surprises - I'm halfway done. This is both exciting and yet, the prospect of not receiving chemo every three weeks freaks me out just a bit. What's going to kill any speck of cancer that might still be floating around, then? Oh, right - the Herceptin I'll still be on for another year or two, plus the hormone-supressing drugs that will make it impossible for me to ever blame a mood swing on hormones again.
Herceptin is a wonder drug, in case I haven't mentioned it before. I receive it every week until chemo is done, and then every three weeks from then on out. It's technically not chemo, but rather an antibody. From what I understand (scientists, help me out here), it specifically targets those HER-2 receptors on my tumor that act like an "on" switch and signal cancer cells to proliferate. Herceptin turns that switch off.
But hold on to your hats, folks, there's more. I'm told Herceptin then sends a message telling my white blood cells that the cancer cells are ready to be killed. How cool is that?!? I imagine little army dudes waving white flags to signal the assassin white blood cells as they float by. "This cell has surrendered, so you can just do your thing and eliminate it. Yes, sir, whenever you're ready." Yes, I did grow up an army brat - why do you ask?
In addition to Herceptin, I'll also take hormone blocking drugs for the foreseeable future. Since my tumor is slightly hormone-receptor positiive, to some extent it relies on estrogen and progesterone for fuel. One way to ensure a tumor-free future is to cut off that fuel supply, just in case there are any rogue cancer cells hanging around at the end of this.
Recently, I've gotten a lot of questions about the hormone suppressors and how they relate to menopause. Again, I'm no doctor, but my general understanding is that they don't technically cause menopause. Rather, they'll send my body into a chemically-induced menopause that may or may not be permanent. Unfortunately, chemically-induced doesn't mean side effect-free, and I'll still have the hot flashes and mood swings as I adjust to the drugs. (But I would like to bypass the weight gain and loss of bladder control, or whatever other symptoms are associated with menopause, if I can make that request to whoever's listening.)
Assuming that someday in the next 3-5 years I'll get clearance from my doctor to take a break from the hormone suppressors for a bit, my body might revert back to its pre-chemically-induced menopause, pre-chemo abilities and give us a shot at another child. I figure we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If the worst that comes of this whole experience is that it's just the three of us forever, that is more than okay with me.
Speaking of my body's abilities and these wonder drugs, though, my tumor is shrinking so much you guys. And I've still got three rounds to go in this fight.