Monday, June 15, 2015

Around the Web: Like Clockwork

I've been chewing my nails something fierce lately, and I haven't been able to put my finger on why (no pun intended). Then it hit me when the scheduler from my oncologist's office called this morning: I am due for my three-month scans.

Except this time I'm not having three-month scans. I got bumped to every four months, which apparently in my world is just going to mean an extra month of anxiety. My body is that well-adapted to this cycle. My brain knows just when to start acting on-edge, when nightly Xanax pills might be in order once again. After all, I've been doing this for almost four years now.

{photo credit}
It's like clockwork over here.

Except it isn't.

So now I'm all thrown off schedule, my right thumbnail is bitten to the quick, and I do have scans on the books five weeks from now. So I better figure out how to get this anxiety under control because I can't take five weeks on high alert. I will literally run out of nails.

I also made the mistake of mentioning this article from last week's round-up to my doctor by way of his assistant, and so my doctor promptly ordered a bone density scan for me. I've never had one, so this will provide a baseline. It is also, predictably, adding to my anxiety. I don't know if it's cancer, or parenthood, or just being in my mid-thirties, but my mind worries about every possible thing that could go wrong, and not just when it comes to scans (from our toaster catching fire, to getting car-jacked at a stoplight because of course, to sinkholes even though we live in Arizona not Florida. The list goes on.)

Anyhow, here's what I saw around the web this week (but I'm not asking my doctor about any of them, lest he order any more tests for me).

At Long Last, Answering Some Questions about 'Exceptional Responders'

"Silva is what researchers call an “exceptional responder,” the rare patient who has a surprising, dramatic response to a drug. . .

Silva’s story, and those of other exceptional responders, have led to an intriguing set of questions: Could researchers use technologies such as genetic sequencing to figure out what made Silva’s tumor respond to treatment? Could they mine that data for clues that might help other patients? Could they ultimately find a way to make the exceptional more routine?"

Actually, I'd happily submit to more tests if it was to figure out why I've been so lucky, why I've responded to drugs the way I have, and maybe lead to answers that could pass some of that luck on to someone else. 

Last Week it Was the Bones, This Week the Lungs?

"Scientists at the University of Edinburgh said they have discovered a “trigger” that allows breast cancer cells to spread to the lungs. . .

Prof Jeffrey Pollard, the centre’s director, said: “Our findings open the door to the development of treatments that target the tumour microenvironment, which may stop the deadly progression of breast cancer in its tracks.”"

Will the Breast Cancer Test Kit be Next to the Pregnancy Tests at the Drugstore?

"Researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Medical Center -- University of Freiburg have developed an approach for detecting breast cancer by means of urine samples. The method involves determining the concentration of molecules that regulate cell metabolism and that are often dysregulated in cancer cells. These molecules, referred to as microRNAs, enter into the urine over the blood. By determining the composition of microRNAs in the urine, the scientists succeeded in establishing with 91 percent accuracy whether a test subject was healthy or diseased."

A Case of Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Or Sideways...)

"Countering previously held beliefs, researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have discovered that inhibiting the immune receptor protein TLR4 may not be a wise treatment strategy in all cancers. This is because TLR4 can either promote or inhibit breast cancer cell growth depending on mutations in a gene called TP53. . .

"This looks like a promising avenue to develop drugs for the worst kinds of cancers," says Brown. "However, if we wish to target this immune pathway, we better pay attention to the TP53 status of the tumor.""

Finding Relief from Post-Mastectomy Pain

Mine is not so much pain as it is a significant tightness throughout my right pectoral muscle and armpit region (to use the anatomically correct term, I'm sure) that no amount of stretching seems to alleviate (although yoga helps tremendously). Chris, if you're reading, I think monthly spa massages would help, too.

My goal {photo credit}
"“Pain is a psychological trigger for worry about cancer recurrence,” said Julie Silver, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in cancer rehabilitation. “Treating PMPS really helps to relieve that anxiety.”

PMPS is generally defined as nerve-related pain that persists for at least three months after breast cancer surgery, though it can take up to six months to develop. It tends to occur in the upper chest or the underside of the arm, causing pain that women often describe as burning or shooting, and it sometimes presents, as it did in my sister, as an unbearable itch."

I Might Have to Ask My Doctor About A Daily Aspirin Regimen

He can't order any tests based on a question about aspirin, can he? 

"A daily dose of aspirin may be effective at blocking breast tumour growth, Indian-origin researchers have claimed.

Dr Sushanta Banerjee, research director of the Cancer Research Unit at the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and his team found that aspirin may be able to ensure that conditions around cancer stem cells are not conducive for reproduction."

And How Law School May Have Led to My Cancer Diagnosis*

"“People really should elevate the importance of sleep to the same level they do diet and exercise to improve their overall health and well-being,” he said."

On that note, I'm going to bed. 

* Allegedly.


  1. I hope you really went to bed! Haha. Great updates.

  2. I too find myself worrying about everything, not just things related to cancer. One of my fears is leaving my apt. and getting a call from the super that there was a fire. I worry about my pets getting hurt.

    I often check my stove (more than once) before leaving my apt. And even after locking my front door when leaving my apt., I still call my super to ask him to please triple check for me. I am not sure what it is but it may be related to the fact that we now have a "neuritic life."

    I felt very anxious when my Onco wanted to see me 2x a year after been used to seeing her more frequently. I like the idea of been watched all the time so I understand your fears and level of anxiety. I have gotten better at it but I made her promise she will continue to see me 2x yearly (unless something else develops). Maybe talk to your Onco about these feelings you have which are all normal.

    Good luck with your upcoming appt.

    Thank you for sharing all this great information on new developments.

    1. Ah, yes, the end-of-treatment anxiety. Like suddenly you're walking a tightrope without a net. I think once you have a cancer diagnosis, anxiety is part of the equation to some degree. I've mostly learned how to recognize and manage it, but not always!

      And the fire thing is one of my fears, too. I am always checking my stove.

  3. and here's another.....