Last week I went ahead with the first session of the third cycle of the iv chemo that I’m on. This afternoon I had a blood transfusion that will enable me to go ahead later this week with the second of the two sessions that make up the cycle.
Things are far from perfect on the blood front – thus today’s blood transfusion, for example – but they’re not disastrous. I’m just relieved to be notching up another cycle of the chemo that I started at the beginning of December.
The fact that I’ve only been on this chemo – eribulin – for a month-and-a-half means it’s still early days in terms of knowing whether it will be successful in keeping in check for a decent length of time the metastatic breast cancer for which I’ve been having treatment since late Spring 2019.
That said, there is another thing about which to feel relieved – indeed perhaps encouraged. My tumour marker, which in my case is a good indicator of cancer activity, has fallen again. While we don’t have bang up-to-date results, the test done early in Cycle 2 showed that it’s the lowest it’s been since I was first diagnosed. It’s not everything, but it is a very important part of the overall picture. Things can change very quickly, but falling levels at any time are clearly far better than rising levels.
Eribulin, also known as Halaven, is the fifth treatment I’ve been on. The previous four worked for varying lengths of time before my cancer outwitted them and spread a little more each time. The last treatment – paclitaxel, also iv chemo – only worked for a few months so it’s understandable I’m nervous about how I’ll fare on this latest one.
The cancer is in my bone marrow among other places and is preventing my body from making healthy blood, particularly red blood cells. Blood transfusions* – to increase my haemoglobin level – have become a way of life. I’ve been having them almost monthly since May last year. However, on the past two occasions, ie since starting on eribulin, I’ve needed one unit rather than two. In my world, where not bad news pretty much equates to good news, that’s a positive.
Any side-effects I had from eribulin over the first two cycles have subsided or are under control and I’m feeling really well. Each cycle lasts 21 days. Treatment sessions are on Day 1 and Day 8. My Day 8 session of Cycle 3 is on Wednesday this week. Barring any mishaps, there will then be a full 12-day gap before my next hospital appointment, which will be for blood tests towards Day 21 of this cycle. Then the whole thing starts again, beginning with an appointment with the consultant where you find out whether you need another transfusion, whether your tumour marker has gone up or down, whether things are looking good or whether there are signs of trouble and, ultimately, whether you will – as you fervently hope – go ahead with the next cycle.
I’ve been at the hospital twice almost every week since starting on eribulin. I’ll accept whatever it takes to keep me well, but sometimes it can feel pretty relentless. I’m really looking forward to the break.
*Our two boys promised me as a birthday present last July that they would both become blood donors. Covid jabs, Covid infections, colds and other assorted obstacles got in the way but the older one (23) is indeed now a donor. I’m delighted. The younger one (21) almost made it but found out on the day he was due to donate that he’d have to wait another two months as he’d recently had his ear pierced. He’ll get there.