January 9, 2014

Day 1, Iressa (gefitinib)

Finally got to meet the oncologist today, with his fellow.  I went in with as much hope as I could muster and came out frankly... disappointed.  Dr. B was friendly but I feel like his hands are tied with established "standards of care" in Canada.  We met his fellow first (I am starting to get a huge dislike for fellows; they tend to not say the right things);  I was angry/upset when he said "expecting to live 3-5 years (with this cancer) is unrealistic".... Screw you!! You are NOT the master of my fate.  I'd like to think I am optimistic... And would like to stay that way!  What a jerk! When Dr. B finally came in, he was calm and compassionate.  He's quite hopeful that I will respond well to the targeted drug therapy (my gene mutation is positive for EGFR exon 19 deletion so I am taking an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor), which I fortunately started today (fingers crossed!!). We discussed all the future expectations, drug side effects, follow up in 4 weeks, how to better manage my pain, etc.  Unfortunately, there aren't any clinical trials with my gene mutation in this area but there is one at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.... We are not opposed to moving.  We'll see, after our first follow up, where we want to be and after we talk to friends and family about our options.  I will request to not see the fellow next time. On the upside, he made us more detemined to prove him wrong!

We learned some interesting things about my new drug (Iressa/gefitinib) from the pharmacist at the cancer clinic.  Antioxidants can counteract its effectiveness!!  What? All that I knew is now officially out the door.  I have to stop taking my multivitamins, reduce green tea, watch how many fruits and vegetables I eat (there goes the juicing).  On top of that, I am now trying to stuff myself silly everyday (I have been watching my diet and making sure I don't over eat for so many years).  All this is totally foreign to me.  

Earlier this week, we went to the Cancer Centre for an orientation.  It's a well run centre with lots of support services.  We have an appointment booked with a dietician next week.  We are also going to see a counsellor to help us cope... This is becoming overwhelming for us and I just started treatment. Hope it gets better with time.  

Update October 24, 2014:
My naturopathic oncologist clarified the benefit of antioxidants.  That was in August so I am back on high doses of antioxidants:).  I don't doubt that the cancer centre's pharmacist truly believes in the contraindication of antioxidants with the use of Iressa but the naturopath's explanation of the differences in the cellular makeup and function of healthy vs cancer cells makes perfect sense to me.  My gut tells me he's right... So going back to what I know. Yay antioxidants!! 


  1. Thanks for the update Heing, you have been on my mind all day. I am hopeful your new drug will work, and interested in seeing what your dietician suggests. Remember to take one day at a time, and ask for help if you need it! We pray that you are surrounded by love and positivity!! Thinking of you - Tannis, Sameer, Maya & Camden <3

  2. Thinking of you daily. I'm glad the pharmacist gave you the knowledge to allow this new targeted drug therapy to work in the most effective way - the dietician will have more good suggestions regarding the best diet and foods for you to eat. BP- a patient I saw yesterday, said the two most important things that does wonders while living & fighting cancer (liver&stomach) for him (1) a positive mind set, it's the most important thing for him and (2) a routine. He has proved his doctors wrong. Prove that fellow wrong, Heing!! Positive thoughts and love being sent daily - Karen and extended family.

  3. Dear Heing,
    The love and support of your family & friends will be the best medicine for both of you. We will be there to listen when you want to talk. We will be there when you want to listen and we will talk. We'll also be there when when you just want to be held.

  4. You are the strongest woman I have ever met Heing, I have no doubts at all that you will prove that fellow wrong! My family has had to battle this fight for many years now, and I can definitely agree that a positive attitude and determination, both which you constantly display, make the world of a difference. Your ability to get such an amazing action plan together so efficiently is amazing and I look up to you and your courage. Sending my good thoughts to you and your family.
    Lots of love,

  5. Dear Heing,
    When we read the news about you having cancer we were shocked. In September when you visited us, you told us about the pain in your shoulder and that you could not work for some time. That this is the outcome of this, just seemed not to be real for some days. Or perhaps we did not want to believe it. Why you? But now reading your blog we realize that you are completely in the medical carousel. The way you write about what is happening to you, shows that you are positive and strong.
    This is very important. You can do this!!
    We still have good memories of your visit to Haarlem and the dinner we had at the beach together with our son Boudewijn. With the beautifull sunset.
    We wish you and Shaneel strength and all the best. You are in our minds!!
    Marleen and René
    Haarlem, Holland

  6. Gimme that name of that fellow and we'll sort him out! :)

  7. Wow lady, I have to admit, I've never met someone this close who got cancer. It's ironic that a woman so careful with how she lived and what she ate now has to battle this horrible disease. It's also ironic that we first met at a Terry Fox run. But who better to take this on, head on, then you. You are going to be our inspiration. We'll pray a 1000 prayers for you. Thank you for allowing us to share in this journey with you. Just let it out. Your friends and family are going to see you through. S is a wonderful support, God Bless that man. DAGS

  8. Thinking of you every day. Hope this week's appointments and consultations were more positive experiences. Big hugs.

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