My Personal Cancer Journey — A Ray of Sunshine amid the Gloom

On January 24, 2013, instead of beginning my chemo treatments, we received some excellent news. I have a mutation which qualifies me as a candidate for the Chemo pill. The pill is an alternative to regular chemo, but is the result of a mutation which is present only in a small percentage of the human population (about 15%). My oncologist, who primarily treats lung cancer has encountered less than five (5) former smokers in the eight (8) years that he has been practicing who have qualified for the pill. What an incredible stroke of luck that I should be a member of that tiny group!

The pill works very differently from chemo. My doctor likens chemo to a weed killer — it just creates a swath of destruction through the cells that it encounters. The pill works directly on cancer cells. Medically and scientifically, we think of cancer cells as immortal — they do not die but continue to reproduce. This pill changes cancer cells, programming them to die as normal cells do. The process takes a little longer but it is much more effective.

The advantages of the pill over chemo are many

1. The chemo pill is 65-70% effective while chemo is only 40-45% effective

2. The chemo pill is taken in the comfort of home and does not require a hospital visit

3. The pill has very few side effects and these side effects are much easier to control

4. Periodic blood tests are fewer with the pill

5. There is no deleterious effect on the immune system, meaning that I can be around children (especially my grandchildren) and I don’t need to take precautions with food (I was originally told that I should stay away from raw foods because there is a risk of contamination).

6. With the pill, I can travel, since I can carry my treatment with me

7. Future options are much greater with the pill. Even if it stops being effective (this often happens after about 1 year), there may be other pills that are being developed which might be available in the future. And I can still begin regular chemo treatment if there is nothing else available after a year.

8. The elation and excitement that I am experiencing since I am in that select group can only increase my positive feelings and improve my attitude

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