Luckily my dr had arranged for genetic testing and the results are in. Positive for EGRF. So he is able to offer me a clinical trial. Tarceva, which is tablet based, and pertuzumab. And so starts 9 weeks of hell. Tarceva is known for its side effects and I get them all, at grade 3 level. Lose nearly 20 ks, the rash makes me look like the scientific experiement that I am, diarreah, low potassium and magnesium, borderline blood results, and hair loss! We drop the dose etc and dr is concerned I need to come off it but I am determined to get to the 9 weeks scan results. I would wake up in the morning, just wanting the day to end. I spent a lot of time sitting on the bathroom floor, in lieu of fainting (and discovered that the floor wasn't as clean as I thought it was). Yet, other than a few days I did work through the period. I remember one day walking into work along a city street in Melbourne, a daggy hat on my head, eyes streaming, and rash like the plague. A beggar came up to me, staring at his feet as he got up the courage to beg for some money. He slowly raised his eyes to my face and said 'oh dear, poor you!". I thought he was going to give me money!
But we got to the end of the 9 weeks and the scan results. All tumours shrunk to scar tissue only! Could not have got a better result. But was it worth it? And this is one of the constant tests - are the side effects worth the results. Was this living?
So I got a 2 weeks reprieve to recoup, and then back on an ever decreasing dose, finally getting down to 50 mg of the tarceva. And even then side effects were pretty horrific. Rash remained, thumbs and big toe nails contently infected (couldn't wear shoes for 18 months), skin splits and the list went on and on.
In the end I managed 2 years of the trial, never free from the side effects. Never regained the weight or the hair, but managed to work most of the time. But very slow progression in the last 6 months on the trial meant that the honeymoon was over and we needed to look for something new.
Decided to come off the trial, and the pertuzumab, and increase the tarceva back to the full dosage of 150 mg.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.