Monday, April 30, 2012

Chronic Cancer

"So when are you done with treatment?"

That's a question that until recently had a fairly solid answer for most cancer patients. Many chemotherapy treatments have a beginning date and and ending date for each cycle.  A three month cycle or a six month cycle with an option for further treatment (if necessary) addresses the above question. There is no confusion because it is a solid timeline that people are used to hearing.

You can imagine the confusion when someone asks me that same question and I'm forced to say-"Never."

The problem with the question is that it doesn't allow for the current advancements in medicine.  Many cancers are now being treated differently than before. Chemotherapy in the traditional sense isn't the only treatment option being exercised to care for patients. New medications are being developed to help target specific cancer and cancer cells rather than attacking an entire body to reach a small section.

For me, I am on a daily TKI (Tyrosine Kinase  Inhibitor) that helps to manage my CML. The condition is chronic, it is not temporary, and unless someone attempts an ideally successful bone marrow transplant, currently there is no proven cure. I will take this TKI for the remainder of my life, as long as it continues to work, I don't develop a resistance to it, or the cancer researchers discover a cure through clinical trials.

Do NOT feel badly for me though. Prior to the early 2000's CML was almost certainly a death sentence. Traditional chemotherapy had little effect on the disease. With my TKI, I have a chance to live with my cancer and not die from it.

Don't get me wrong, my first thought when I was diagnosed was -"Get it out of me!" It's not an easy acceptance process when cancer is chronic, but still being alive three years past when I would have expired without the TKI, really helps.

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