I’ve been in sort of a treatment lull for several weeks. My last radiation treatment was on Friday, November 13, and although the boost area in the middle of my chest got bright pink, there was never any real pain or discomfort. The outermost layer of skin cells has mostly flaked or sloughed off now (“peeled” isn’t really the right word) and the skin underneath is a lot less pink. Getting very close to normal looking.
Since the 13th, the focus has been on my cough. The radiology oncologist, suspecting pneumonitis (inflammation of the alveoli, or air sacs, in the lungs), put me on a 12-day taper of prednisone. Three days of 40 mg, three of 30 mg, etc. The cough seemed to be getting better, then recurred just 24 hours after I took the last tablet. So she prescribed more tablets and I started with 10 mg a day. The idea was to figure out what dose would control the cough. I took it all the way up to 40 mg one day, and then tapered back down again, without ever finding a dose that definitely seemed to work. (So hard to evaluate a cough objectively.) So now I’ve got a third bottle of prednisone tabs with instructions to just take 10 mg a day. Maybe the passage of time will do more than higher doses of prednisone.
I’ll be seeing the pulmonologist on Dec. 7 (got it moved up a week), when I hope to finally start making progress on this cough. I’ll have had breathing tests before then (although simply breathing has never seemed like a problem), and likely another specialized CT scan of some kind. The previous CT scan did show signs of pneumonitis, I was told (by a nurse, not one of my doctors). Hopefully that’s the only thing causing the cough and it can be resolved.
Meantime, the medical oncologist called and said he would definitely not proceed with the Herceptin infusions until the cough is cleared up. Unfortunately I also understood him to say that he might not proceed with it at all since because at my age there might be other things developing (the actual cause of the cough, for example) that need to be dealt with. Sounded like he was preparing me for the possibility that what’s been done so far — the chemo and radiation — has done a pretty good job and there might not be any more cancer treatment. I’m not a glutton for punishment, but I’d be really disappointed and concerned if we don’t complete the treatment regimen he originally outlined. I’d worry a lot more about a recurrence than I would otherwise.
I’d have issues with any doctor deciding not to treat me for something simply because of my age. On the other hand, if some totally unrelated condition or disease is manifesting, then of course it needs to be addressed. Guess I’ve reached the point where the doctors might have to start balancing the effects of different treatments for simultaneous diseases/conditions. I’m confident I have a doctor who will do that in the most thoughtful way possible and not withhold treatment just because of my age, but rather, because there are more things to be considered than first thought. I’m certainly hoping that’s not the case. I want to kick cancer’s butt as planned, and then move on with my life.