Newly approved drug – consider me a study

Published on July 17, 2014


How was your hot week? Mine was blistery, got a burn on my legs and now my skins is fallen off – not a good way to lose weight.

Well it’s that week, the one I’ve been getting ready for. Am I ready? Ha, no way, but it if I want more time on this planet I have to try everything I can, and if it means going to war with this disease then I’m sure going to give it my best shot.

Monday I went and had my blood work done. By mistake I looked at the needle, ohh, I could feel myself getting hot all over and I was scared to death and she didn’t even get it near my arm yet. We had to wait a few minutes for the hot flash or whatever my body was doing to pass before I could get it done. I also had my consultation about new medicines. My nurse made sure I understood everything I had to do and everything the meds may do to me. Oh, this is scary poop, but I can do it.

The medicine I am getting today – I am the first person in the province to get it, and Alice is the first nurse in the province to give it. Woo hoo. It was approved by the government two weeks ago and the cost is astronomical. You can say I’m a study. I was on the study 10 years ago with its sister drug, Herceptin. I did great with that, well, I’m still here to try this one and I just know it will be great. I’m sure that drug saved my life and know this combination will do it again. If not, you can at least say she gave it a try. The new drug is Perjeta (pertuzumab) and with it I’ll also get Herceptin and the chemo drug Docetaxel – which is the nasty one.

Let me tell you about the new drug: besides being new, Perjeta is a type of medicine called monoclonal antibody – it attaches itself to specific targets in your body. It is used to treat people with breast cancer that has spread (metastasized) and when a large number of HER2-positive cancer cells are involved. HER2 is found in large amounts on the surface of some cancer cells where it stimulates their growth. When Perjeta attaches to the HER2 cancer cells it may slow or stop the cancer cells from growing or may kill them. Perjeta may affect the heart, so I will have to have my heart monitored.

The treatment wasn’t bad – about two hours and the meds didn’t sting going in. There was a bit of dizziness and headache but it didn’t last long. The chemo unit is a big room with a lot of recliners, and each chair has a handmade lap quilt. I’m always cold getting chemo and I like the ones with the flannel backs – even more special knowing they are made with love. Thank you to the people who made them. I usually read and sleep while there, but anticipating the new drug I couldn’t do either. My friend Wayne usually meets me at the hospital and sits with me the whole time. I know I’m doing well when I hear him snoring. This time it’s three days in a row; next month will be only one day, but five hours of IV meds – oh joy. If you are there at lunch they order you a food tray and the volunteer ladies come around and help.

I have a lot of allergies and one symptom is nasal pain, so I use my neti pot every day. I’ve been doing this for years. Well the other day I filled the pot with warm water and the phone rang. After answering it I came back and put the lid on the pot and started pouring the water up my nose. My god, the pain was unreal and it felt like my eyes were going to pop out. They got red, and I looked down on the counter and there was the packet of saline solution not opened. I can’t stress enough: never use your neti pot with just water, and never use table salt. I tried that before and it’s not the thing to do. It’s OK to sniff a little table salt and warm water from your hand for fast relief, but never pour it up your nose.

On the lighter side, I was talking to my daughter Kerry and told her how I had bought a one-cup coffee maker, but didn’t have any brew coffee, so I took instant and put it in the filter to brew. I think it clogged the coffee maker and it took forever. She said, “Mom, it’s instant coffee, you just add hot water in the cup.” I didn’t want to sound not too bright, so I said, “I just wanted to see if it would change the taste of the coffee. Her hesitation made me think she didn’t believe me. I’ll blame it on chemo brain, not just plain old not thinking.

Well, I send in my column Wednesday morning, so you will not find out how the two drugs went, or how the heavy chemo drug went on Thursday. That’s the one I’m worried about, so keep your fingers and toes crossed that everything goes well. I will fill you in next week. Weight-wise – pants buttoned. Woo hoo.

Have a great week folks, and yes the ants are everywhere.


Kathy Golemiec is a resident of Westville chronicling her struggles and challenges as she undergoes cancer treatments. Her column appears weekly in The News.