Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Plan for Dad

Dad had his first appointment at MD Anderson on Friday.  His doctor is Dr. Katharine Pisters.  She told him that about 1 of 5 lung cancer patients are non-smokers.  Many of these non-smokers have a gene mutation referred to as EGFR, or Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor gene.  In order to find out if Dad has this specific mutation, he would need to do another biopsy and wait 2-3 weeks for a report.  The other option is to start a drug (pill) treatment called Tarceva, which is specifically designed to treat this EGFR mutation.  

Dad had some bloodwork done and a chest X-ray that day.  He goes back in on Monday for CT scans and a MRI brain scan.  They will use the results as a baseline, then will re-test/scan in 2 weeks to determine the effectiveness of the Tarceva, which he will start taking on Tuesday.

Although the cost of this medication has gone down over the past few years, it is still outrageously expensive at $2500 per month.  Hopefully when they go back on Monday, they will find out if their insurance will cover any or all of the cost.  This particular drug is known to cause a rash and possible diarrhea, along with a whole list of other things that are printed on the drug info sheet (like any other medication).  Some patients have no side effects.

When Dad is re-scanned in 2 weeks, if it is determined that the Tarceva was ineffective, he will have to do Chemo through IV.  Strangely enough, IV Chemo is more expensive but it is covered by insurance.  I, and we, feel very good and confident about this Tarceva treatment.  It's great that he isn't having to start with chemo, and hopefully he may not have to experience chemo or surgery at all.

So, in summary: 
Monday - more scans & tests.
Tuesday - start 2-week Tarceva treatment.
In 2 weeks - new scans & tests to determine effectiveness of the Tarceva.

I haven't been told specifically what to pray for at this point by Mom or Dad, but I am praying that the mutation that he has to be easily treatable by Tarceva and that he has minimal side effects.  I am also still praying for his strenght and peace of mind, and for Mom's load to be light.

On another *note* concerning Dad...
I went by yesterday and was handed a stack of cards and notes that have been sent to him.  It seriously took me 15 minutes just to quickly glimpse at each card in the stack.  He told me that he has another stack of cards in his shop, too.  What a blessing to have such caring and prayerful friends that would take the time to send those notes of encouragement his way!!


Anonymous said...

my husband took Tarceva after his diagnosis of stage four lung cancer. He is a "never smoker".

He also goes to MD Anderson...a wonderful place.

The Tarceva worked wonderfully for over a year. Main side effects for him were the rash and the diarrhea. The good news is that if the side effects are BAD, they say the Tarceva is working!

We call it the magic pill. Good luck to your dad!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that the medication seems to be doing well for your dad. will keep praying for complete healing. Lori Stone