Since the first of August, Tom Lewis has been coming to the Tommy Hamm Cancer Center every two weeks for chemotherapy treatments but on this day, he met with Dr. John Nanfro for one of their periodic updates.
"The biggest problem I have right now is weight gain and fatigue. I've been really lucky. I haven't had too much or any nausea problems and the constipation I've been able to deal with," said Tom.
Tom admits his chemo weeks are the toughest, "I'm so tired, I'm slurring my words and everything," but the biggest side affect was an unexpected one that could have left permanent damage.
"The regimen that we give is called folfox and the drug oxaliplatin is a drug that causes numbness and tingling of the fingertips and toes. It usually goes away but his was so severe for reasons that are not really clear that after two to three cycles we had to drop it and just go with the infusional therapy that he gets. He wears a pump and we went to just continue the same regimen just without that drug," says Dr. John Nanfro.
Tom still has the residual affects from the numbness in his hands but Dr. Nanfro believes it will eventually go away.
Now his biggest concern is weight gain. "I was at 198 pounds. I'm up to 226. I've gained almost 30 pounds. I've gained everything I lost in surgery and then some. What's the deal?" asked Tom.
"Chemo acts like an appetite suppressant so it only lasts for that couple of days that you get the chemo and then your appetite is more voracious than it would be afterwards," says Dr. Nanfro.
Dr. Nanfro says each type of cancer has it's own type of chemotherapy regimen. Some have multiple treatments.
"Some have up to 20 regimens and some like Melanoma had none until recently it now has four new drugs. Pancreatic three to four and then breast has the most because a lot of research goes to breast. Lung cancer has a lot and colon has a lot," says Dr. Nanfro.
However not all cancers require chemo. Tom's chemotherapy is being done as a precaution. "He was orginally what we call a stage t-4a, no nodes but t-4a means it penetrated outside the bowel and onto the lining right of the abdomen where it was so those patients require chemotherapy when there's a penetration. Other patients who have positive lymph nodes require chemotherapy and of course people who spread further than that. But his was a case which confined to the colon it just perforated through it," said Dr. Nanfro.
The chemo treatments are an insurance policy, to zap any other rouge cancer cells floating around his body. However that doesn't mean tom can rest easy after his chemo is over.
"He has to watch vigilantly with colonsocopy and checking for other lesions that may be pre malignant. We have to watch him for skin cancers because when you get chemotherapy you may pre-disposed to second cancers,not very often, but with the case of this particular regimen, he might be prone to second malignancy just because he's had one."
Doctors implanted an IV port in Tom's chest at the begining of his chemo tratements. That port will remain in-place for at least a year after his treatment, just in case.
"So if Tom's disease ever relapsed, he would come back to a regimen very similar to what he was depending on the period and time the disease came back."
When asked what the chances of that was, Dr. Nanfro says, "very low. We never use the word cure. The patient can say cure but we don't use the word cure because we don't want to delude the patient into thinking this will never come back and you can develop a second malignancy. Oncologists watch patients very vigilant. We're all OCD."
You have the opportunity to participate in a landmark healthcare study.
The American Cancer Society is conducting its cancer prevention study-3, or CPS-3 nationwide and Bay County is one of the study sites.
We're looking for anyone ages 30-to-65, that have never had cancer.
All you have to do is give a blood sample, give your waist measurement, then answer a short survey.
Every few years, the cancer society will ask you to take another short survey to document any changes.
At the end of the 20-year study, researchers hope to have enough information to determine the everyday habits, family medical history, and other factors that either contribute to or prevent cancer.
The 2-screen session are this week, Thursday evening at Bay Medical Sacred Heart, and Friday Morning at Gulf Coast Medical Center.
If you have already registered, there's still time.
Call the American Cancer Society Office at 785-9205, or just show-up either day.
Walk-ins are welcome.