Well, dad's been in Shanghai for almost two weeks now. When he got off the plane, my heart sank. The last time I saw him he was full of energy, happy and upbeat, determined to kick the cancer's butt. The man that now stood before me seemed scared, depressed and more than a little angry at the world. I could not recognize him and could not believe the change in him after only one month. Granted, it was a rough month. First we got the news that 3 rounds of chemo, which we all thought was working well, had only shrunk the cancer by about 25%. He was given a different chemo cocktail, CAV, which did not agree with him and from which he is still recovering. His coughing was getting worse and his energy levels were low. By day 3, his cough was really starting to worry me, and he was battling serious fatigue. We scheduled an appointment at a Western cancer clinic (American doctors). They ran another CT scan and found that there has been growth in the last month (while he was on CAV! I read all the posts on this website and this chemo doesn't seem to work for anyone!). They immediately started him on 10 chest radiation sessions (to shrink the tumor in the lymph nodes) and today he is starting oral etoposide. In addition, the clinic here does an experimental treatment with thyroid hormone. Apparently, if they slow down thyroid hormone production they may slow down the proliferation of cancer cells, making them more malleable to chemo and radiation. The doctor said that it may or may not work, but side effects are practically non-existent and we are getting desperate to get things under control again.
Meanwhile, the doctors are absolutely amazed at how good my dad looks and feels, which is weird because I think that he is a shadow of the man he was a month and a half ago. I don't know who or what they were expecting based on his scans, but they are encouraged by his general performance status, which is why they are choosing to continue to be aggressive.
Dad has not lost weight and has maintained a solid appetite. He sleeps well. The cough was terrible last week but is much better this week. He will have a fit about once a day where his coughing is absolutely terrible to listen to, and this will last about 5-10 minutes. It comes and goes suddenly, but other than that he does not cough at all. This is a huge improvement from last week, so I hope that the radiation is working (he's had 4 treatments so far, today is his 5th). He also goes to a Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic for acupuncture.
Right now, his number one complaint is the fatigue. He gets so frustrated that simple daily activities tire him out. We still go for walks, he goes to all his appointments on his own and we even get some sightseeing in on the weekends. However, after a couple of hours of activity he's ready to lie on the couch and watch TV or nap. I keep trying explain to him that his body needs rest - especially now that he will be getting concurrent radiation and chemo, but he is still frustrated.
I don't know what else to do for him. This is so hard. I am now his primary caregiver and it's hard and I feel so alone in a strange country.
I'm soooooo scared and soooooo tired... But we're still in this fight and I'm not giving up.