Did you know that your gut bacteria might predict whether or not you will respond to immunotherapy? Three different studies have found that responders and non-responders can be predicted based on the composition of their intestinal microbiota.1
What do the studies show?
One of the studies, conducted by Laurence Zitvogel at the Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, Paris, looked specifically at immunotherapy response by those with non-small cell lung cancer and renal cell carcinoma. The study found that patients with more bacteria from the species Akkermansia muciniphila had the best response to anti-PD-1 therapy.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I was faced with some hard decisions. After four years of complete stability, one tumor in my supraclavicular lymph node had decided to go rogue and quit responding to the immunotherapy I was on. I named it “Wayward Tumor.”
From one clinical trial to another
When my oncologist told me that I was being taken off of the clinical trial because of tumor growth, I wasn’t particularly worried. That’s just how much confidence I had in him having something else for me to try.
Did you cringe when you read the title of this article? I did when I wrote it. Dealing with insurance is one of the things I hate most about being sick. I want to share some tips that might make this odious task a little easier.
1. It isn’t as simple as just picking one plan over another one
There are so many things to consider when choosing an insurance plan. We don’t simply see one specialist. Most of us have a medical oncologist, possibly a radiation oncologist, a surgeon, a pulmonologist, radiologists to read our scans, internists, and the list goes on. And, even if they all work in the same hospital or clinic complex, they may not all take the same insurance plans.
It was just about a year ago when I got news that turned my world upside down…again. I had been in a clinical trial for right at four years. During that time, I had gotten countless CT scans and nearly 100 infusions of the immunotherapy drug, Opdivo.
Preparing for Infusion #100
Ninety-eight infusions of Opdivo, to be exact. I knew about immunotherapy and how it works before almost anyone. I remember going to the ER one day in 2014 with an unexplained fever and warning them that I was on immunotherapy. The nurses, techs, and doctors looked at me like I had three heads. They had absolutely no idea how to pronounce it or what it was. Until then, I don’t guess I really realized just how new this treatment really was.
I generally begin November by listing, day by day, that for which I am grateful. Some days, the only thing that really strikes me is that I got up that morning or that the sun is shining. Other days, I have a long list of things for which I am thankful.
My reasons to be grateful
Some people think I am crazy when I begin to list the reasons why I am grateful for my current situation. It isn’t that I would not rather have never had cancer. No one is foolish enough to wish cancer on themselves or anyone else.
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the chances that a late-stage lung cancer patient would live five years was merely 4%. In fact, the American Lung Association, even today, gives the following survival rates:
“The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 55 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent.”1
I remember the days following my diagnosis as if they were yesterday. I was told I might not have very many more days here on earth, so I decided I better enjoy and make the most of the days I had. And, even though my initial prognosis was only four months, I somehow decided from the very beginning that I was going to try to bring hope to others with this disease.
Don’t let the diagnosis steal your joy
When my mom, husband and I showed up for my first chemo treatment, I wore a t-shirt that said, “It’s about the journey” and that’s the attitude I have tried to adopt. I asked my husband to video my first chemo treatment. I wanted to post it online to document the fact that a dire cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be scary, doesn’t have to steal your joy.
When I think about my chemotherapy experience, I think of three things: vomiting my guts up, severe constipation and extreme fatigue. My chemo treatments were on a 3-week rotation. I suffered mightily during the first week, felt better the second week, and felt pretty darn good by the third week. The vomiting only lasted a few days, constipation lasted a bit longer.
Continue reading Dealing with the Nausea and Vomiting Associated with Chemotherapy
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I didn’t know anyone else who was still alive and fighting the disease. I started searching around and ultimately landed on a group where I feel totally at home – it is called WhatNext.
I am going to post two links below that will help you know if you think WhatNext will be a good fit for you. I go to a lot of different lung-cancer related forums, but I spend most of my time on WhatNext. It feels like home to me.
On WhatNext, there are caregivers and loved ones, survivors, and people from the medical field for all kinds of cancer from skin cancer to liver, lung, or lymphoma cancers. Take a look at the information below and please join, if it sounds like a place you’d like to be a part of!
This link tells you a lot of the benefits of the group in an advertising way: https://www.whatnext.com/ilp/lungcancer/?campaign=AMLC
SandiA is a Stage 4 Melanoma survivor who is active on the site. She tells you why she loves WhatNext so much!
Let me know if you joined the group because you saw this post! I look forward to seeing you! I think you’ll love it there as much as I do!