Monday, March 11, 2019

Update on Diagnosis


Hello, friends. I had my appointment with my oncologist, and as I suspected the treatment I was on was not effective in stopping the cancer. In fact, the cancer has spread further in my body. I now have more tumors in my lungs, and they also discovered 4 small tumors in my brain and a tumor on my ribcage. I suspected this to be the case because if the treatment was working I should have noticed my symptoms getting better, but instead they were getting worse.

The brain tumors, though, were a surprise. I’m not having any symptoms from those. So it was just luck that they found them. Because I had fainted I had a brain MRI as a precaution, but I don’t have any symptoms one would expect from brain tumors - no headaches, cognitive changes, or anything. I’m lucky that the tumors were caught early and are very small.

This all changes my treatment plan. What I had been on was a daily dose of bicalutimide to block the androgen in my body. I’ve now stopped that, and my next course of treatment is to get radiation to the brain. Luckily I’m a candidate for stereotactic radio surgery, which is a very precise 1-time treatment that is able to deliver high doses of radiation to very small portions of the brain without having to radiate the whole head. This means my side effects should be minimal - they will be giving me steroids to make sure that there is little inflammation in the brain as a result of the trauma of radiation. They say I will be very tired for a few days, but that should be all.

The scariest thing for me about the radiation is not actually the radiation, it’s the plastic mold they make you lie in in order to make sure you’re perfectly still for the treatment. I’m asthmatic, which makes me claustrophobic when my breathing is obstructed. This mask partially covers my mouth and holds my jaw in place, so if I wanted to breathe through my mouth I won’t be able to. I was able to handle the molding/fitting they did a few days ago but I was only asked to be in the mask for 6-8 minutes. I’ve been told my radiation could take as long as an hour and I’m freaking out about it! Here’s a stock photo of what the mask looks like:

Stereotactic Radiosurgery mask
Once I’m done with the radiation (which is happening this Tuesday, March 12) the next step is to get me on some sort of chemo. My doctor thinks that I may qualify for a clinical trial, and I have an appointment with him on March 14 to discuss. The hope is that whatever treatment I get will shrink the tumors and help me alleviate some of the symptoms I’ve been experiencing. I’ll be on that treatment until it stops working (which is common, because cancer is smart and learns how to outlast the treatments we throw at it.) And then we’ll choose another chemo and start the ride again.

All in all, I guess I’ve been pretty lucky. I read about other patients’ experiences on message boards and there are dozens of other symptoms I could be experiencing. So though life is difficult, I’m still really grateful. I have enough breath to live, enough energy to snuggle my dog, and tons of friends around me to lift me up. And your financial support has made a huge impact, making it possible for me to take cars when I’m too weak to walk/take public transit and allowing me to have enough fresh food to keep me going. You’ve also helped me pay for co-pays, medications, and have brought me such joy in a dark time.

For those of you still interested in helping... here’s a post with all of the things that I need - I’m eternally grateful for anything you’re willing and able to do to help: https://www.erincronicals.com/2018/11/how-you-can-help.html 

Or, if you want your gift to go even further, consider donating to my theater company as we embark on our spring repertory. As you know, The Seeing Place has been my artistic home and donating here means I don't have to use any personal money to get these shows up and running. Plus, you can either choose a great perk, or get a full tax deduction by bypassing the perks and entering your own amount at the bottom. Donate here: www.TheSeeingPlace.org



Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

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