Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Cancer = A Constant Turn of Events

Shortly after writing my last medical update, things turned topsy turvy for me. Like, within a week, I got very bad news and since then the news just keep getting worse. (I'm reminded of the book, Mr Topsy Turvy, and had to include the cover here.)

April 16 I had my quarterly CT scan of the pelvis/abdomen, and full body bone scan. For the first time since staring chemo in March 2019, the scans showed progression - the thing that Stage IV patients fear every day. They had found tumor growth in one of my vertebrae (T5) and also in my right pelvis and my hip. This meant that the chemo, which had been working for 25 months, had now failed. I was sent to get a PET scan, which would show how active the cancer cells are and give a better sense of the scope of the disease. On the PET scan, it shows that I now have a lesion on my liver (that wasn’t present on the CT scan from 6 days earlier) along with the many masses I already have in my lungs and the previously described new tumors in my bones, including now including the T6 vertebrae. So, onward to a new chemo.

Luckily, the chemo recommended was a series of pills. No more infusion! No more going to the hospital every week! I was just prescribed to take 7 pills every day for one week, take a week off, and then another week of pills, and so on. And…the chemo pills, called Xeloda, would not cause hair loss! Even better, this was a medication that could pass the blood/brain barrier and help with staving off brain tumors.

I started that regimen in the beginning of May, and other than diarrhea, very dry skin (especially hands and feet, which were painful at times) and extreme fatigue, I had very few side effects. But I found myself taking multiple naps and sinking into a bit of a depression because of my lack of energy.

Things were rolling along until I had my quarterly MRI on the brain on June 24. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was on Xeloda for 6 weeks, many, many brain tumors have increased in size (instead of being stable in previous scans) and I got 3 new tumors that are especially large and causing symptoms. The main symptom is that sometimes, for no reason, my left arm and hand will just fall asleep and it won’t feel like my arm. It’ll feel like a “dead arm.” It only happens for a few minutes and then resolves, but my neurosurgeon says that this symptom makes sense given the location of the new tumors.

Even scarier… one of the tumors in the brain is in the leptomeningeal space - where the brain fluid is. This means that if any tumor cells have broken off, they can travel to my spinal cord. Here’s a list of symptoms that can be caused by this:
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up) or vomiting (throwing up) 
  • Difficulty thinking 
  • Double vision 
  • Dizziness 
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing 
  • Pain in your arms and legs 
  • Weakness or lack of coordination in your arms and legs 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control 
  • Seizures 

As of now, I only have the “dead arm” as a symptom, which could possibly be because of the other tumor (which is on the part of the brain that controls sensation.) To find out of I have leptomeningeal disease I was given three separate MRIs on July 2 (back to back - I was in the loud, claustrophobic machine for over 90 minutes!)

On July 6 I have another PET scan to see if the Xeloda is working on the rest of my body. My guess is no - the nurse practitioner called last week and said she saw more bone growth on the MRI, but I’m not certain where or which vertebrae.

My oncologist has said that if I have progression in any area I will have to change chemo again, this time to Trodelvy. That one causes hair loss, which I’m very upset about. I lost a lot of hair after my last brain radiation and I have been desperately trying to grow it longer over the last year. And many of you know about the difficulties I had with hair loss in 2015/2016 with my initial bout of cancer. Did I mention that I’m getting married in late August? I’ll likely be losing my hair before then. I will be going wig shopping this week to prepare myself, thanks to the services of the 5 Under 40 Foundation (who support cancer patients who were diagnosed under the age of 40.)

Regarding the brain tumors, I’m meeting with a specialist July 7 who is known for his work in proton therapy, which allows them to radiate a very specific area without affecting other areas of the brain. That, also, causes complete hair loss but it looks to be promising in terms of effectiveness. And then I meet with my oncologist on July 8 to get blood work done and make a final plan for my care, based on the results of the MRIs and PET scan.

So right now I’m just in a suspended state of fear and anxiety, waiting for results which will determine my fate. I do try to stay positive but hair loss may be the breaking point. I have worked so hard to overcome many challenges that have kept me from being a musical theater performer in the last 2 years (other than COVID, obviously.) From pneumonia, to the year of recovery from my paralyzed vocal cord, to the enormous weight gain due to (anti-inflammatory) steroid use… my appearance and stamina have been severely tested. To lose my hair is another setback to manage.

Because it’s not just head hair that you lose - you lose EVERY hair. Eyelashes, eyebrows, leg, arm, body hair - all gone. So I’ll have to paint on eyebrows and glue on eyelashes to even look normal, let alone be ready for professional auditions.

I felt like I had *just* rounded a corner with my challenges, and now I’m facing all of this and it all feels excruciating. I’m angry and scared all of the time. Luckily I have a great therapist, wonderful friends, and family who are supportive. There are some important people who have actually disappeared from my life since my being diagnosed Stage IV - but those of you who have stuck by me are my heroes. You know who you are. I am grateful. 

I’ll be sure to wrote another post when I know more about my condition. Thanks, as always, for listening and loving me. It makes all the difference in the world.




So many wonderful people have asked me what they can do to help as I navigate this devastating disease. So I’ve put together this list of things that I will need as I continue treatment.


Donations:

You can donate via my Go Fund Me account here: https://www.gofundme.com/erin-cronican


I will be using any money raised to help with lost wages as I go through treatment and to handle any medical expenses that might not be covered. It will also relieve some of the pressure off Brandon from having to carry so much while I’m in treatment.


Gifts:

  • Gift Certificates for massage therapy, facials, pampering 
  • Amazon gift cards 
  • Anything you think might brighten my day (I love handmade/artisan stuff - Etsy, etc) 

My address:

165 E 87th Street #3FW
New York, NY 10128



Mail:

I love getting cards and things in the mail, so anything you want to send would be appreciated.



Thank you so much for helping me manage this diagnosis with grace, ease, and a little bit of fun. It means the world to me.




Erin Cronican is a Stage IV breast cancer patient, whose career as a professional actor, producer, 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 and appeared Off Broadway with several plays and musicals. She is currently the Executive Artistic Director of The Seeing Place Theater in NYC. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com or www.seeingplacetheater.com.


The Fine Print

All content in this here blog is released under a Creative Commons by-NC-ND license. That means you're free to share it, republish it, refer to it, include it in your wedding vows, whatever... PROVIDED you

a) credit me (with my name, my blog's name, and a link back to my site- displayed at the top of the blog)
b) you don't change anything
c) you don't use it to make money.

To view the license, click here. To learn more about Creative Commons, click here.

Popular Posts


Top Blogs Acting blogs & blog posts Arts Directory for New York, New York
Blog Directory & Search engine Blog Directory My BlogCatalog BlogRank
Follow the erin cronicals