Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-20 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
With my most recent CT scan showing my cancer continuing to grow and spread, my gyne-oncologist urged me to take a “drug holiday.” This would help determine if my medication is still working or if I can safely discontinue it, reducing many unwanted side effects and enjoying a better quality of life for whatever time I have left.
As appealing as a drug holiday sounds, especially to those of us who swallow more than 200 pills a week, I felt like my doctor wants me to walk off the field . That was her first mistake. I am anything but a quitter. I didn’t battle Parkinson’s for almost 25 years to throw in the towel now. After consulting with other doctors for second opinions, we found a chemotherapy treatment requiring only a one-hour infusion every 28 days I hadn’t yet tried and decided to go with it. Hopefully, it will do more good than harm in my fight against cancer.
Potential benefits of a drug holiday often bring with them potential risks
Symptoms may worsen, requiring higher dosages of medication to get them under control again. Worst case scenario, when restarted the drug may no longer be effective at any dosage. On the other hand, resumption of treatment often brings renewed effectiveness and decreased tolerance at lowerdosage, reducing possible side effects.
How do we to know when to stop treatment and focus instead on making ourselves comfortable? If you have tried multiple treatments and your symptoms do not improve, more treatment usually will not help you feel better or increase your chance of living longer. Instead, more treatment could cause serious side effects that shorten your life and reduce the quality of the time you have left.
Modern science allows people to live longer and better than at any other time in history. Still, we reach a point where there are no more known treatments, only clinical trials offering experimental treatments. If you are open to trying this route, ask your doctor or check www.clinicaltrials.gov to see whether you qualify to participate.
Before agreeing to a drug holiday, ask your doctor to list the potential pros and cons. You and your doctor are partners in developing, adjusting, and following an effective medicine plan. Make sure that you understand and share the same treatment goals as your doctor. Ultimately this decision is yours to make. Choices about medicines made early in the course of the disease have a strong impact on the long-term course of the illness.
No one asked me what outcome I hoped to achieve with a drug holiday. If they had, I would have told them I wanted to gain time… time to watch my two granddaughters (ages 18 months and four years) grow up and realize their dreams. The things in life that money can’t buy are the most valuable.