Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Whole World has Cancer and they are all at MD Anderson

On Tuesday afternoon, John and I left Austin just in time to miss the Houston traffic and have dinner with Aunt Darla and Uncle Keith.  My Aunt Darla doesn't really cook, but when she does "YUMMY!"  Cousin Kelly came over for a visit and some dinner as well.  It was great spending time with everyone. 

After a sleepless night, we got out of bed and made our way to the Medical district at 6am. Kelly told us that it was big city Houston down there, and she was right.  Kelly knows all the Liver specialists in Houston through her work so she gave us the lay of the land.  If you've never been, its something to see.  An entire hospital for people with cancer.  I have to admit that it was overwhelming being in a place where everyone has some form of what you have or they are there with someone who has cancer.

The lab was like an assembly line factory. I've had a LOT of blood drawn in many different places in the past 11 years and I have never experienced anything quite like this.  There were at least 100 chairs in the 3-part waiting room.  I wasn't even sure, which area would be best to be able to hear my name being called.  As you walk in, there are 3 high tables with small pencils and small forms for you to fill out.  Those tables reminded me of being in a bank.  2 forms - yellow for urine sample, really?  and blue/green (I can't seem to recall) for everyone else.  Fill out what you need, then place the form upside down at the desk.  After blood draw, back up to the 9th floor to the Melanoma Clinic; each floor is divided by cancer types - amazing.

During most of the morning, I felt young at 41.  Cancer is typically an aging disease I've learned for those 65 and older.  However, we all know that it strikes all of us.  Just as I'm thinking that I'm young and energetic (I'm not on a walker or wheelchair after all), I turn the corner to see a young boy.  He is maybe 10 or 11.  He is bald and has large scars from his battle with brain cancer.  He is weak from the poison that they are pouring into him; he clutches a walker to maintain some independence.  As we enter the elevator together, he is barely able to lift his eyes to meet mine and reciprocate a forced smile.  He does not know that I'm the one who is sick, but clearly he has been fighting for sometime now.  Suddenly, I felt older, wiser, and grateful for all of my time.

Driving a car, going to college, marrying the man of my dreams, pursuing my dream career and creative endeavors, turning 41.  My life has been full.  I'm not done yet, but I'm grateful for the fullness that it has already been.

Dr. Patel is a superstar.  She is happy with my blood work and I am just in that right position that I was able to choose from 2 trials that she is conducting.  Choose? Dr. Patel says that neither one is better than the other at this point.  If this first one doesn't work out and my blood continues to show that I'm in good shape, then I can go into the next trial.  There are even more options beyond that.

The name of the trial is "Phase II Study of IMC-A12 in Metastatic Uveal Melanoma."  The fact that its in its second phase is good because that means the FDA thinks they are doing a good job and patients are responding to this drug.  Lauren Skokan, one of my many sisters, :) works for the FDA, she's going to keep a close watch on this for me!

IMC-A12 is a monoclonal antibody that is similar to what we make in our bodies to fight disease.  Its not chemotherapy in the traditional sense and its not really that vaccine that I talked about in an earlier post either, but its close.  Dr. Patel says that even if we can only stop the tumors from growing that this is successful, because I'm living with them now in a healthy way.  We just don't want them to get bigger.  However, it is possible that they will shrink with this drug.  Side effects are minimal, mostly fatigue and other minor stuff. 

I am going to start my infusions within the next 2 weeks.  I need to get another CT scan so that Dr. Patel can get specific baseline measurements. 

This first round will last for 8 weeks.  I will be going to Houston every other Friday for infusions.  On that last round, I will go for two days so that they can rescan my liver to assess how its working. 

Thank you for your well wishes, love, prayer,  meditation, peace, friendship, and good vibes in general.  Love and peace, k

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