Martha and I have been on an unsettling "roller coaster ride" over the past six weeks seeking direction from our good Lord and the doctors to which He has entrusted our care relative to how best to continue my cancer battle. We believe we now understand our immediate path forward.
OUR RECENT DIFFICULT "ROLLER COASTER RIDE" ...
After 31 successful rounds of chemotherapy (following my initial diagnosis on March 7, 2011), we unfortunately didn't receive the accustomed "stable" report we had continuously prayed for. My CT scan on February 22, 2013 indicated my cancer had developed a resistance to the chemo and had in fact "progressed". A small but "new" tumor was discovered in my left lung, not far from the original tumor.
The following week we met with Dr. Ellison in Charleston to discuss "the next battle". Dr. Ellison indicated a "second line of defense" chemotherapy consisting of Avastin along with a harsher chemo drug Taxotere administered WEEKLY was the most proven therapy. Given (1) the unsettling cumulative side-effects of chemo I had been experiencing, and (2) the fact I had previously decided to seek a second opinion at the point in time my cancer progressed, Dr. Ellison agreed to defer treatment a few days. While Dr. Ellison said it was okay to shed a few tears at this juncture it wasn't time to sob, we still had more weapons in the arsenal to use.
"The good Lord truly works in mysterious ways" ... I had previously decided to travel to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to seek my second opinion. During Derek's many business trips to Texas, Derek had the fortune to meet Mr. Jeff Wigbels who's cancer story is "uncanny similar" to dear old Dad's. Mr. Wigbels was diagnosed with Stage IV non-smoker's lung cancer in 2006, treated with investigative, targeted therapy at MD Anderson and is now a 7-year lung cancer survivor battling just one remaining tumor.
My web research had led me to oncologist Dr. Edward Kim at MD Anderson, an internationally renowned lung
cancer specialist, who coincidentally had led the team that had treated Jeff Wigbels. Discussing this with my
oncologist (Dr. David Ellison) we learned that Dr. Kim had recently transferred from MD Anderson to the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, NC. Furthermore we learned our Charleston Cancer Center is part of the Levine
Cancer Institute and that Dr. Ellison knows Dr. Kim professionally. To make a long story short he contacted Dr. Kim in Charlotte and quickly made arrangements for a second opinion visit.
Martha and I travelled to Charlotte on March 13th and met with Dr. Kim and an associate oncologist (Dr. Mileham). During our four-hour consultation we learned a bit more about my cancer. We actually saw before, during and after treatment images of my lung tumor on computer screens for the very first time. Of particular note we learned the "new" tumor may not be a new tumor at all. Reviewing my scans, both oncologists concluded it is relatively small, has likely has been there (undetected) since initial diagnosis and appears to be "threaded" to the
original tumor. Following much discussion, Dr. Kim asked that we stay an extra night, return to the hospital the next day for a new set of baseline scans (a brain MRI and a whole body PET scan) in order to ensure original metastatic (bone cancer) sites were stable and that my cancer hadn't spread elsewhere in my body. Assuming these new scans were negative for new cancer, Dr. Kim's recommendation would be NOT to begin a new chemotherapy regimen, take a six-week "chemo holiday" and then return to Charlotte in six-weeks for a new CT chest scan! Given the low (10%) positive response rate of the proposed new chemotherapy, the fact I'm still not experiencing any symptoms directly related to my cancer ("just" the side effects of chemotherapy), have maintained my weight and relatively good health, Dr. Kim sees no value at this juncture in making me much sicker with harsher, weekly chemotherapy at this time. We understand there is no medical cure for my cancer and that due to the fact it has metastasized surgery is not an option ... trust me I asked again!
Martha and I received the results of the Charlotte scans late in the afternoon after returning home to Edisto.
Thankfully the scans confirmed I have a brain ... but most importantly they confirmed no evidence of brain cancer and all metastatic bone sites remain inactive. Again praise our good Lord!
So ... we are thrilled to be able to share we're embarking on a six-week "chemo holiday" prior to obtaining an updated CT scan in Charlotte to check progress. Hopefully my cancer will behave itself and we'll be able to enjoy another six-week chemo holiday following this one! Both Dr. Kim and his associate stated "it's time to drink some fine wine and book a great vacation" ... trust us, we're working on this as we write!
Oh how the good Lord loves and protects us ... and oh the value of obtaining a second opinion!
DON and MARTI BURDICK'S VISIT ...
On a lighter note we thoroughly enjoyed Don and Marti (and "Willow") Burdick's visit to our home last week. While the weather wasn't the best (a bit cool and cloudy), we enjoyed some mighty good cookin', drinkin', card playin', laughs and simple fun. It was great to catch up with our dear friends. The Burdick's kindly watched our house and spoiled cat "Darjeeling" while we ventured to Charlotte and back. Don and Marti enjoyed riding their bikes, walking the beach and just relaxing prior to returning to cold New York State. Good, lifelong friends like the Burdicks are truly treasures of a good life. After enjoying Martha's preparation of "Osso Bucco" in her new Le Creuset pot, we believe there's likely a new Le Creuset pot in Marti's future as well!
With our love ...
Dan and Martha