Lee reminded me that I had failed to make a posting of my One Year Survival Green Toe celebration. It was quite the affair, lots of friends, lots of food, lots of wine (none for the party boy), balloons and even a cake shape like a foot with a green toenail!
It was wonderful to have the support of my friends, many of whom painted their toenail as a symbol of solidarity. There were fancy toe nails and plain toenails. Several cancer survivors celebrated their survival numbers with two painted nails, ten painted nails and Lee had 20 painted nails. Poor Lee, she was never good at math. Lee is an 18 year survivor. Hooray for all is us!!
I had friends attend from Salt Lake City and one of my artist friends created a painting celebrating my achievement.
The celebration was held the day after my new chemo infusion. I an very pleased to report, I felt fine with no additional side effects. I’m looking forward to next year’s celebration and then the next and on and on.
The last few days Lee and I enjoyed a visit from my old friend Bob Mandelson. Bob and I go back 40 years from our days in Portland. Warm sunny days provided perfect weather for exploring southern Arizona. Not only did Bob enjoy the benefit of great weather, but also from my edict of only the serving my finest wines as I approach an unknown period of sobriety! Bob is a three time cancer survivor and we had both jovial and serious conversation as the five star wines flowed.
Today I began my new “line two” chemo regimen. Two new drugs were introduced and one was eliminated. I had allocated about three hours for my session in the chemo suite. However the session lasted five hours as they slowed down the infusion rate of the new drugs to watch for any negative reactions. Very prudent of the nurses as these drugs are more toxic. I did fine, no problems, but I hope my tumors don’t do so well! One of the drugs, Irinotecan, often causes both nausea and diarrhea (a double dip!), sometimes severe diarrhea. The nickname for Irinotecan is “I-run-to-the-can”. They gave me some premeds in my infusion to inhibit these effects initially and I have pills to follow up for the next few days. So far I have had minimal side effects, let’s hope it continues. We shall see.
Regardless of how I may feel, tomorrow is the first anniversary of my survival, it is a time for a party!!! The painting of the toe and the and the blessing of the all powerful DUCK! We wil have a small gathering of friends to celebrate the painting of my toe nail green, hopefully there will be nine more toes and ten more fingers to paint, along with many DUCK championships to celebrate! This is my plan.
Today Lee and I met with Dr. P to go over my recent PET/CT scan. However before we get into that I want to express my sorrow at the sudden passing of a friend, Jeff Elliott. Jeff and I were just casual friends, chatting at the gym or hanging out at get togethers. Jeff always had a smile and witty observations, fun to be with. But Jeff was more, Jeff was also very compassionate. You may remember an earlier post I made about Jeff’s Magical Toyland. After my colon surgery to remove the tumor, Lee and I had a trip planed to Santa Fe prior to starting chemo. Unfortunately my leg brace decided to break. Normally it would take three weeks to repair, destroying our much needed break. Jeff’s hobby was anything to do with metal, he had a fantastic toy shop full of devices to matipulate metal. I took my brace to Jeff hoping he may be able to repair it. Jeff did not hesitate, but since this was a custom brace, Jeff had to fabricate the necessary parts. Which he did, rescuing our getaway, while making my brace is even stronger than before. Jeff came to my rescue again by designing an ingenious enclosure to protect my outdoor spa from pack rats while allowing me easy access to the drain hose. Neither time would Jeff accept anything from me other than a thank you. Thank you Jeff, may you RIP.
Now to our meeting with Dr. P First the good the good news. There are no signs of any cancer in my head, neck, brain, heart, lymph nodes, chest wall, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, adrenal glands, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, peritoneum, abdominal wall, bladder or ovaries!! So no change there. However, two months ago all of the lesions in my lungs were dormant. That ain’t the case now. I now have a solid active mass in my lower left lobe with significant growth and maglinant activity. Not to be outdone, my right lobe also has a very active tumor which, while smaller, is growing more rapidly. Two months ago, there was a suspicious lesion in my liver, wasn’t growing but showed some signs of activity. That tumor still hasn’t grown, but the hypermetobolic activity has almost doubled, indicating that it is up to no good. The other lesion in my liver is still dormant, lets hope it stays that way!
Although highly disappointed, this is no surprise. Lee and I knew that cancer usually adapts to the chemo drugs, mutates and comes charging back. It’s like a football game. The defense or the offense will adjust at halftime to counter the success of the other team. So now that the cancer as successfully adjusted to my current chemo cocktail, it’s time for us to adjust, we will change it. I asked Dr. P what was the mean time of effectiveness of my current “first line”chemo treatment. He replied about 12 months, I got 11 months. My hopes for going on a maintenance program vanished this afternoon. My hopes of lasting until immunotherapy (the “cure”) to become an option for colon cancer also took a hit.
Always a question I ask, “What if I stop therapy now”, Dr. P estimated my life would end in about 6 months, give or take. So on to the “second line” treatment we go. My second line treatment is a chemo cocktail called FOLFIRI. It is comprised of some drugs I took before (5-FU, Leucovorin) plus Irinotecan and Zaltrap. Irinotecan fucks with the DNA of the mutant cells disrupting them from duplicating themselves. Zaltrap is basically Avastin on steroids, it deprives the mutants cells of blood, their food source. I asked Dr. P if Zaltrap was a more effective version of Avastin, why wasn’t I given that previously. The answer is because the FDA hadn’t approved it for “first line” treatment. It can only be used if the first line fails. That’s absolutely nuts to me. Maybe if I had a stronger first line, I wouldn’t need a second line!
As is is usual practice, Dr. P wrote down on the examination table tissue paper the new regimen, with the drugs and their most common side effects. Side effects are basically the same with the exception of Irinotecan. It’s nick name among cancer patients is “I-run-to-the-can”. Lee is off to Costco for a few extra rolls! Since it’s a new cocktail, with toxicity to the immune system, kidneys and LIVER…no wine for Jimmy until we see how my innards handle the new poison. Oh I also got to sign a new acknowledgment that this treatment could kill me. The good news is that I don’t start the new regimen until the 23rd. So only the finest wines will cross my lips for the next week!
Although I am obviously disappointed with this news, fear not dear readers! I’m a tough son of a bitch and I’m itching to kick cancer in the nuts! My spirit is strong. As long as I’m around I WILL live life to its fullest. I am blessed with a loving spouse, great friends and neighbors, two fat cats and a closet full of DUCK gear. Thank you for your support!!!
Well today was another chemo session, which was uneventful (a good thing!). Prior to my chemo session I met with Dr. P. My blood work continues to amaze, platelet count, white blood cells, kidney and liver function all normal…..ho hum 😆. I actually don’t this take it for granted, I do feel blessed. My immune system and tumor infused liver continue to amaze me. My CEA (cancer marker) was a tad elevated at 3.9. A month ago it was 3.4, two months ago it was 3.5, three months ago it was 3.1, four months ago it was 4.2. Jimmy no likey that it’s back near where it was four months ago. But Dr. P is not worried at all, it is still near normal and seems as though these fluctuations are normal for me. Next week I have a PET-CT scan which will be much more informative as to what those bastard cancer tumors are up to. You may recall that last PET scan in January showed that my lung tumors were either dead or sleeping, no activity. However there was one liver tumor that showed some mild activity. So hopefully the last two months of chemo will have snuffed out the little bugger. If so Dr. P will put me on a maintenance treatment which is much less invasive with fewer side effects and will allow my body to recover from 20 chemo infusions. However if that tumor (or others) are active we will look at options of physically eliminating them through surgery or one of several other different procedures. So it’s just wait and see for me.
In the meantime we will continue to have fun, fun, fun till my daddy takes my t-bird away! Last week we spent five days at a beach house with our friends, Patti and Mo, on the shore line at Kino Bay, the eastern side of the Sea of Cortez. The house sits only about 30 feet from the water, the sight and sound of the sea was extremely relaxing and peaceful. Beautiful sunsets every night signaled the start of happy hour, tough duty. One evening we went hear a Mexican blue grass band at a restaurant. They were great until their amps blew out the power for the restaurant. After several attempts to regain power they gave up and moved into the audience and did a short acoustic set. We finished our meal in the dark, we had a great time.
No sooner did we return and the WineTasters group summoned us for a Malbec and Chenin Blanc tasting.
Work, work, work!
I was able to finish one painting since my last posting. Please meet Martini. She is a mature “Cheese Head” Jack Russell Terrior from Madison, WI. She is said to be a little cranky. I understand, after the Packers last game….what Packer fan wouldn’t be cranky!