No More Pokes Till Next Year!

On Wednesday I had a biopsy done on a tumor in my left lung. This will be the last poke until next year. No more blood draws, no more chemo infusions, no more contrast dye or PET scan infusions!   Hooray for me!  The only shots I will get for the rest of the year are tequila shots!

For the lung biopsy I got to take part in the procedure. I was an active participant. Translation: Jimmy was required to stay awake.

Bring it on!!!

Using a CT scan image to guide them, they inserted a probe in my back and just noodled along. Occasionally they would stop and instruct me to “hold still”(translation: this is gonna hurt). After several more “hold still” followed by “I’ll increase your Demerol” they found their treasure. The tumor sample will be sent away for genetic testing. They will test 592 genes for mutations. This information will hopefully provide insights into treatment options. It will be a couple of weeks before pathology results be back, then we will meet with the research oncologist to plot and plan. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have only 4 more sessions of radiation therapy on the tumor near my airway in my right lung. This little bastard (well not so little)  was causing a bad cough. After the initial treatments the cough got better. Then ten days ago it got worse, then I started getting feverish and the cough got worse yet. There was a concern that I had an infection, so they gave me antibiotics. The cough remained but the fever diminished a bit. The fever comes and goes. 

The CT scan done during the lung biopsy  confirmed there was no infection. In my meeting today with the radiologist he felt that inflamation resulting from the radiation was most likely the cause of the increased cough. He put me on steroids to reduce the inflamation. He interprets the fever as a result of the cancer itself, which I have had on and off throughout this cancer adventure. So, all relatively good news. 

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

Please meet my latest fuzzy friends:

Luka is a big California boy, 100 pounds of pure muscle, and a very happy lap dog!
Skippy lives in Oregon.  He loves both smooth and chunky. 
Little D is the cutest little fluff ball in all of Utah and she knows how to get her way!

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To 2016 and Beyond!

Yesterday afternoon Little Lee and I had our last meeting of the year with Dr. P. There are lots of things assaulting Jimmy’s body right now. My body is still processing the effects of the liver nuke from last month, my on going Lonsurf chemo regimen and now the irradiating of a large tumor in my right lung that was causing a never ending cough. Just like in the old Timex watch commercials, my body “takes a licking and keeps on ticking!” Other than slightly low hemoglobin in my blood workup everything looks hunky dory. As an added bonus my cough has been reduced significantly and my CEA cancer marker has been reduced by a third from last month! Although my CEA number is still above normal, me likey the direction. 

I will continue the right lung radiation for two more weeks and next week I will have  a biopsy of a tumor in my left lung to provide Dr. M a plethora of information about the genetic makeup of the tumor.  You may recall that Dr. M is a research oncologist at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. In January we will meet with Dr. M to go over the results of the biopsy and explore some new and exciting treatment options. 

As I look back over this “topsy turvy” 2016 so many things have happened, many of which were good. I wrote and published my first book and it actually got rave reviews! I recently hired an actor to record the book and it will soon be available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes as an audio book. This will address the needs of the blind and ill patients that have  difficulty reading as well as those that prefer to listen to books while exercising or driving. 

I launched my inspirational speaking tour based on my book. I have given talks to several survivor groups and even given a sermon at a local church. I will continue on with this into the new year with speaking  engagements slated with Arizona Oncology in January and the University of Arizona Cancer Center in February.

Both the Jimmy Asbell Art Studio and the Asbell Art Studio are getting busier.  Nearly 40 assorted cats and dogs (with a few giraffes thrown in) have been anointed by my paint brush and I couldn’t come close to counting all the thousands of dots on Little Lee’s canvases. Thank you to those of you are are supporting us starving thirsty artists, this is our wine fund you know.

This past January started off wonderfully as the chemotherapy of the prior six months had eliminated all evidence of cancer in my lungs and reduced the size and activity of the liver tumors. I was confident that I would be one of the lucky few Stage IV patients who would skate along for years with minimal treatment.

But my cancer roared back in both the lungs and liver by March. So we had to change drugs and move to the “second line” treatment. The “second line” treatment was a total failure. Not only did the cancer grow unabated, but I had several trips to the ER because of side effects. One of the side effects was a perforated septum.

In June I began my “third line” of chemo, Lonsurf. There will be no “fourth line” of chemo treatment, the available options are ineffective with horrific side effects.  So Lee and I pondered the after chemo options of clinical trials or hospice, a trying and worrisome period. 

After being initially ineffective, Lonsurf began to show signs of slowing down the growth of my disease. This allowed us to use “Whack a Mole” tactics with various radiation treatments to deal with the larger tumors. Although the disease was growing slower, it is still growing.  Althoughing buying me some time, the long term prospects with Lonsurf are not good.

Throughout all of these ups and mostly downs there was one constant that sustained us….YOU.  Your readership, friendship, thoughts, prayers, well wishes, blog comments, love, caring and companionship all mean so much to Lee and I.  The anniversary of my first year of survivor-ship (my Green Toe Party) and my birthday party that many of you attended meant a lot to me, these are victory celebrations to me. Thank you to the many friends and family from across the country who paid us a visit and got to see I am as handsome as ever. 😄 Thanks for the escape trips to Mexico, San Diego and the slot canyons that broke up the regimen of treatment and provided Lee and I “life” refreshment. 

As we approach 2017 I am excited. I have many more critters to paint, I have many more wines to drink, many more friends to hug and, my friend Tom May assures me, I have many more Oregon Duck victories to cheer. I know there are no promises or not even probabilities. But there are soooo many new possibilities and I am energized by them. Science is on the move.

Since Christmas Eve and Hanukkah fall on the same day, Lee and I wish you a Joyful Christmukkah, a double dip holiday!!  I will talk to you in a couple of weeks, Happy New Year everyone.

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Know Thy Enemy

This week Lee and I had planned to be enjoying ourselves with friends in Maui. However a pesky lung tumor was muscling it’s way against my air way causing a rather irritating and persistent cough. A three week regimen of low dose radiation was prescribed to remedy this symptom. Although disappointed about the cancelled trip, it was an easy decision as the persistent coughing would be quite disruptive to umbrella drink imbibing.  

The fact that this lung tumor was growing is a much more disappointing reality. It signals that my third line chemo is losing its mojo. We can play “whack a mole” for a while addressing specific tumors, but it’s a “finger in the dike” solution. Pretty soon the dam will burst. It is most likely that soon it will be time to end chemotherapy. 

I am not depressed, I still plan to live my life to its fullest. In fact I feel a little more intensely about that than ever before.  We recently watched a film on Netflicks called Sing Street. A fun little movie, I recommend it. It has a great sound track of 80s-era pop music. One song really struck a chord with me,”Drive It Like You Stole It.” This verse particularly spoke to me: “This is your life. You can go anywhere. You gotta grab the wheel and own it. You gotta put the pedal down. And drive it like you stole it…”    To me that means living life with intense focus, exhilaration, freedom and a dose of fear.

But, could it be that what appears to be a sun setting, is in reality a sunrise?  Lee and I have been diligently looking for clinical trials on new therapies. You may recall that our strategy from the get-go with my “incurable” diagnosis was to tread water with conventional treatment, buying time until immunotherapy was a reality. It’s quite a task to find and identify these trials, almost an impossible task for even an oncologist, let alone a lay person. If you are able to locate one, hopefully one not thousands of miles away, you still may not be accepted.

Well last Friday my phone rang and a nice lady asked if I’d like a meeting with the medical director at University of Arizona Cancer Center to discuss trials and treatment options. Huh?!?!?!  When Lee and I first considered southern Arizona for retirement, the University of Arizona Cancer Center was a big plus. It is a designated National Cancer Institute center, the only one in the state of Arizona. With Lee’s cancer history, this was very important. We never thought that it would be so important for little Jimmy. We met with the medical director of the cancer center on Monday and it was decided that we should see the director of clinical trials today. WOW, just like that we were in to see the phase I clinical trials guru. We are so used to having to wait weeks to see a doctor that it was pleasantly shocking.  

Our meeting this morning with Dr. M was fantastically informative, inspiring and uplifting. I feel it is the dawn of a new day. Dr. M is the director of phase 1 trials and experimental therapies. He is both a research scientist and a physician. His name is on the patents of six drugs. There is still an enormous amount of uncertainty, wth no clear path. But  we have a amazing and powerful new ally in our battle with cancer. The first item on the agenda is identifying the DNA of the enemy (my tumors). In April of 2015 a biopsy was done of my primary tumor to test for genetic mutations and they ran a standard profile of 46 genes. This helps determine treatment, identifying agents to use or not to use. Dr. M will test 592 genes, nearly 13 times the test taken originally. The more information you know about the enemy, the more targeted the treatment, the higher likelihood of success. They drew blood today for a liquid biopsy and will compare that to the results of a tissue biopsy that will be taken from one of my lung tumors.  

Dr. M examines a smiling little Jimmy, it must tickle!

But the good news for today was not done. On the way home we dropped into the recently opened Barrio Bread Company. Previously available only at farmers markets, they just opened a shop. They make slow-fermented local native and heritage grain artisan bread. Perhaps the best bread I’ve ever had, sorry John O’Rourke. The owner was named one of the top ten bakers in America.

Barrio bread…..Oh My,,,

For those of you outside of Green Valley, below is my latest column that appeared in the Sunday Green Valley News.