As I have mentioned before, the life of a stage IV cancer patient is a turbulent life. Full of ups and downs and all arounds. It is a life living on shifting sands, a life without solid ground. It is a life that needs to be focused neither in the past or the future, but in the present, as much as that is possible. I work at continually “chucking” the setbacks and disappointments, working my plan of action, and doing stuff I enjoy. But it is a challenge.
My immediate family consists of my wife Little Lee and our two fluffers, Miss Bubble and Cotty, our fat gray cats. For some time now both of our cats have been quite sick with illnesses from which they may not recover. During this time Little Lee has needed to run a kitty infirmary in addition to being my caregiver. Both cats require multiple medications each day, as well as injections and lots of vet visits. It has placed an added layer of stress on our day-to-day lives. When we have to be away for medical treatment, our super-awesome cat sitter Sandi, becomes the cat nurse. Here is a photo of the feline pharmacy complete with instructions for Sandi.
You may remember from my last post that shortly after I signed on to do a clinical trial in Scottsdale, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The same day I was feeling a bit discouraged about the delay, the phone rang and much to my surprise, it was the University of Arizona Cancer Center, offering me a slot in a clinical trial I was on the wait list for. Back in late January they told me the roll-out of this trial would was delayed and the roll-out would be very slow. The trial director estimated it would be about 5 months before I might have a shot. Was I still interested they asked? Yes, yes, yes was my reply.
While I am very pleased to have a shot at this promising, cutting edge immunotherapy trial, I also know that the patients ahead of me on the waiting list either got too sick to participate or passed away. My plan to pursue clinical trials while I still feel pretty good is paying off, and I am grateful to Dr. P for encouraging me to do so.
The trial is composed of a two-pronged attack at the tumors. The first weapon is an oncolytic virus. This virus is specially engineered to attack cancer cells only. It cannot enter healthy cells. The virus begins to break down the cancer cells and although its not strong enough to kill off all the tumors by itself, it helps to make the enemy more visible to the immune system T-cells. The virus helps make my “cold tumors” look more like “hot tumors,” or so the theory says.
Once the virus is in place, the second weapon is deployed. This is an existing immunotherapy drug you may have heard of called “Opdivo.” If the virus has done its job, then Opdivo will supercharge the T-cells to attack the tumors and hopefully, this one-two punch will take care of the bad guys. Only 40 people in the world will participate in this phase of the research and I am one of the first ten. It’s a bit scary. But when the plane is going to crash and somebody hands you a parachute, it is time to learn how to skydive.