Round One of Opdivo

On April 12th, 62 years ago today, the Salk vaccine for polio was approved. It was seven years too late for little Jimmy. I am hoping this does not reoccur with my cancer treatment. I have no doubt that cancer will be licked soon and  I am hoping I will slide just under the tag with my clinical trial this time.

Tuesday I had my first infusion of the immunotherapy drug, Opdivo. Opdivo has been very effective in eliminating tumors in about 15% of colorectal cancer cases where the tumors are unstable. However, with my tumor characteristics and most others, Opdivo has been generally ineffective. The hope and the plan is that the oncolytic virus that I had infused two weeks ago would disrupt my tumors leaving a pathway for Opdivo to rally armies of T-cells to kick some cancer butt. The infusion took about an hour, but I was there all day. Since I am part of a research project, they want to check my vitals and draw blood periodically to check for any changes over an 8-hour period. It was a 12-hour day, door to door, for Lee and I.

OPdivo
With a newspaper and an Americano in hand, Jimmy settles down for a long winter’s nap

Unlike the live virus infusion, where I am in isolation, Lee and I were able to roam around the Cancer Center…that’s good for about ten minutes. But we were able to have lunch in their cafe’s outside garden, which was nice. Not long after lunch I began to feel a little chilled, so we headed upstairs to the chemo suite. They covered me with hot blankets and took my vitals. The nurse noticed that I couldn’t hold the thermometer still. I was really shaking. She quickly sprung into action, ordering Benadryl and Demerol and calling for reinforcements. Soon I had all these hospital people watching me. It was like I was on stage, and I wanted to do some tricks or tell them some jokes. It seems I was having a rigors attack, severe shivering and chills. Although uncomfortable, it is much preferable to rigor mortis! After a few minutes and all those chemicals, I felt fine.

Since I’ve been home, I’m feeling pretty good. I have had some fever (controllable) and the stinking cough, but nebulizer treatments help. I am off next week and then the last week of the month I have another round of the oncolytic virus.

Calendar Girl
Miss Bubble, 2004-2017  R.I.P.

We had to say “good-bye” to our dear Miss Bubble yesterday. It was so very difficult to say farewell to this sweet girl kitty, but I’m sure she is sleeping on the fluffiest soft clouds and getting her “scratchies” from the stars.

I was able to complete a pet portrait this week, Chico and Freddie, who hale from Sacramento.

chico & freddie
Freddie has been to every doggie parlor in Sacramento and none of them can straighten his tail!

 

 

A Song of Excitement

Below is my column from today’s Green Valley News. I was so excited that I wrote a song for it. Well a verse, anyway. Music by Meredith Wilson, lyrics by Jimmy Asbell.

But first, I know you are all wondering if I was able to set a new land speed record in Saturday’s Relay For Life event. Alas the race conditions were less than ideal, with sustained 20-mile-per-hour winds and gusts of 30 to 40 mph. Mother Nature made it impossible to hit my maximum speed. So, I will have to wait until next year for a new record.

The good news is that I won the race! I was just barely able to beat Lee who was running neck to neck with me from the beginning. From my start on the pole position, I was able to maintain my lead over the rest of the field. All that those behind me saw was the flapping of my red cape in the wind and the flash from the sun on my titanium crutches! The fact that no one knew that we were racing is totally irrelevant. I claim victory two years in a row. Thank you to everyone who has made a donation to this cause. If you have not yet made a donation and wish to, there is still time. This link will take you to my page. http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY17GW?px=42510529&pg=personal&fr_id=80321

Any and all donations are greatly appreciated!

relay 2017
The Relay For Life asked me to give a few inspirational words to start the day’s festivities.

And now today’s column in the Green Valley News:

GVN 4-9-17.jpg

Tomorrow it is back to the treatment grind with a visit to the U of A Cancer Center for the vampire to draw her gallon of blood in preparation for Tuesday’s infusion, and a meeting with the brilliant Dr. M. My pesky cough and low-grade fever is still there, but I am strong and ready for round two.

Relay For Life

Whew, last week was certainly an exhausting week! Eleven hour days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the University of Arizona Cancer Center for the infusion of the oncolytic virus, with sleep deprivation on each of those nights as I suffered from the infusion after-effects of fever, chills and coughing. Tuesday and Thursday were doctor visits and blood draws at the Cancer Center, followed by extensive sleep to recover from the previous night’s lack of zzzz’s.

As difficult as that was, Saturday was worse. I watched my Oregon Ducks lose to North Carolina by a single point at the Final Four Tournament in Phoenix on Saturday evening. My poor Ducks. Fortunately I had a former Mitsubishi colleague attending the game to provide me with insider information. When he heard of the intensity of my heart broken condition, he drove over two hours to Green Valley today to check up on me. He assured me that “we was robbed.” He observed the over-inflation of the balls on the North Carolina bench. I knew it! The Over Inflategate scandal will soon reach the news throwing doubt on the entire tournament, with the Ducks as the primary victims!

IMG_0893
Mark, a former colleague from my Mitsubishi days, filled me in on the scandalous activities on the North Carolina bench.

Needless to say my training suffered, heck, it totally stopped last week. I am now focused on reasserting myself this week with my preparation for Saturday’s event. What event you may ask? The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of course! Last year I set the land speed record for 68-year old man with stage IV cancer running on crutches! I plan on crushing the record this year. Although this is not designed to be a competitive event, I just can’t help myself. Furthermore, I challenge all comers to try to beat me. I will be wearing my red cape this year, which should increase my speed by at least 20%. Meet me at high noon at the track on the shores of Lake Sahuarita! But be forewarned that I may use dirty tricks to trip you, and my legions of fans will pelt you with frozen milk duds and jujubes should you attempt to pass me. If you do succeed in beating me, I will donate 100 Venezuelan Bolivars* to the Relay For Life in your  name.FullSizeRender

All joking aside, please support me in my efforts to raise funds to stop this horrible disease and to help those and their families who are currently affected by it. Please click on my link below. Any and every dollar (American) will help make a difference. Thank you.

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY17GW?px=42510529&pg=personal&fr_id=80321

*Venezuelan bolivar is now at 1000% inflation and growing daily so it will minimize my financial risk, ha ha.

 

Watch My Oncolytic Virus Destroy Cancer!

Today is my second infusion of Enad, the oncolytic virus that attacks the cancer cells.  Lee found this short article that has actual video footage of the Enad virus killing cancer cells. Cool!!    Click on this link:   http://www.cancercentre.ox.ac.uk/cruk-science-blog-training-viruses-to-be-cancer-killers/

All of this action displayed in the video is going inside my body and caused severe fever with temps  in excess of 102, combined with intense coughing spasms on Monday  night.  Monday was not a relaxing evening, but probably more relaxing for me than some of those cancer cells residing inside me.   Ha!

Other than being tired, yesterday I felt fine and today I feel great.  After visiting with Dr. M yesterday, Lee and I are more prepared tonight if the internal battle causes the same collateral damage. Dr. M reminded us that the fever is an indication that the virus is causing havoc with the enemy.

In it to win it!

Game On!

At the moment I am sitting in Chair One in my private chemo suite with a nice view of the trees in the courtyard and my own private toilet. And a huge staff onhand to attend to my needs. Jimmy be stylin!!

This is the first day of my phase one clinical trial of 

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I have no idea where they came up with that name, but you have to admit that the logo is cool. It will be a long day, about 11 hours here at the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson today. I will repeat this procedure on Wednesday and Friday, with two hour days on Tuesday and Thursday. My infusion of the virus today lasted about 5 minutes. So why am I here for 11 hours? A clinical trial is experimental medicine. First they draw 16 tubes of blood for all kinds of analysis. Then they watch me like a hawk, checking my vitals and drawing more blood every hour or so to see if there are any changes.  They are also constantly checking on me to see how I feel, if I need a pillow or blanket or something to eat, even dropping by to tell me the soup of the day (split pea). They want to make sure I am not having any negative reaction. I am the second patient they have for this trial, there are only about 10 nationwide at the moment. For this study there will only be 40 nationwide over five sites.  

Three hours ago my body was infused with 12,000,000,000,000,000 live  oncolytic viruses whose sole purpose in life is to seek out cancer cells, infiltrate tumors and start killing them while notifying my immune system there is a battle to fight. I will have two more of these infusions this week. Although this virus is effective in penetrating tumors, but is not strong enough to eradicate them by themselves. So, in ten days, they will give me a dollop of the immunotherapy  drug Opdivo to hopefully fully activate the immune system to begin destroying those tumor discovered by the virus.  

So far so good.

Another Cancer Victim

Cotty A recent photo of my 16-lb Cotty enjoying my soft belly as I am laying on my back in a vain attempt to nap!

First Lee, then me, and now Cotty, aka, Lord Cotswold the Handsome. All of us are members of the cancer club. Cotty is the latest addition to this shitty club. He has lymphoma in his sinus cavity. As with me, there are no treatment options that make any sense.This afternoon Lee and I were given the option of euthanizing him while he was still under anesthesia or taking him home for kitty hospice care. We chose the latter.

I am glad we did. We have a bird’s nest outside our home office window. Cotty discovered it yesterday. One of the first things he did when he came home this afternoon was to jump on the counter to check on “his” nest.

Cotty will be treated with steroids and antibiotics to hopefully keep symptoms under control. Nurse Lee also has kitty morphine to use as needed. We were told that in some cases the steroids actually slow the cancer growth. However it is a day by day thing. No one can say how well he will do, but I gathered from the conversation with the doctor that a month or two is the norm. We will be quick to pull the plug. We will not let him suffer.

Cotty is my best buddy and provides mountains of joy to my everyday living. This is very difficult for me.

Here we go…

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.

                                   Kitty Pharmacy

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.

Jimmy signs the consent form, let the trial begin!

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.

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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.

           Lord Cotswold and Miss Bubble