We are here in Durham, NC at a Springhill Suites hotel waiting to leave for our first Duke lab work and an appointment with medical oncologist and kidney cancer specialist, Dr. Dan George. One of our sons, Nicholas, is keeping the home fires burning. Callie Sprague (and, of course, Marquette McKnight) are taking care of things at the office, so we can fully and calmly (or, as calmly I can get — which isn’t too calm, let’s be honest) evaluate the things we’ll be told after blood work and a couple of pulmonary function tests.
Here’s what I want to hear: “Mr. Venable, the cancer that has recurred in your adrenal gland and in your right kidney is not growing fast. You are a candidate for HD-IL2 therapy and we’ll start your therapy either Monday or Tuesday of next week.”
As I sit here writing this post, I’m reminded of how I felt late in May, 2009 when I was first diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. I had a 5% chance of surviving for 5 years, according to the 10-year-old data I was reading on the internet. I was on edge, scared to death and terrified about what my future was going to be like.
Here, three and one-half years later, after some very painful and temporarily debilitating back surgery, we have great hope in the therapy that I’ll find out tomorrow whether I’ll be able to take. There are also other tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs that have come online that weren’t there when my diagnosis first occurred. This cancer is one of the ones where your goal is to survive long enough to live your way into new therapy options that might be able to afford a cure. I’m working on that as gracefully as I know how.
Despite the gruesome few months we have ahead if we’re fortunate to be able to challenge HD-IL2, I am not afraid and I am somewhat morbidly curious to personally experience what I’ve spent so much time reading about. Damn, how I’d love to be one of those lucky people who will post videos and write stories about the fact that they were a “complete responder.” I’ve already crafted a few turns of phrase to describe symptoms of the treatment. I visualize myself being there on the other side of this therapy, with a broken body but with the spirit of a warrior.
I can see myself on my front porch in Seale, with a still beautiful wife, an old dog and a gathering of children at my feet, all jockeying for a space to put a hand on Dixie’s graying head. I’m hearing he sounds of little boy and girl giggles at the prospect of a tractor ride through the woods. We’ll cut a cold watermelon when we get back to the house.
These images and more are at the forefront of my mind. They are not on the back burner. I don’t have time for any back-burner thought. We are willing this to happen in the most intense sort of way. As I prepare to leave the hotel and start the next phase of this journey, please see what I have just described in your mind for a few moments. Wish that for us and maybe, just maybe, it will be so.
Some of the posts that are to come are going to be technical, if we get accepted into the HD-IL2 therapy. If I get to do this like I plan, there may be multiple posts on some days. They will likely be short, so if you’re a subscriber, I hope I won’t bug you with multiple emails during the day. But that is why you subscribed, to get notifications of posts.
It is time to shower and put on my game face. We’re outta here!