If you read my blog, you have heard my declarations of how damn good it is to be able to get great cancer treatment here at home. You’ve heard me say how much I appreciate the John B. Amos Cancer Center, all the people who work there, and most specially Dr. Andy Pippas and his right hand, Cindy Ivey.
Here’s another story that illustrates just how incredible the care I’ve received here has played out: You all know how important the MRI scan that I received on Tuesday was. It has been five months since my third back surgery (the one Dr. Marc Goldman did that stopped the chronic pain and essentially kept me out of a wheel chair), and about 7 months since Dr. Mike Gorum and Dr. John Cabelka (and a host of other physicists, technicians and support staff) attempted to kill the renal cell cancer tumor in my spine. This MRI was huge! This is probably the most anxious I’ve been, because a good report would mean I might have a chance at significant, disease-free survival. On the flip, a bad report would signal the beginning of some negatively life changing other procedures or nasty drug side effects and a likely significant shortening of my potential life span.
This is how much I love the care I’m receiving here at the hands of medical professionals who also happen to be my friends. Mike Gorum has a vested interest in my life. He has performed (along with Dr. Mac Molnar) a huge spinal operation on me that culminated in the rebuilding of the vertebral body at L-2. He has watched me suffer with crippling pain and slowly begin to regain my strength and vitality.
Mike was finished with his work on Tuesday, fairly early in the day after a very early start, but he came back to the hospital to be in the room in which the technicians were administering my MRI. He literally watched the scans while they were happening. He sent me a text, “MRI clean.” That evening, Mike and his wife, Tammy, met me at Ride On Bikes and they rode with me for my first bike ride in over a year. I tried to tell them how much it meant to me to have such care and concern at a time when I may have most needed it in my life.
That is what getting treatment at home looks like. These medical professionals are our friends. They live here. They rear their children here. We see them around town at plays, restaurants and music events. If you are asked to support local medical charities, please dig deep. We need a medical school here, we need a new women’s and children’s center like the one being planned at Columbus Regional Healthcare System, we need expanded facilities at St. Francis hospital.
We have taken advantage of seeking second and third opinions (with the urging and blessings of Dr. Pippas), but if at all possible I want to be here for treatments.
I’ll get off my soap box now and tell you what I just read in my MRI report. My spine is in perfect alignment, held in place with two titanium plates and four screws, for which my insurance paid $43,000, if you can believe that! There is no evidence of metastatic disease! There are no soft tissue abnormalities present near my spine! In short, it appears the stereotactic radiosurgery that they didn’t get right at Emory, was administered perfectly here. The tumor in my spine appears to be dead and new bone is growing, thanks in part to the monthly injections of Xgeva, (http://www.xgeva.com/WT.mc_id=GooglePaidSearchBrandXgevaURL&WT.srch=1) a drug that should strengthen my bones and make it more difficult for the establishment of another renal cell metastasis.
Here is a snapshot of the history with Renal Cell Carcinoma:
59 years of age
• June 11, 2009 radical left nephrectomy + 12 lymph nodes (1 positive for RCC)
• August, 2009 ASSURE clinical trial (Sutent/Nexavar/Placebo) Ultimately completed trial.
• September, 2010 discovered 2 cm tumor in spine at L-2 and unblinded from trial (Placebo arm, thank God, but I knew that all along)
• October 21, 2010 Biopsy of spine determined the lesion is a metastatic RCC.
• December 2, 2010 Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) at Emory Atlanta (went for for CT simulation on 11/17/2010)
• March, 2010: oncologist says that I’m NED.
• August, 2011: Oncologist says the tumor at L-2 wasn’t completely killed and it is growing again.
• August 19, 2011: Lumbar fusion surgery and fixation with pedicle screws and fusion with bone morphogenic protein at L 1-3.
• Three weeks post surgery, developed severe #10 back pain. Treated with time-release morphine and dilaudid for breakthrough pain.
• Awake at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 8, 2011 and squatted down to remove power plug from wall socket. Complete loss of strength on right side caused me to fall over to my right.
Got to bed and called my neurosurgeon early Saturday morning. He instructed me to get to emergency department immediately. His partner, Dr. Marc Goldman met me and we went immediately to surgery, where he performed a lumbar laminectomy (bilateral inferior L1, complete bilateral L2 and bilateral superior L3). Pain was immediately gone and according to physical therapist, strength can be regained in legs with therapy, which I’m doing now.
• On Monday, October 10, I was moved by ambulance to the John B. Amos Cancer Center, where I was simulated for stereotactic radiosurgery to attempt to kill the tumor in my back. Got food poisoning from bad hotdog on Monday evening, so we delayed SRS until Thursday, October 20. 16-greys of radiation in a single one-hour treatment.
• Scans in December, 2011 show NED. Got second opinion on December 30, 2011 from Dr. Janice Dutcher at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, NY. She advised to stay course, but would administer HDIL-2, if we wanted to try it.
• Got third opinion from Dr. Dan George at Duke University Hospital on January 11, 2012. He recommended to stay the course and said he was “guardedly optimistic” about my long-term disease-free survival.
• Scans in March, 2012 show NED.
Thank you for all your continued prayers for me and my family. I am a walking, breathing, living example of the power of prayer, good medical treatment and great attitude. Sorry for the length of this post, but I know you want to know about my latest scans.