Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Updates, Oncologist, Prognosis.

Another visit to Mayo today. The news was mixed, some better than expected, some worse than expected.

I met with the Urological Oncologist (cancer-doc). We discussed the details of the chemo. This (from my perspective, at least) is better than expected.

The current plan is that I'll have 6 weeks of chemo (this is far less that the 12 weeks that was originally forecast) and I will be on a reduced dosage of Cisplatin. Cisplatin is the (fairly evil) drug that causes numbness and tingling in the fingertips and hearing loss. A fabulous double-whammy for musicians. I experienced both side effects last time and, while the numbness slowly went away, the hearing loss did not.

It makes me happy that I'll be getting a smaller dosage of Cisplatin, but the rounds will be different.

For reference, here's what I did before:

Week 1 (Monday): Cisplatin and Gemcitabine
Week 2 (Monday): Gemcitabine only
Week 3: No treatment.

That was one "cycle" and then the next week I'd get treated with both meds, etc. I did 3 cycles before, or 9 weeks.

Last time around, I was feeling about 90% normal at the end of the cycle, then the next would knock me down again. Cisplatin was so toxic that i only got it once every 3 weeks.

This time, I will be treated *every week* for 6 weeks without a break. It will be a lower dose, but in the end may be an equivalent amount of Cisplatin to what I received before -- that remains to be seen.

In addition, I will also be doing simultaneous radiation therapy, 5 days a week, for about 2 hours each time. The combination of these two will make me incredibly tired, I am told. It will be a very long 6 weeks.

The start date of Chemo is still uncertain, but most likely mid-August.

After the meeting with the oncologist, we went to see Dr. Hunter, a followup just to put everything in perspective and answer any more questions.

I learned that my cancer is currently classified as "Metastatic Urothelial Carcinoma", which means it is a stage 4 cancer. This is the scary level that a person does not want to reach: as high as it goes. Usually stage 4 means that the cancer has spread to the lymph system, as it has in my case. The important thing, Dr. Hunter points out, is that it has not spread to any other organs.

Based on what they know about this type of cancer (and this team would be among the world's leading experts on this type of cancer) it moves fast, grows quickly, and is tenacious. They warned me a year ago that it would likely crop up again, most likely in a different area. And it has. When pressed for further information, Dr. Hunter said that areas most at risk after this would be the liver and/or lungs.

Chemotherapy and radiation are planned to either keep the cancer in check or to eliminate it altogether. The best case is that these two treatments destroy the tumor. As a fallback, surgery (which will leave permanent side effects due to nerve damage and will leave me walking with a cane for the rest of my life) is an option. The worst case scenario is that tumor would be deemed inoperable post chemo/radiation. This is always a risk when using radiation therapy, as radiation destroys the tissues, making them fibrous and dangerous or just plain impossible to operate on.

The Mayo physicians are talented, inventive and knowledgeable: but they still need to follow the same basic laws of physics and biology as everyone else. If an inoperable aggressive cancer is left to its own devices... fill in the blank.

I'm harping perhaps too much on the negative possibilities, but I can't help but turn them over in my mind.

I am now looking forward to starting chemo/radiation. The sooner I start, the sooner I'll be finished with it. One step at a time.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to having you stay over. (You don't mind leaping out of bed to the sound of a bugle at oh-five-hundred, do you, laddie?)


Modhran said...

Wow, this sounds frightening. I'm glad you have access to these great doctors. I wish I were able to do something to help.


lsikora said...

Hi, Michael - just found out about this new chapter. Enjoying your writing again, but hating the reason you're writing. I guess all that previous experience has come in handy, though, as you are aggressively going after it -which is great!

Anonymous said...

I was kidding about that oh-five-hundred stuff. We get up at 8 on an early day. And the bugle! That was a joke, too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dad, I look forward to staying with you guys soon one of these times I'm down in the area. No early reville, though! Ken and Lsikora, thanks I appreciate it. -- M

nihilix said...

Yeah, I'd be thinking about life if I had a life-threatening level of cancer. I think the rulebook says you can worry about just about anything you want - it's your disease.

Glad to know the treatment time will be that much shorter.


Deborah in MN said...

wow. And I thought what I was facing was scary. I wish I was thru my surgery and recovered so I could help you out.

Eclector2 said...

Dear Michael,
You are right: Take one step at a time, keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best, that's all we can do. I wish there was more certainty. If it is any comfort, we will walk with you on those steps and hope and pray for you to arrive at the end of this with your beautiful body, mind, and soul intact.
Love, Mom

Raymond said...

I second your mother's words, brother.

Whenever I can be there, I will be.

Post a Comment