As I sit and write this it is the eve of Christmas 2019. So much as happened to us this year, Cancer aside it was a busy year to be sure with a lot of challenges each that required we develop a plan of action, working the plan, checking the progress and adjusting where required. 2019 would prove to be the year of “Roll With It”
On Thursday the 19th of December 2019 I visited University of Iowa Hospitals driven by our good friends Dave and Lisa. I cannot say enough words about them, so I will just say how much we love and appreciate them. They have taken a time that was difficult and helped both Denise and I to navigate a complex system and campus and we are forever grateful.
During my visit on the 19th I had nearly 50 blood tests taken, a full body PET-CT Image, a full body MRI performed, and a bone marrow biopsy performed by Scott the master of bone marrow biopsy. You never want to have one, but if you need one, Scott is your guy trust me on this one.
The reason that the bone marrow biopsy is performed is to measure how much of the myeloma is in my bone marrow. This is a measure of how much cancer is detected.
On that trip over 5 million cells were extracted and they evaluated and counted every cell looking for malignancy. In September 8 out of every ten cell measured contained cancer. Now after 12 weeks of chemotherapy ZERO Cells contained cancer. That is right folks I was Cancer FREE. They call this state “No Evidence of Disease” and the doctor actually used the phrase remission 100% full remission, which shocked me, it is a term not usually used in in the treatment of myeloma.
Okay so we felt pretty good about that, but left alone and with no more treatment myeloma would come back in six to eight months, because that is what this disease does, it comes back, it always comes back eventually. Our aim is simply to kick that can down the road as far as we can so that if we can get say six more years of cancer free status, the technology and the treatments all change and maybe a real cure is developed.
The next step for me will be two back-to-back stem cell transplants (SCT). These procedures are complex, and they take a long time, but they have proven to be effective and can help those with myeloma achieve remission for six, twelve, fifteen or even twenty years. These two back-to-back transplants are called a “Tandem Transplant” and have become quite controversial.
The philosophy involved in a tandem today is that hitting the cancer hard, and then twice before the cancer has a chance to build a resistance to drugs provides a one-two punch that just knocks out the cancer.
Today tandems are not prescribed as often as they once were because for most patients the outcome of one is the same for two transplants, but in a few select cases they are used when a patient is high risk and my team feels it is my best option for success and longevity.
I qualify for this approach not only because of specific genetic mutations that exist in the cancer cells they measured, but also because of the size and number of tumors that were detected at diagnosis.
During the transplant process I will also receive four different chemical agents instead of the typical single agent Melphalan, so often used it is known as a Melphalan based tandem. I will receive three more in addition.
The protocol used in my treatment is called Total Therapy #3 (TT3) and it was developed by Dr. Barlogie. The results of this therapy is astonishing. The most recent data on Total Therapy shows average life expectancy of 15 years for their TT3 program and this is 3.8 times longer than average of all facilities that report their survival to the National Cancer Institute.
Even the early results of TT3 were amazing with over 91% of the program participants being in remission within 24 months.
So we trust my medical team, we know they are using a proven program and also that at no other time will I be in better condition to undergo the treatment, so January kicks off about 12 weeks of on again off again treatments that will require we travel back and forth to Iowa City Iowa. I will be staying at the Hope Lodge when I am not inpatient at the hospital so that I can show up for daily bloodwork, or classes or other procedures, the first of which is surgical implantation of a PICC line which permits the volume of cells to travel that are required for collection.
So that is the latest news on what condition my condition is in. It also lays out a plan for much of 2020 which will put me in the process of healing or recovering from the healing from mid-January until almost August of 2020. At that point they tell me I should start to feel like my old self and have more energy and less risks in terms of immunity issues. That is our vision, the target and as I write this at Christmas in 2019 I am very much looking forward to being cancer free for all of 2020!
Love to you all who have been following along.
from Eric, Denise and Family – God Bless you all