Well, we got the results yesterday of Thursdays CT and MRIs and we got neither a winning lottery ticket nor devastating news - something more in the middle and along the lines of our original treatment plan. The biochemo did not shrink my existing tumors but they also did not grow. The tumor in my hip looks stable enough that Dr. Patel approved a stationary bike for me, which is pretty exciting. Unfortunately, we did find two new tumors near my kidney. Sometimes they call biochemo a "springboard treatment" specifically because it halts the progress of your existing cancer while you have to wait for other treatment options. For us, we've waited five weeks for our other treatment option – the TIL study - and the t-cells they extracted from me in May have grown successfully into the millions. This means that I can likely enter the TIL clinical trial at the end of July. More details on what's involved in that later.
So, what does this news mean? Its some cold comfort that this was the plan from day one. The TIL study was my number one goal and the reason we went to MD Anderson, but we did not get the sudden success from the biochemo that we held as an outside hope. Our recent optimism was born of my surprisingly strong recovery from the biochemo. We were made to expect to limp through the time in between treatments, to expect blood transfusions and emergency room visits, but my recovery was rapid and complete. Now, two weeks after my second round - which was supposed to be the worst - I feel the best I have since entering treatment. I even hit the hotel gym before seeing Dr. Patel yesterday. I do not think my stamina was working in the same direction as the biochemo treatment. Chemo works by destroying you - hoping that the healthy part of you is destroyed a little less than the cancer part of you. The TIL treatment, however, relies on your body’s ability to fight, to recover and to attack that which attacks it. This treatment seems to play into my strengths.
Switching to the TIL treatment has many other positives. In addition to having a complete attack plan, it means that I'll be spending a wonderful bonus time at home with the family while I'm feeling good. It also means I may return to work after recovering from the second IL2 treatment and that I can resume a relatively normal life until otherwise notified. This is all good news but delivered with a bit of a setback. Lance said that cancer taught him to be comfortable with ambiguity, now I know what he's talking about.
So this week we're going to take the kids to Disney World and enjoy the downtime before the big attack in a couple of weeks. I'll continue regaining my stamina and getting stronger and healthier each and every day. Meanwhile, cancer can sit there and wait, nervously anticipating the billions of specially trained tumor infiltrating lymphocytes that are coming its way soon. Think about how many zeros are in a billion, cancer, and I'll be enjoying the Magic Kingdom.