We have a schedule for the TIL treatment, and I go to Texas on August 15th for two weeks. I’m not sure if “excited” is the word but I am psyched about the promising results and the cutting edge science. The week of waiting for the date was nerve racking because my whole plan on getting this trial done before my medical leave of absence expires depends on timely scheduling. When the doctors don’t call you back you inevitably start coming up with reasons why. So I had one wonderful day of knowing the date was set in stone. Then I got a call from the TIL team asking to get a rush job brain MRI before they thaw out my t-cells on August 8th. They are concerned about cancer activity in my brain because of the other metastasis within my skull. I have a cranium lesion, orbital metastasis and – as of June 30th - an intercranial metastasis, but still no brain tumor. A brain tumor would exclude me from the TIL study, at least until it was treated. Not quite an “oh, shit!” moment, but definitely a rapid dissipation of a too-short lived relatively good feeling. I’m fond of saying (at least from now on) that the deal is not done until the needle is in your arm, and maybe not even then.
The interesting thing about that call, and I’ve noticed this more and more lately, is the sharp contrast between the routine manner of communicating such news and the life changing affect it can potentially have on the receiver. As occasionally in life when something drastic happens to us and we have to deal with someone to whom the event is routine. Like getting in a car accident or getting mugged. Your life seems turned upside down, the impact seems severe with possible long-term effects but the police officer taking the report sees it everyday. You can feel the same vibe from the oncologists and nurses, they know the stats and what seems to you as devastating is to them routine. I guess after a while one’s definition of routine can change, but I now understand why cancer patients and their caregivers can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can seem, at times, overwhelming.