Friday, September 2, 2011

RTB - return to base

To update, the t-cell replacement phase of the clinical trial is over and I am back home.  Nothing like 16 days in the hospital to make you appreciate the finer points of the ole homestead.  In those 16 days we killed off my immune system with chemo, replaced that with my newly grown t-cells designed to fight melanoma, used high-dose IL2 to welcome and grow the new t-cells and then waited for immune system to bounce back enough to let me out in the general population with you germ infested types.  The chemo went by pretty easily, although the after effects are just starting to be felt.  As of today I am severely follicly challenged.
The t-cell transfer was exciting, albeit a little anticlimactic.  Two scientists brought the bag of t-cells to the research team, who handed them to my medical oncologist, who handed it to the clinical nurses who handed it to my day's nurse.  In thirty minutes they were in, all the while all the aforementioned medical staff loitered around my tiny hospital room.  I'm officially the 46th person to have undergone this at MD Anderson (about 100 have undergone it at the National Cancer Institute).  They have done surgery on nearly 500 patients at MD A in order to get them into the study but most of them dropped out along the way.  Not me, this was my plan from day #1 and - much to the misfortune of cancer - I succeeded.  One thing that I noticed in the hospital is that there were two types of patients - those having things done to them and those having things done for them.  It comes out in the way people describe their treatment, being subjugated or being empowered.  My chosen medical team has performed some major science fiction for me in my battle for cancer, I can not thank them enough.  Here is a picture of me with Dr. Patrick Hwu, who developed this process with the famous Dr. Rosenburg when they used to work together at NCI (I promise that is him).  I go back on 9/13 for another round of high-dose IL2.  I have to say that the HDIL2 is pretty rough, but the effects seem to be short lived.  I had five doses last week, and hope for at least as many when I go back.  Then we have an initial set of scans at six weeks and twelve weeks.  My treatment protocol is complete at this point, and it will be time to get back to work and a normal life.
     Speaking of getting to work, kudos to my wife Ann who is riding in the LiveLong/LiveStrong event on October 2nd and she's the third highest contributor so far for the organization, in addition to getting quite a few friends and neighbors to participate in the ride.  If you want to participate or support Ann, she has a dedicated web page with all the information here.  I am very excited about the ride, and plan on riding one of the three courses, even if I'm in a wagon being pulled by zMotion riders.
     Yesterday I was in the hospital hooked up to Wilson and a dozen other machines, being poked and prodded around the clock.  This morning I lay in bed with a little girl in each arm watching the sun rise over the hedges.  The war is not over, not by a long shot, but it is good to be home to savor a victory.

     "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."  W. Churchill 


  1. Yay William! Enjoy your time at home!

  2. William, we don't know each other but I have been following you and praying for you and your family. Glad to see you back home. Best of luck.

  3. William,

    A post Wallace made elsewhere brought me to your blog. I'm about to start at NCI what you have completed at MD Anderson. My TIL treatment starts in one to two weeks (I'm in a study that randomizes the addition of total body irradiation on top of chemo before the administration of TIL, and that will affect my start date if I end up randomized into radiation).

    I'm glad to see you're making good progress with your treatment. That helps reaffirm my belief that TIL will "fix" me too.

    And also I'm very sorry for your loss (the fellow blogger you just wrote about). My first melanoma buddy, who happened to be my instructor in an on-line graduate course recently passed away as well. I never actually met him, but exchanged a number of messages with him in the months leading to his final passing. He helped me through my roughest time in my melanoma diagnosis and I won't forget him or his struggle with melanoma.

    I'll keep following your progress. Should you be interested, I'm writing about my own efforts at

    Good to meet you.