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2 Scans Down and a Bunch to Go

We’re huddled in Houston where it was a brisk 47 degrees today, a full 60 degrees cooler than our trip in August. This time I asked for the blankets while I was in the scanner for 20 and 30 minutes at a time.

Today’s scans were a renogram, to make sure my kidneys are functioning well to flush the radiation; and a bone scan to check for mets. Over the next few days I still have an MRI, CT, and several Octreoscans which measure the uptake of the radioactive material by my tumors. It took four sticks to get my IV started today. UGH! I hate IV’s. I have a bunch of lab work tomorrow morning and I’m really hoping they can find a vein on the first try. We’ll get the results of everything when we meet with the doctor next Tuesday afternoon (the appointment got switched from Monday).

Kathy and I love the staff at Excel Diagnostics. As miserable as all of this is for me, the people there really make it okay. We get big hugs like we’re old friends and we laugh and joke our way through the day. Thank goodness for friendship and humor. Speaking of which, we had a wonderful time today meeting Candy, a kindred spirit who has been going through all of this right along with me. A pancreatic NET from SoCal, she had surgery similar to mine at Cedars nearly three years ago and started PRRT here about a year ago. Done with her therapy, Candy’s back in Houston for some follow-up scans. She has been a constant source of inspiration for me, and someone that Kathy and I have both leaned on. We get to spend more time with her tomorrow and we’ll all grab some dinner together.

Mary & Russ are great hosts and we feel right at home here. It’s great to have a place to just relax and unwind in the evening. I think if we had to stay in a hotel for two straight weeks during this I might go crazy.

Round Two

I’m back in Houston for my second round of PRRT. I flew in this afternoon and had an MRI. I’ll get the results of the MRI in the next day or two which may give me an early indication of how effective this therapy is after only the first of four treatments. The tech was nice enough to leave my IV in from the MRI so hopefully I’ll have one less needle-stick in the morning.

Tomorrow is the actual infusion of the radioactive therapy along with the amino acids to protect my kidneys. It’s the exact same process as last time, with follow-up scans on Thursday and Friday, then flying back home Saturday. Because this is a much shorter trip Kathy stayed home to help save some money. I’ll be in the treatment room all day tomorrow with one of the other patients I met on my first trip. We ran into each other at the hotel, and will have lots to talk about as we sit there for five hours.

Thankfully Houston is a little cooler (still about 90) and a lot less humid than it was in August. My interesting travel story is that the TSA opened my suitcase to inspect it, I guess in San Jose, then LOCKED it shut with the built-in lock. I haven’t ever carried that key, so I had to get a locksmith to open my suitcase for me here in Houston. I’ll be sure to find the key and keep it with me from now on.

I’ll post more after my therapy. Take care.

What I’ll Miss About Texas…

I’ll miss the signs at the entrance to every building. I knew I should have packed my gun rack for the back window of the rental car.

I will truly miss our wonderful friends Mary and Russ and their sons who made us feel like family our first week here. I will also miss everyone at Excel Diagnostics who took such excellent care of me, treated Kathy and me with kindness, and who administered my therapy expertly and compassionately. This is a trying experience for everyone involved, but if you have to go through it I can’t imagine a better facility or a better group of people.

I’ll miss the other patients I met who are battling through this same ordeal. I am so hopeful for good results for each of them and wish them the very best. Our paths will likely cross again during future visits to Houston. This is a horrible circumstance to meet others in your same position, yet comforting to find gentle kindred spirits.

Today was my final scan at the medical facility. 20 minutes and I was done. The morning started with a visit to our hotel room by one of the techs who brought her gieger counter. First she scanned me (my external radiation has already dropped to a fraction of what it was two days ago.) Then I left the room and she scanned everything in my bedroom and bathroom. Apparently I followed instructions fairly well. The only things we have to take home and hold in isolation for six weeks are my clothes from the day of the procedure, a bath towel (I swear we’ll return it), and an absorbent floor pad from the bathroom. After six weeks we can wash the stuff and it will be fine. I’m supposed to keep my distance, especially from children, pregnant women, and pets until Wednesday.

I’m feeling a little more nauseated today. Apparently that’s to be expected for a couple weeks. Ugh. I’m also just wrung out, tired, and very homesick. Kathy and I both can’t wait to fly home tomorrow. I’ll still be holed-up in our bedroom when we get back, but at least it will be our own bed.

I’ll be heading back in October for my second round of therapy. That visit will only be about 5 days as I won’t have to do the entire first week of scans over again.

I’ll post more when we’re settled back at home. Take care.

Doctor Visit

We said goodbye to Mary, Russ and their sons today. We had such a great time with them that the week went by too quickly. Incredibly gracious hosts – thank you!

The meeting this afternoon with Dr. Delpassand went well. He first took my history, then discussed PRRT in general terms and explained why he felt it was a good option for someone like me because of the potential for positive results with relatively few side effects.

He then went over my various test results in detail. Everything was basically as we expected with regard to my tumors and their  locations (liver, diaphragm, lymph nodes, lung, etc.) No real surprises there. He then discussed the PET scan and said mine was negative. This is a good thing because it means my tumors are not taking in a lot of glucose and are therefore not aggressive. This is both good in general terms and also because it makes me a better candidate for positive results with the PRRT. Then Kathy asked him about the bone scan. He said that was negative as well, which means that they didn’t find any bone mets: more good news. All things considered Dr. Delpassand said I’m a good candidate for this therapy so we’re very hopeful that it will be effective.

The greatest potential for harm from this therapy is to your kidneys. To counteract that they give you amino acids to help protect your kidneys. Taking the amino acids reduces the possibility of kidney damage to just 1%. When I show up Wednesday morning they will start a 4-hour IV with those amino acids. About 30 minutes into the amino acid drip they start the actual lutetium (radioactive) drip, which will only go for about 30 minutes total. I’ll sit for 3 more hours while the amino acids keep going. They’ll do some scans during and after all of this to make sure the lutetium is being taken up by my tumors as they expect. It’s actually the amino acids that can make you nauseous, but that should pass after the first day.

This picture is of some of the Excel Diagnostics staff as we were giving them a garlic braid. Cathie, Bouchra and Susan are all great and have been very helpful. As soon as the photo-op was over they started cutting up the braid right away and were handing out garlic to everyone in the office.

Tomorrow we’re probably going to visit Johnson Space Center, and maybe head down to the coast before the big day on Wednesday. I’ll post more then. Take care.

TGIF

Aaahh, the scans are all done. Woohoo! No more IVs until next Wednesday. Double Woohoo!! Today was the fourth and final octreoscan, about an hour lying still in the machine from Monday’s picture. That was followed by an IV injection of the glucose tracer for the PET scan. We sat around for 45 minutes while that was absorbed by my tumors, then had the actual scan in the machine above. It’s the same machine I had my CT scan in yesterday. The PET scan was also about 45 minutes. Then that was it.

We’re going to take it easy this weekend, catching a Giants-Astros game tomorrow at Minute Maid Park. No plans for Sunday. Monday afternoon at 2:00 we meet with Dr. Delpassand to hear the results from all of the scans this week. I’ll post more after that meeting. Have a great weekend.

Almost Done with Scans

Today was pretty easy. Just about an hour in the same scanner for the third phase of the octreoscan. The imaging plates slowly rotated around my body giving them a pretty cool 3-D picture of tracer uptake in my tumors and elsewhere.

That was followed by a CT of my abdomen, something I’ve had done dozens of times. First they had me drink a quart of contrast that they says tastes like a chocolate milkshake (lie) then they gave me an IV in the back of my hand for more contrast. That’s usually no big deal but the vein blew out so it was a little painful.

We were done in time for lunch and a leisurely drive back to Spring. I’m feeling much better being back on my regular injections. Tonight I have a special high protein, no carb diet in preparation for the PET scan tomorrow. The PET tracer is a glucose analog so they want your cells to be very hungry for that tracer when it comes along.

More tomorrow after my final scans. Thanks for stopping by.