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More Good News from Houston

Kathy and I are hanging out at Houston Hobby airport waiting for our flight home. We’ve been here since Monday for a routine visit three months after my final round of PRRT. I had several follow-up tests and exams at Excel Diagnostics including a MUGA scan, renogram, bone scan, MRI, CT, and octreoscans. I also had the gamut of lab work last week. All of the results are good. The imaging shows continued tumor death in my liver and other areas. Some areas of tumors in my lymph nodes and diaphragm are stable. There is no evidence of disease in my bones. My kidney function is normal, and there is no sign of toxicity in my kidneys from the PRRT.

A couple of the most dramatic findings are that the overall tumor bulk in my liver is down to about 25%. A few years ago as much as 40% of my liver was involved with cancerous lesions. The doctor showed us the MRI of my liver and the difference from then to now is amazing. Also great is the fact that my neuroendocrine tumor markers are all the lowest they’ve ever been. These include cga, neurokinin a, serotonin and 5HIAA. That last indicator is the one that surprised us the most because it’s what helped to diagnose me with carcinoid back in 2005. At that time my 5-HIAA level was 87. The highest that indicator has been in the last six months was 55. My test last week showed it at only 15.

The hope now is that this therapy will continue to work over the next several months to further reduce tumors, and that I can enjoy up to five years (or maybe more?) of tumor free progression. I will continue to have follow-up scans and tests on a regular basis. We still have to work out the details but I should be able to have the majority of that work done at Cedars-Sinai in LA rather that having to return to Houston.

We’re so thankful AGAIN to our wonderful friends Mary and Russ who opened their home to us this week. We feel like part of the family and really enjoy our visits with them. While we won’t miss the humidity here, we will miss the people and the great care. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to receive this therapy.

Done With Final Treatment

Today was my fourth and final PRRT treatment and I’m so happy to have that behind me. It was typically uncomfortable, caused a good deal of flushing, and took the usual multiple sticks to get the IVs going. Regardless of the pain, the people at Excel were as wonderful as ever.

One of the doctors spoke with me to let me know that yesterday’s MRI showed the results we wanted: stable disease and no new tumor growth. That good news of course makes everything worthwhile.

I sat through therapy with another patient from California who also sees Dr. Wolin. It was somewhat amusing because we were both passing the time reading the Steve Jobs book. When I told her I was from Gilroy she said, “Oh yeah, I go to the Outlets.” It was also entertaining today to watch the Texas sized thunder and lightning. As I’ve stated many a time, I will never miss the weather in this place.

I have the usual follow-up scans tomorrow and Friday, then fly home Saturday. I come back in three months for another round of follow-up tests. Right now though I’m very tired so I’ll hit the hay and write more soon.

Good Report

Kathy and I met with the doctor today at Excel Diagnostics and the news was good. The various scans show that my tumors are responding to the therapy, with some of them shrinking and some stable. There are no signs of new tumors. My bone scan was negative. My kidney and liver function are fine. My blood markers that indicate various levels of cancer related junk are trending in the right direction.

All of this will help to slightly soften the blow of tomorrow’s therapy, which I unfortunately know is going to make me miserable. Right now I’m just looking forward to getting this done and getting back home. Kathy, as always, has been a trooper and continues to support me and tolerate all of my nonsense. With a little radiation these next few days I’m certain to light up her life.

More to follow post-therapy…

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.