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Duke, Dr. George and IL-2

Posted by on December 31, 2009 in IL-2, My Health Updates - No comments


Dena here.

I told Chris to update the journal last night, but he didn’t listen.  I said, I bet people are desperately waiting to read the next segment of our CaringBridge site.  They want to know just how badly you negotiated with the doctor.  But, he didn’t listen.  He just kept working on an article he’s writing for the Lancet about how wifely nagging likely causes cancer.

So, it falls on me to update you all.  But that’s ok. I should have taken over this blog a long time ago.

Yesterday we met with Dr. Daniel George, a renal oncologist with Duke’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Normally, I immediately distrust people who have first names for last names, but I decided to make an exception for Dr. George because he really seemed to know what he was talking about.  He had already read all of Chris’s records and taken a look at his scans.  This is pretty impressive because in our experience, that’s generally not the case.  It’s not really the doctor’s fault — in truth, they are overworked, overscheduled and required to take on cases that they don’t have a lot of experience with.

Which brings me to a point about how exceptional my husband is.  Over the weekend, he painstakeningly scanned every lab report, blood test and set of doctor’s notes into the computer.  Then he organized them by date and by test and put them into five separate files and e-mailed them down to Duke.  To put it mildly, they were impressed.  And, frankly I was impressed too.  Because this was all done by a man who loses his keys and wallet daily. (I’m beginning to rethink my assessment: Perhaps it’s not that he’s developed newly exceptional organizational skills but OCD. I caught him this morning scanning the daily newspaper into the computer.)

Dr. George said that Chris is an excellent candidate for HDIL-2 — a treatment that is used to treat both RCC and melanoma.  Given the fact that Chris is young (although old compared to his trophy wife), a man (interleukin is a notoriously sexist drug), is in “very good shape” (an assessment that I think has gone to his head), and that his metasteses are in the lungs, which is one of the regions in which IL-2 is most effective — all of this led the doctor to conclude that if this kind of treatment is going to work at all (about a one-third chance of a partial response, statistically speaking), then Chris is an ideal candidate.

The doctor’s optimism about this treatment (he has a wonderful bedside manner) was reassuring and his confidence built ours. We feel good about making it our first line of attack.  Obviously, there are no guarantees, and, to manage expectations, we have to acknowledge that this treatment doesn’t work for most people; nonetheless, we’re gunning for that small percentage who achieve a high success rate.

The second thing Dr. George said was that he wanted to start right away. He could administer it at Duke, or, he noted, he could possibly get us into the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda.  This would mean that Chris could do this treatment close to home — and that would be easier on us and especially easier on our little girls. Dr. George noted that they would not be able to see Chris during the treatment, it’s a pretty hard treatment, but just having them near would mean a lot to both of us.

Not entirely unexpected, but Dr. George did rule out surgery for the mets to the lungs.  We were a little disappointed, but not really surprised, and he helped put us at ease … sort of.  He said that when cancer spreads to the lungs, it rarely just comes up as one or two mets but more “scattered.”  So, even if they went in and took out those mets, they’d likely be leaving behind microscopic cancer cells that would be missed and just keep growing.  So, not great news, but it’s good to know the facts. And, as he pointed out, the IL-2 treatement, if it works, will work throughout the body and address the larger as well as potentially microsopic growths that a surgeon woulnd’t even see.

We left Duke feeling confident and ready for action.  As one of my dearest friends said to me, “We will ring in the New Year with a plan.  I love plans.”  I love plans too.

Since it’s my first post, I’d just like to add in this note.  Thank you so much to all of you.  For following our story.  For praying for us, caring for us, offering to bring meals, watch our kids, etc…  Cancer is overwhelming, but we have an army fighting this with us.  I will never have the words to express how much it means to me.

Happy New Year!

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