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Mixed Results with CT Scans; Another Round of IL-2

Posted by on June 21, 2010 in IL-2, Immunotherapies (IL-2, IL-15, PD-1s, etc.), My Health Updates - No comments


The latest CT scan results are inconclusive.

I was expecting clear, unmistakable evidence of shrinkage. I was expecting the doctor to say that not only had the tumors disappeared completely but that my biceps were bulging anew, my brain expanding to a point where it might cause neck strain and that my heart mae Lance Armstrong weep. I was expecting trumpets to sound, angels to sing, mermaids to arise shimmering from the depths of the sea. Instead, we got a side-by-side comparison of the most recent CT scans with the previous scans in an effort to determine whether we were making progress. Nobody could say.

The largest of the two tumors were stable — meaning that they hadn’t grown but that they hadn’t shrunk either. One of them had oddly morphed in shape, like an amoeba. It had squeezed in the middle, but expanded on the ends — basically elongating the tumor. What does this mean? Nobody could say.  The radiologist suggested that it was “slightly less conspicious in comparison to the prior study.” Which translates: “Well, you know, it might be smaller, maybe.”

I will admit: After all of the treatments and the side effects, I was frustrated and even a little angry to learn that the results were … inconclusive. I do not like inconclusive.

So I spent the afternoon brooding. A little angry. At whom? Who knows.

Dena, bless her heart, had a very different perspective. Which is why we are a good team. “I was expecting to find out that the cancer had spread to your liver or your bones,” she said. “Instead we’ve got some potential shrinkage.” Put that way, it does indeed seem like progress.

Dr. George pointed out that the tumors’ prevoius rates of growth were aggressive enough to suggest that if the treatment weren’t working, then we should have definitely seen some growth. The fact we did not see new growth, he concluded, was evidence of success, particularly when combined with the possibility of some of the smaller mets having been eliminated. He was candid: He couldn’t say for sure whether the treatment was working. Then he looked at us and asked whether we felt we could go through another round of IL-2. He said he would understand if we wanted to call it quits. Each new round ups the ante in terms of toxicity, as it is a culminative effect, which means each round gets progressively more difficult and the side effects potentially more dangerous.

So you are breathlessly waiting to know our decision, right?  Well, I’m writing to you from my hospital bed, a new picc line freshly needled into the interior of my bicep. It is a little after midnight and I am awating a nurse to take me down to radiology to x-ray the picc line and make sure it has dropped properly near my heart. (Otherwise we do it again.)

In other words, yes, we are forging ahead. We will now enter Round 3a, with Round 3b to follow in a couple of weeks. Soon Dena will take over writing the updates, as I will be off in my weird little IL-2 world where my interior conversations in no way correspond to my external ones.

I’m already looking forward to going home and seeing Kate and Josie. They may be crazy, but they are my crazy and I miss them.

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