When last we hung out, Rick had just finished his third immunotherapy infusion. So for about two weeks the superman t-cells have been “cooking” on Rick’s insides. I can tell you we haven’t been twiddling all four of our thumbs this whole time. We ordered a car to be converted for transporting Mimi in her wheelchair, completed construction on a pocket door for Mimi’s room (it needed to be widened for years), and celebrated our grandson Jake’s second birthday. We are in serious love with the tyke!
Rick’s CT scan was this past Sunday … yes I said Sunday … at MD Anderson, the hospital that rarely sleeps. Our awesome daughter, Katie, took her dad for me while I hung out with our Mimi. If you have never had a CT scan, I can tell you do not feel compelled to add it to your bucket list. Not a fun way to spend your day. First you drink a large flavored drink in the waiting room. Rick chose “watery orange” this time. Yum! Then an IV is started. The rest is a mystery to me as daughters and wives have to sit and wait in the waiting room. After lots of hours, Rick came out all done and wasn’t glowing.
On Monday, we had an early morning appointment with the kidney surgeon, Dr. Karam. We pretty much knew from the beginning Rick’s left kidney (the cancer “mothership”) would be coming out. Now we would be getting a surgery date and meeting with the surgeon for the first time. Rick still wasn’t feeling well from the CT scan, so in my haste to pack crackers and nausea medication before backing out of the driveway, I neglected to bring any paper for taking notes. I just know it … someone is going to take away my Girl Scout card for not being prepared.
In the end, I wrote everything down on the back of a Kroger grocery receipt. Here is what he told us. We talked in general terms about the CT scan. No numbers or percentages. The phrase “mixed response” was thrown out. Surgery is Tuesday, May 24. Actual surgery takes about three hours, not including all the stuff happening on the front and back end. Hospital stay is two to three days. Recovery … about two weeks but still not running sprints. Interesting factoid about MD Anderson … they give you a surgery time the day before the surgery. The reasoning is surgeries get cancelled and then some surgeries get added so there are always lots of shuffling of the cards. Seems like it could work for the benefit of patients. I’ll let you know how well it works.
Today we had an appointment with Rick’s oncologist, Dr. Campbell. This is the visit I was most interested in as we’d get information on how the infusion drugs have been working. His first CT scan was in mid-February right before he was diagnosed. This was an important visit!
We learned that in just over two months, the tumor in his chest is reduced by forty percent. OK … double digits! The tumors in the lungs are clear. That means they can’t see them. Can I get an “amen?” The tumor in the liver is reduced by twenty-five percent. We were pleased with the number! The tumors in three bone areas “lit up” as unchanged, but it was explained that the CT scan is not a really good indicator with the bone. We will get further on down the road and perhaps at some point do a bone scan and get a better feel on those areas. The kidney tumor has not changed in size but doesn’t look the same. He was not concerned about this since it was coming out. Rick’s mission for the next four weeks is to get in shape for the surgery. Dr. Campbell suggested a personal trainer. He also mentioned yoga. Yeah … like that is going to happen. I don’t expect the Incredible Hulk in just four weeks but then again … I know an awesome personal trainer!
Bottom line … the tumors are responding to the immunotherapy infusion drugs. Clearly, the power of prayer and immunotherapy is working!