A cancer journey – CT scan and infusion results

Infusion drugs!
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!

9 thoughts on “A cancer journey – CT scan and infusion results

  1. Hi Dixie
    What a struggle to say the least!
    I will be going to Toronto soon since my middle daughter Andreia (41yrs)is going to be operated ( Thyrodecomy )due papillary cancer just discovered last week.
    I’ll try to give her a hand with the 3 children for a couple of days or whatever she might need.
    So, life is just this. Happy days and less happy days, but we hold on !
    Keep strong.
    Love
    Maria

    • I hope everything goes well with your Andreia! Prayers headed your way! You speak great words “happy days and less happy days, but we hold on.” I like that! Love, Dixie

  2. Dixie, your strength as you travel this journey is amazing! I know you must have your bad days (we caregivers are just as susceptible to them as the patient), but this unwanted journey can either make you or break you, and you are doing a fantastic job of being a rock. The reduction in Rick’s tumors is absolutely wonderful news!! Amen, Amen, Amen!!!!

    The fact that you get test results back within hours instead of days at MDA has always been an amazing feat, and comfort, to me. It is so reassuring to know that you will know what is going on so quickly. Since we have had to go to other hospitals along the way with our journey, and had to endure the longer waits, it truly is a relief to be at MDA for most of the testing.

    I don’t know if they will do this for Rick’s surgery, but when Richard had his, every two hours a circulating nurse came out and gave us an update on the progress. Of course, his surgery was 8 and a half hours long, so your experience may not be the same. But overall, MDA does a fabulous job of keeping you updated & informed.

    Prayers continuing for all of you.

    • I can’t imagine how it must have been to wait so long for test results. That is a whole other stress issue. We are truly blessed to get results so quickly now. I believe the kidney surgeon mentioned a circulating nurse giving us updates during surgery. Thanks so much for the continued prayers and your wisdom!

  3. What wonderful news! I’m praying to Fr. Jamen Flanagan, a dear priest who recently died and was my spiritual director for 22 years…..he is the founder of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and I wouldn’t be surprised if his cause for canonization is beginning. He is in a place to advocate strongly for Rick. updating us with the good news and I’ll keep praying to Fr. Jim.

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