Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Friday, July 23, 2010

What did you say?

Dr. Dave is good at getting straight to the point when he has results from a scan to report. He knows we've been gripping the edges of our seats for the last half hour (or hour, or two hours, or however long we've been waiting) and want to be put out of our misery.

But today we met with Terry, Dr. Dave's nurse practitioner. She is not as good. After she came into the exam room, she tinkered around with Mat for awhile, listening to his lungs, his heart, checking his ankles for swelling (which apparently would portend dreadful things), and asking about his bowel movements.

(Frankly, I'm a little tired of these discussions. I realize we've been married 12 years and happily share just about everything, but there are limits to the amount of my life I want to devote to discussing Mat's bowel movements. I reached that limit sometime in 2007.)

To be fair, Mat's CT scan this week was routine -- just done to establish a baseline for evaluating the effectiveness of the new clinical trial drug he started today. And so we weren't really white-knuckled, or about to throw up, just curious. Would the cancer be a) about the same; or b) a little bit worse?

Terry had not seen the scan results, so she pulled up the radiologist's report on the computer and laughed.

Because the correct answer is actually c) a little bit better.

What did you say?

Mat had a scan barely seven weeks ago that showed slow progression of cancer from the previous scan. This scan showed that Mat's tumors are measurably smaller. Not just the ones blasted by radiation in June, but the other ones, in his liver, and abdominal cavity. The ones that have been untreated since the end of May.

Terry pulled up images from the current scan and the previous scan, so we could compare. One large tumor in Mat's liver looks unchanged. The other large tumor shrank from about 75 millimeters to about 60 millimeters -- that's 20 percent. Another tumor shrank by a similar amount.

"How common is this?" I asked Terry.

Her answer: "Not common." Terry was able to produce only one other example in her career of unexplained pancreatic cancer shrinkage.

"Maybe things just got inflamed and they're settling down," she suggested.

Hmm ... could be. It might be just a fluke. Or it might not.

I swear I'm not getting my hopes up ... but of course you know what I think.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Three long weeks after starting radiation, Mat is finally done! He had a higher dose this time than in his previous two rounds, because there were two places to radiate instead of one, and it showed. Mat has been really tired and had to rely more on taxi service for his daily appointments than his motorcycle. The radiation has helped, though -- he's walking better and in noticeably less pain than before.

Today we're meeting with Dr. Ryan to go back to the drawing board for a new chemo regimen for all those tumors we can't radiate. It looks like there's a clinical trial that Mat may be eligible for -- hopefully we'll find out today. It's amazing that every time we think we're at the end of the list of treatments to try, Dr. Ryan always seems to have something up his sleeve.

In between radiation appointments, we've stayed busy watching Ian's baseball games. He had fun this season trying his hand at pitching, and his team won the town championship for their division. (Ian was just happy to get a really big trophy.)