Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


About two months ago, Mat's hip and lower spine started hurting, and he began having more and more trouble walking. When he couldn't walk more than a few feet at a time because of the pain, he finally said something to Dr. Dave who shipped him directly to radiation. Within a week, Mat was much improved, and by the time the round of radiation was over (round number four, if you're counting), Mat was practically skipping.

I'm exaggerating a little, but there were motorcycle rides, a trip to the Vanson Leathers factory in Fall River for a motorcycle jacket with buddy Joe, and visits with friends. It was great.

It was also short. If you blinked, you missed it.

The last day of radiation was two weeks ago yesterday, and today Mat called his doctor to say ... that his hip hurts so much he can't walk.

After a day in the emergency room repeating the above story to various doctors ad nauseum (I heard it three or four times and I couldn't stay the whole day), Mat has a diagnosis and a plan.

His pelvis is fractured, and so is his sacrum. (What's a sacrum? It's the triangular bone at the back of the pelvis, between the two hip bones.) A scan today showed significant new tumor growth in Mat's bones that are causing the fractures.

That's the diagnosis. The plan is to consider yet another round of radiation (number five) and to attach Mat to a pump that will intravenously administer pain medication as needed. Mat feels fine when he's lying down and even in some sitting positions, so he will be able to give himself a boost of pain meds when he needs to get up and walk.

Mat is spending the night in the hospital to get all this sorted out, and I should be able to pick him up "first thing tomorrow morning." I believe that's hospital speak for "noon."

It seems pretty clear that the chemo he's now on -- a combination of cysplatin and irinotecan -- is an abject failure in the bone tumor growth suppression department. Mat has not seen Dr. Dave yet in this latest installment of As The Cancer Grows, but his inclination right now is to quit chemotherapy.

Mat is seven weeks into this chemotherapy regimen -- the one he has been suspecting will be his last. He has an infusion every two weeks, and it flattens him for days. He doesn't know yet whether the drugs are having any effect on his soft-tissue tumors, but chemo that doesn't keep the bone tumors in check and makes him sick about half the time does not seem worth continuing.

It will be good to have Mat home tomorrow.