A quick update. After my last post, I had five rounds of Erbitux+Irinotecan. Side effects during the first four rounds were on the difficult side of the spectrum. The fifth was not so tough. I started drinking probiotic shots (this is not an advertisement, but I like Bio-K, a drinkable probiotic product, better than pills -- I am tired of pills!) and my dialysis prescription was modified to remove more of the chemicals and toxins from my bloodstream more quickly.
Last week I had my periodic PET-CT scans. Terisa and I met with Dr. Lenz at USC Norris on Monday. The scans showed a "mixed response," meaning that some tumors are smaller and less active, while others have grown and are more active. One of the tumor markers shot up significantly, which could mean that the chemo is losing efficacy. But there is no need to panic. (Ever, of course. God is sovereign. None of this surprises Him.)
Dr. Lenz and Dr. Nagasawa both said that it's neither progression nor remission. More like the status quo ante. What does it mean? For now, I stick to the same regimen. I started again on Tuesday. I'll do a total of four cycles and then undergo scans. I'm back to skipping a day of dialysis after treatments on the off-chance that my more frequent dialysis has been removing too much chemo.
Dr. Lenz said we do need to think proactively, so if the current treatment fails, I may go back to a combination I was on before, that includes Avastin. That targeted therapy wiped out my kidneys, but now that I'm on dialysis, further damage to the barely-functioning beans in my body will be worth the trade-off if Avastin shrinks the tumors. Because of my kidney problems, I am ineligible for clinical trials, so the doctors want to stick to the tried-and-true rather than the more recently approved last-chance treatments (that's my term for them). I agree with that.
One other positive from our time with Dr. Lenz: He -- scientist, researcher, clinician, world-renowned colon cancer expert -- pointed out that I am "already a miracle." To be alive and relatively well in my eighth year of metastatic cancer is extremely rare. It's cause for joy.
In the meantime I've been enjoying our sunsets (like the one above, seen from Aliso Beach in Laguna last week); the brief rain we had a few days ago; French pastries at our favorite Newport and now Laguna bistro Moulin; and time with Terisa and Sophie. Soph's taken up surfing, long-boarding at Doheny several times a week. And beating me handily at checkers. Terisa and I have started attending a much smaller church near to our home. We'd fallen out of the habit in 2015 when my resistance to germs was too low to be around a lot of people. It is refreshing to be back in worship with God's people. As for other pursuits, we've also been working on home improvement projects. Or at least planning them!
Bottom line: we are looking forward, not backward. Living each day in the Grace and under the Mercy of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. That's all we can do. We are thankful for each day. For the storms and the clear skies. For his provision and his wisdom. He's in the tempest, and he's in the calm.