Posts Tagged With: cancer treatment

Cancer Journey Update March 2017

Houston. We have shrinkage. hqdefault

My wife Tanisha and I received some great news last week concerning my treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer. The tumors are shrinking. I have been on my 5th line of treatment in the past 3 years. I am now on a targeted oral therapy called Cabometyx. I have been on this drug for 3 months now. I started off at a low dose of 40 mg and am now tolerating 60 mg dose. The scans showed that many of the tumors that are spread to my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes have shrunk by almost half of their size from a scan 3 months ago.

They also did some lab work and an echocardiogram. The test showed my heart is still healthy and functioning well. The labs showed my thyroid has a low function. They have put me on a low dose thyroid medicine for now. The next CT scan is scheduled for late June.

We are so thankful for this wonderful, encouraging news. The Lord Jesus has been faithful throughout this journey of battling cancer. I thank Him for sustaining me through all the procedures, treatments, and side effects. Thank you all for your prayers.

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Cancer Update August 2016

colonoscopy-s2-why-is-colonoscopy-doneHello faithful followers of this blog. I apologize that it has been a while since my last post.

I recently had a CT scan at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Phoenix. Again, I have been treating at CTCA for two and half years for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to both lungs.I am currently being treated with an immunotherapy drug called Opdivo.

The scan showed that the tumors in both lungs are fairly stable. There has been some growth but it is not significant enough for my oncology team to state that it is growing. That’s good news! Yet, the scan also showed that the mass that is where my right kidney used to be is growing. My team thought that it might be pressing against my colon and intestines. I had a colonoscopy last week. Fortunately for me the colonoscopy showed that the mass is not invading that area. On a side note, the procedure was very easy, but prepping for it was not. I had to drink this solution called Moviprep on two separate occasions. It tasted like a thousand lemon flavored sweet tarts in water. Needless to say I had to stay close to the bathroom after drinking this stuff.

The next step in this process of determing what to do about this mass will be a CT guided biopsy of the tissue. I am having this procedure this week. From my own observations of previous scans of this mass I am pretty sure it is cancer. It responded to treatment with the drug Votrient and was shrinking along with the other tumors.  So far some of the options to removed this tumor include possible surgery or radiation therapy. But, I will leave the final determination up to the experts and my wife and I will determine what treatment option will will take.

More updates soon.

 

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A Second Opinion

A cancer diagnosis no matter what stage is an alarming news to hear.  After hearing the news all kinds of questions begin tophoto2 swirl around in a person’s mind.  What are my options? Where will I get treatment? What is the prognosis?  In my experience dealing with stage 4 kidney cancer that spread to both lungs I had to get these questions answered.  The one big question that I had to get answered was where can I get a second opinion. A friend of mine had told me about a place that sounded great, but also expensive.  That place was Cancer Treatments Centers of America (CTCA).  Let me share with you my top reasons to seek a second opinion at CTCA.

The center will pay for your travel to CTCA for your second opinion.

Once you decide to check out CTCA for a second opinion and call to speak to representative things are set in motion including your travel to CTCA.  The travel department of the center books a flight for you and a caregiver to generally the closest regional medical center. Once you and your caregiver arrive at the airport you will be greeted by a limousine driver who will drive you to the center.  Upon arrival to the center you will be given a quick tour of the center.  Then you will be driven to the hotel that you have been booked into.

The center provides discounted lodging at local area hotels.

Another advantage to seeking out a second opinion at CTCA is that they provide discounted lodging a local area hotels.  The lodging isn’t the Motel 6 no frills style.  They are various Marriott properties, Homewood Suites, and Holiday Inn.  The rates are highly discounted for CTCA patients and caregivers. The average cost for the evaluation week is under $100 for the entire week.  After that, the average rate is around $40 per night.  Each of these hotels also provides free breakfast meals.

The center provides very low cost dining at their cafe.

CTCA has its’ own fully staffed cafe on site.  They use only certified organic products for its menu.  In fact, much of the produce used in the cafe is grown on site at their organic farm called the Hope Springs Farm.  For patients and caregivers this is a large discount on meals.  Two people can eat most meals for under $10.  They have both prepared hot meals as well as a grill for made to order breakfast meals and sandwiches.  There is a full soup and salad bar as wells as a  juice and smoothie bar.

The center provides with you an entire team to look over your options.

Unlike many other hospitals, CTCA provides and entire team of doctors and clinicians to treat cancer.  During the initial week of evaluation patients will meet with a medical oncologist that specializes in a particular type of cancer.  Patients will also be assigned a naturopathic doctor who will assist with possible side effects to treatment with different vitamins and supplements.  Patients also are assigned a nutritionist to help with dietary choices to boost the immune system and help with any negative taste changes due to treatment.  If radiation is needed as part of fighting the cancer a radiation oncologist will be assigned and will work with the primary oncologist.

The center provides and encourages patients to be in community with other patients through the program Cancer Fighters.

CTCA believes in treating the whole person battling cancer.  One of the ways that they help with this is to encourage patients to be in community with each other for support.  The primary avenue for CTCA to accomplish this is through the program called Cancer Fighters.  This group is comprised of many volunteers who themselves are cancer survivors.  This group facilitates weekly meals in the cafe for patients to get to know one another as well as providing various outings to local restaurants and sporting events.   According to their website, Cancer Fighters® was created for and by our patients, their families and friends to support one another to win the fight against cancer. It is a community of inspiration for people who have been touched by cancer.”

Treatment and services are all done under one roof.

Have you ever been frustrated having to travel from one location to another to see a specialist or to have a scan performed?  This doesn’t happen at CTCA.  All of the doctors, clinicians, surgery, treatment, scans, and lab work is done under one roof. For a patient of CTCA everything is under one roof.  Whether you have an appointment, need a massage, need a hot meal, or even a pedicure, everything is in the same building.

The center provides both psychological and spiritual support to patients.

Battling cancer is more than just a physical battle. It can take a toll on a person’s emotional and spiritual condition as well. Having a positive mental and spiritual outlook goes a long way in fighting this disease.  CTCA has a team of licensed psychiatrists who can help patients with the psychological components of battling cancer.  CTCA also provides a team of trained non denominational  chaplains to help with patients spiritual needs.  They provide weekly worship services, communion, and prayer support.

The center provides the latest technology and treatments to fight cancer.

CTCA uses the latest technology and treatment options available to treat cancer. They do not use a cookie cutter approach to cancer treatment. Each patient is unique and it takes an individualized approach to battle the cancer. They use the latest approved medications and chemotherapies to treat patients. Some examples of these treatments include diagnostic imaging using PET scans, MRI, and CT scans.  They also can perform genomic testing to find what is driving the tumor growth and treat it more specifically.  There are over 50 different methods used in cancer diagnostics at CTCA.

Today treating cancer has improved greatly with new technology and therapies.  It is no longer a death sentence to hear the news of having cancer.  When a new patient walks through the doors of Cancer Treatment Centers of America they won’t even feel that they’re in a hospital.  Patients are treated like family and greeted by staff with hugs and support.  If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, don’t fret.  Rather, make a simple phone call to CTCA for a valuable second opinion and the best care.

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Reflecting on Cancer Journey

Man-man-thinkingIt has been one year since I was in ICU after a bronchoscopy procedure at Cancer Treatment Centers of America that did not go as planned. I  had just had a CT scan that showed that the mass in my right lung had grown around a stent and crushed it.  My pulmunoligist said he needed to go in and removed the stent.  I thought it would be a routine procedure.  It was not.  The procedure was on a Tuesday, and I woke up on Thursday. I had been on a ventilator for a couple of days since I was unable to breathe on my own.  My oncology team and my wife were not sure I was going to live through this ordeal.  But I did by the healing hand of Christ.

The Lord brought me through that particular trial.  It was not easy to recover and I had to go through several weeks of physical therapy and had to stay in Arizona for 3 weeks.  Today, I am in a much better place in my battle with stage 4 kidney cancer. The tumors in my lungs are now half the size they were at this time last year.  I can say that I do not want to have any cancer in my body.  Yet, this whole cancer journey has caused me to truly come to know Christ in a real and tangible way.  He continues to give me revelation of Himself.  He continues to remind me that I am in Him and that He is in me.  I would not trade this relationship to Christ for anything.

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Battling Cancer Takes it’s Toll

The next step of my cancer journey involved having to stay in Arizona for 3 weeks at the cancer center. During this stay, I had 2 infusions of Torisel, and afterwards, I was allowed to fly home to San Jose. It was so good to be back at home with my family and sleep in my own bed. I would return to the center every 2 weeks for treatment for the next several months.  The tumors in my left lung continued to shrink, but the mass in my right lung remained unchanged.

7957914_f496My near death experience in July and the continuing battle with cancer, as well as other issues began to take its toll on my marriage. I knew something was wrong, but I guess I try to convince myself that we were doing fine. I began to move towards a depression state during this time. I began to have thoughts that everyone would be better off without me. I began to consider stopping my cancer treatment and just see what would happen.  After all, I wasn’t working and was on disability so I thought I didn’t have anything else to offer.  Fortunately, I have some really good friends that I could share these things with.  They allowed me to vent my feelings and then they encouraged me that I have a great deal to offer to others.

In October, things in my marriage came to a screeching halt. My wife and I separated, and this was a month of unexpected and undesired changes for me.  I was devastated by this whole thing.  I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to go.  I asked my Dad if I could move in with him temporarily while I sort things out.  He lived 80 miles away on the Monterey Peninsula.  He agreed and I packed up what I could, and donated or threw out what I couldn’t bring with me.  I had lost my family and I was still battling cancer.  I felt so defeated and alone.  I was going to have to start over somehow.

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Near Death’s Door

medstaffmainAs my cancer treatment journey continues, I would continue to receive treatment with Interleukin-2 every 3 weeks, that would include 4 days of infusion at the cancer center.  However, in April I began to have trouble breathing.  I could barely walk very far before feeling short of breath.  I had to make an early trip out to Phoenix.  My oncologist ordered a CT scan when I arrived at CTCA.  They discovered that the tumor mass in my right lung had begun to invade the main right bronchial tube.  It was determined that I would need another bronchoscopy procedure to place a stent in the bronchial tube to keep my airway open.  After this procedure I was able to breathe normally again. However, my cancer treatment journey would take a frightening turn at the end of June.

My wife and I traveled to Phoenix in late June for what we thought would be a routine week of treatment.  It was anything but routine. I was scheduled to have a CT scan at the start of my week to check on the progress of treatment.  The CT scan showed that the tumor mass in my right lung was continuing to grow and was very aggressive.  I met with my pulmonologist, Dr. Turner, and he informed me that he would have to perform another bronchoscopy procedure to open up my airways again.  The scan showed that the tumors had begun to crush the stent and had moved into my main airway.  The next day, Tuesday,  I went in for the bronchoscopy procedure.  I can recall falling asleep in the operating room.  The next thing I remember was the horrible feeling of something being removed from my throat.  It felt very uncomfortable and I wanted it to stop.  I looked at my wife and said, “Help!” I could barely even hear myself say that word.  My voice seemed to be almost gone.  My wife told me to just hang in there for a little while so they could pull out the incubation tube from my throat.  This incident happened on Thursday.  I had lost 2 days.

I was told that I had been in ICU for the past 2 days.  The original procedure did not go well.  My right lung had collapsed during the procedure and there was a lot of bleeding.  I was put on a ventilator and was kept sedated.  Dr. Turner also had to perform 2 additional procedures to remove the crushed stent and to clear away what he could of the tumor mass.  The staff had told my wife that I may not survive.  The staff at CTCA supported my wife with a lot of hugs and prayers while she waited for me to finally wake up.  Finally, I did wake up as they removed the incubation tube from my throat.  My wife explained to me all that had happened as she wiped away her tears.  By the grace of the Lord I was still alive and breathing. I would have to remain in Arizona for 3 weeks to recover from all of the procedures.  My oncology team would now have to come up with a new treatment method to battle the cancer.

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A Second Opinion for Cancer Treatment

20150228_101523The next step on this journey was to seek out a second opinion.  My wife had a friend who’s mother was treated for cancer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Tulsa.  She had nothing but positive things to say about the place.  I had seen the commercials on television about CTCA, but thought it would be too expensive.  My wife called them and talked with a representative.  The next step was for the two of us to talk to a representative over the phone.  We spoke with this person for about 30 minutes.  She answered every objection that I could throw at her.  I was shocked to find out that the center pays for the patient and caregivers’ airfare for the initial consultation visit. They also had discounted lodging for patients and caregivers.  We were also told that the oncologist I would be seeing did an outpatient treatment of Interleukin 2 (IL-2).  So we decided to take the trip out to Goodyear, Arizona for a second opinion consultation visit.

We took the flight to the Phoenix area during the first week of February of 2014.  Upon arriving at the airport, we were greeted in the baggage claim area by our driver from the center.  He took our luggage and walked us out to the stretch limousine that was waiting to take us to the center.    I was already impressed.  The drive took about 20 minutes to get to the cancer center.  Upon arriving to the center we were given a tour of the facility and shown where we would check in for appointments.  Then the driver took us to the hotel we would call home for a while which was located across the street from the center.

On our first day at the center we filled out several documents, met with the financial counselor for our insurance arrangements, and met with the intake doctor to review my medical records.  We ate our meals in the cafe at the center. The food was delicious and the prices were cheap.  Patients and caregivers get a large discount.  We also met with a couple from Cancer Fighters.  This is a support group for patients that was started at CTCA, and we signed up right away.  During the next couple of days we explored the local area for shops and restaurants in between appointments at the center.  At the end of the first week we got to meet my oncologist, Dr. Walter Quan Jr. and the rest of my potential care team.  Dr. Quan shared with me his evaluation of my condition and recommended starting outpatient treatment with Interleukin-2 (IL-2).  My wife and I discussed this for a few moments and decided to go ahead and begin treatment at CTCA.

The second week at CTCA began with having a procedure to place a PowerPort in my upper chest area.  This would make it easier to perform any blood tests and infusion treatments.  I would also have a bronchoscopy procedure performed by Dr. J. Francis Turner to check on the extent of the mass in the hilar area of my right lung.  Finally, on Wednesday of week 2, I began receiving my first dose of IL-2.  The first day I showed no negative side effects from the treatment.  However, on the second treatment I had several side effects that included, rigors, headache, and nausea.  The nursing team reacted quickly and gave some medications to eliminate these side effects.  After 3 days of treatment we were allowed to fly home and would return after 2 weeks of recovery.

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Tumor Check

53598137Do you remember George Constanza from Seinfeld?  I recall in one episode where the Seinfeld gang went away for a weekend with their prospective dates.  George decided to to take a dip in the pool.  After he was done and went to change Jerry’s date accidentally saw him naked and he had some “shrinkage” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEnKLhi83J8) This image has strangely  caused me to think of things I would like to see shrink in size.  I would like to see that national debt shrink.  I would like to see the state and national spending budgets to shrink.  I would like to see NASCAR shrink the number of races they run each season.  I most definitely would like to see the size of my pants shrink.  This will of course take some effort on my part.

I recently had a CT scan to check on the progression of the kidney cancer tumors in my lungs.  As many of you who follow this blog know, I have been battling stage 4 kidney cancer in my lungs for a year now.  The results of this most recent scan show that the “hilar tumor mass” in my right lung has shrunk.  I can say “I have shrinkage”, in my lungs.  It is not significant shrinking, but it is shrinking.  This is great news!  Previously, none of the treatments has had any effect on this tumor mass.  But, since beginning treatment with the oral medication, Votrient, things have changed for the better in my right lung.  My oncologist, Dr. Walter Quan Jr., has simply made a change in the dosage of this drug that I take.  He discovered that taking the maximum dosage was taking too much of a toll on my left kidney and my blood pressure was too high.  I am so thankful that I have a great team helping me to fight this cancer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

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Cancer Treament Update 1/23/15

540_293_resize_20130601_b7961aa5504ad2f9ce967f8ddf1ff01b_jpgI have been receiving treatment for my stage 4 kidney cancer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) for just about a year now.  Today was the first time that I felt like a number rather than an individual patient.  This is still the only place that I would want to receive treatment, but today was a disappointing day of treatment.  I didn’t feel this way about all of the staff I saw today, but in general it was a poor experience.  Apparently they have a lot of patients being seen on the third floor today and they didn’t help matters much.  I was greeted by Gloria who is a housekeeper at the center when I got to my treatment room. She is also a fellow person from the San Francisco Bay Area who moved to Arizona. This was the bright spot in my scheduled appointments. I thought I was supposed to see my medical oncologist, Dr. Quan, but instead I was briefed on my current health status my one of his care managers.  I had blood work done this morning, as well as on this past Monday.  I noticed that my kidney function numbers had dropped since the last blood test.  This coincides with the increase in dosage of my cancer treatment drug, Votrient.  I wanted to find out if I needed to go back to the original dosage of 400 mg rather than the new dosage of 800 mg.  I was told my my care manager that my kidney function was still good and that I should try and increase my water intake throughout the day.  But, I was still disappointed that I didn’t get to speak with Dr. Quan directly.

I also had the opportunity to fill out an application for co-pay assistance for my cancer treatment drug, Votrient.  I was told yesterday the cost of a refill of this medication.  When I heard the amount I was shocked.  It costs around $6000 for a 30 day supply of this medication.  That is way too rich for this man’s blood.  I am hoping that I will be able to receive assistance from this program to help pay for my newest cancer treatment drug.  This seems to be a common theme for patients who have yet to meet their deductible for their health insurance at the beginning of a new year.  After I filled out this application, the staff then asked me to change patient rooms to accommodate another patient coming in for appointments.  I found this change annoying since it has never happened to me before.  I was also supposed to meet with my naturopathic doctor and my nutritionist during this visit.  Those meetings never happened.  As soon as I was finished with filling out the application, I was told I was done for the day and to wait for the scheduling team to call me later in the day for my next round of appointments.

A fellow patient, whom I have known since I first started treating at CTCA, told me that Dr. Quan was now taking on a new set of cancer patients.  He has been focusing on cancer patients with melanoma or kidney cancer.  But now apparently he is also treating colon cancer patients as well.  This may mean that he has less time for seeing patients, like myself.  There are also going to be rumored changes to the treatment rooms on the third floor.  The third floor is the newest addition to CTCA in Phoenix.  The treatment rooms are private, unlike the rooms in the infusion area on the second floor with have cubicles. The changes for the third floor rooms will now include having two patients per room rather than just one.  They will be removing the beds from the rooms and adding another recliner and another privacy curtain.  The rooms aren’t that spacious as they are.  I don’t think I would like to have another patient in the same room while I speak to my team about my condition.  I will have to wait and see if this comes to pass.  It seems to me that CTCA is going to have to start working on another phase of construction expansion at this point.  Fortunately, they own much of the land that surrounds the current facility.  With a new year comes new challenges and changes.  I guess am going to have to learn to keep “rolling with the punches” as these changes occur.

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Cancer Treatment Phase 3

TomoTherapyThe next phase of treating stage 4 kidney cancer in my lungs begins tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will be given a very high dose of radiation directed at the tumor mass in my right lung that refuses to shrink.  This will be the third different type of treatment I will have received to battle this kidney cancer in my lungs.  I have already received Interleukin 2 and Torisel for treatment thus far.  On Monday I went through a radiation simulation in the radiation oncology department.  My radiation oncologist, Dr. Lanceford Chong, was there to oversee the process of getting me “lined up” for targeting the radiation cloud.  It was a very interesting process.  I was laying down on a bed in front of the CT scanner with my head held in place on a certain spot.  Then, they molded a pillow like substance around the rest of my body that was formed specifically for me.  After a couple of runs through the CT scanner I was given a couple of marker “tattoos” to keep me in alignment.  My team is hoping that this one dose will be enough to slow down or even stop this one tumor mass that continues to give me problems in my lungs.  Then about one week after receiving the radiation blast, I will be starting on an oral chemo medication called Votrient.  The Torisel treatment helped to eliminate and shrink several tumors in both of my lungs, but this one tumor mass was resistant to it.   I am hopeful that this new set of treatments will finally kill that tumor mass in my right lung.

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