I think it would be a form of torture for me to have written my previous couple of posts and not follow up after the scans and the gamma knife radiation. Don't worry, I've got your back.
First up, the gamma knife radiation to zap to what we thought was one brain tumor (more on that in a moment). It went just fine, even the whole halo part that I was all worried about. You can check it out below, I am putting my fierce face on ... and yes, I have no shame.
Before the actual procedure they did a special kind of MRI that involves injecting double the amount of contrast that would otherwise be used. The contrast allows the doctors to see the problem areas more clearly and to measure them for purposes of developing a treatment plan. Yesterday they were also able to see one other small (pinpoint was the term they used) tumor that had not been previously identified by the normal MRI's I've undergone. They were able to zap both tumors with no issues. I was calm thanks to all your prayers and, to be quite honest, thanks to all the drugs they gave me. I was a bit out of it after the procedure and last night, but this morning I am feeling pretty good. I am looking forward to checking out the holes in my head at 3pm when I am allowed to shower. Very glad to have this procedure done so we can focus on the main thing.
So on we go to the main thing. Here is the deal: NO GROWTH! My tumors have not grown over the last six weeks. This is probably the best news I realistically was hoping to hear yesterday. The treatment I am on is doing something. What a relief that these last few months have not been time wasted. This is significant when you consider that I have basically had scans every six weeks since my diagnosis and until now, there has been growth (major growth in some). This news seems to indicate something good is happening.
Now the question is how do we continue to have no growth and maybe even some shrinkage? We decided yesterday to stay the course when it comes to the treatment I am already undergoing. This means I will have my next infusion on December 17 as planned. Also as planned this infusion will include just one of the two drugs I have been taking so far. (Nivolumab). I will get these infusions every two weeks (compared with every three for the first phase of treatment).
However, my doctor continues to be concerned about the extent of the disease in my liver. This is particularly true because my recent liver biopsy found ZERO t-cells in the tumors, which isn't a good sign. So, we are also considering treatments that can be added to the current plan to shrink the liver tumors. There are two options on the table at the moment. One is to do a few rounds of chemotherapy. Of course this could also mean experiencing all the not-so-fun side effects of chemo. The other could be a clinical trial that we'll learn a lot more about next week when we visit a doctor in LA for a second opinion. As I understand it, this trial also administers chemo, but in a slightly different way and together with an immunotherapy drug. There will be a lot of factors to consider in making this decision such as efficacy, side effects, interaction with my current immunotherapy treatment (chemo can weaken the effectiveness of immunotherapy). The plan is to gather all the information we can so that we can move ahead with whatever path after the first of the year.
Until we have all of that information (and therefore something new to worry about) we are celebrating this moment of good news, celebrating when we can is the key to keeping on. So we celebrate the fact that the line has been held. Now we need to sort out how best to push it back and get rid of this bugger completely.
I am also celebrating the medical care I've had throughout this process. Celebrating the fact that I have a long-suffering husband who has supported me, hugged me and been my rock through what I can definitively say has been the worst time in my life. Celebrating my faith in Christ and how that has carried me through the darkest of times. Celebrating the army of #TeamSoderlund members, including friends, family, acquaintances, and even total strangers who have reached out so selflessly, so lovingly, so consistently to let me know you care and that I am not alone in this. This is your celebration too.