Vous Et Nul Autre
This blog picture is of the brick that Tina and I bought to support the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The inscription, vous et nul autre (you and no other), is the commitment we made to each other that year when we got married.
Monday night, we read in the July 2012 issue of Atlanta magazine, that Dr. Ian Crocker is one of Atlanta’s Top Docs. Ian was my radiation oncologist up until last October when we no longer needed his services. We liked him very much.
Tuesday morning we met with him to discuss stereotactic radiosurgery. Remember that the surgeon left a small bit of tumor in my brain rather than risk compromising my left arm function. Our thinking was that he could blast the remaining tumor with high-powered x-rays and make me tumor-free without damaging healthy cells.
Dr. Crocker let us know that radiosurgery is not the solution we hoped it would be. Because that area of my brain had already received the traditional radiation therapy dose of 60 Gray, more radiation was likely to lead to tissue necrosis — dying cells. Dying brain cells could mean… all sorts of unpleasant issues. Even if he were able to successfully blast away the rest of the visible tumor, there are likely to be lots of microscopic cells that are just waiting to sprout into tumors that he could never eradicate. Too much risk for not enough reward.
Although the doc didn’t have any good news for us, he delivered the news compassionately yet straight-forward and professionally. He answered all our questions. He cared. I agree with Atlanta magazine — he’s definitely a great doctor.
Plan B is to pursue the Novocure product. I’ll have to wear strange head gear and carry a sack of electronics. But that’s a small sacrifice for being able to live longer. Right? I just heard from Northwestern in Chicago that they can’t recommend Novocure alone for me. They suggest I consider other standard of care treatment, like Avastin in combination with other chemo drugs. They made no effort to explain why. It seems like just a turn-down letter.
It’s getting difficult to remain positive. On to Plan C, I guess.
UPDATE: This just in. Apparently, Novocure is back on! A determined wife is hard to stop!
This is not a very pleasant topic to think about. If you’re particularly sensitive, just skip it. “Knowledge is power” is my stance. We already know that 15 months is the median survival time from initial diagnosis and that’s with optimal treatment, which I think I have received. Median survival from the time of tumor recurrence is only 3-5 months without additional effective treatment. This data puts my expected death date around the end of 2012.
Novocure can potentially slow or reverse tumor growth. But as far as extending survival time, it’s not really any better than the best available chemotherapy. So maybe that buys me another six months or so (statistically). The big advantage is quality of life. There are not really any side effects to deal with.
Don’t worry — I still feel like miracles happen. I expect to beat the odds. But plenty of discouraging things have happened to me. The standard chemo isn’t effective on me. The trial wasn’t helpful. Radiation is out of the picture. Future surgeries are risky. A Novocure provider isn’t interested in helping me. I need to find something effective on this tumor.
I’ve spent some time considering my options and the implications of my choices. It’s easy for thoughts to wander into philosophical subject areas. What’s life all about? What (if anything) matters? I think I’d like to live a long life, but does it matter whether I have six months or six years? I know some people will miss me, but life goes on.
Do I continue with experimental treatments and become a health nut? Or are there better ways to spend my time, money and current good health, like spending time with friends and family and experiencing the wonders of this world? With no children, I have no responsibilities really.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not depressed about all this. It’s more like disappointment with a twinge of anger and frustration. Luckily this weekend a pack of good friend are traveling to Atlanta to take me to a rock show. There’s nothing like getting together with old friends to relieve some stress and aggression.