My First Chemo Treatment....In 32 Years

by GregP_WN

So, I had traditional chemo treatments way back in 1988, and again in 1989 for my first two cancer diagnoses for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It did its job back then and I was clean of cancer for 20 years. 

Looking For A Clinical Trial

Since then, I have had 3 more diagnoses, all in the last 11 years, 2 of them in the last year. Things have changed, treatments have changed, my body has changed, time is running out, options are running out. This is where I stand now. 

The chemo treatments that I had back in 88 and 89 were ground breaking new treatments. A cancer type that had a survival rate of only 10% prior to those two chemo regimens, had a 90% survival rate after they were used. I was one of the "lucky" ones to have one of "the good cancers". Maybe I should explain that one. 

A so called "good cancer" is one of the types that have a high cure rate with fewer side effects and problems than some of the more serious diagnoses. But just so we are all clear, there are NO good cancers. 

I get the meaning though, if someone tells you here are 5 cancers, you are going to have one of them, your only choice is which type it's going to be. I'm pretty sure that any lung cancer, esophageal cancer, or pancreatic cancer patient would gladly trade theirs for my Hodgkins Lymphoma. They are all cancer, but some are worse than others. 

Radiation, What To Expect Guide

In 88 I also had radiation treatments to the head/neck/chest area. And again, radiation to the head/neck/throat for my third diagnosis (squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil). Those two rounds of radiation, which most people only get one round of radiation in an area once in their life, used up radiation as a tool for fighting my current cancer. 

I have had surgery for my current cancer, hypopharyngeal cancer, which was not successful. So further surgery is not suspected to be successful either. Radiation is not available. Traditional chemo for this type of cancer is not successful unless coupled with radiation, which,well you know. 

So what's left?

The newest form of cancer treatments working their way through research now are treatments that use the bodies own defense mechanism to fight off, and in many cases, kill the cancer. They are called immunotherapy. There is no guarantee that they will work, but in many cases they have been miracle workers. My hero at this point is former President Jimmy Carter, who had an aggressive form of melanoma that metastasized to his lungs and brain, he was stage IV with not many options left, and time running out, kind of like me. 

He was started in Keytruda, the same drug I will receive tomorrow, and within months at his next scan he was clean. N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) The three letters all cancer patients want to hear. 

You Are Ned Great What Is It

For head and neck cancers, there have been mixed results, some great and inspiring stories, and some disappointing failures. So to help the immunotherapy along its cancer fighting way, researchers are combining it with other drugs. Experimenting basically on people, ME. And I'm all in for it. What's that you say? You have a drug that just maybe, possibly, might, could be, sorta, maybe might help? Sure, shoot me up. 

As of tomorrow I will be the first patient at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to jump on the ADU-100 / Pembrolizumab combo. Only 33 of us nationwide will be in this trial. 

It comes with some possible side effects, a list of maybe ten pages long, including rash, fever, nausea, death, head exploding, left foot falling off. OK, those last three might not be on the list, but I got tired of reading after 9 pages. 

What's on the "possible" advantages? In phase I of this trial there was promising advances made, the combination of Keytruda and this experimental drug reduced the tumors in many of the participants. 

So, you have a choice. You have two tumors in your neck growing like a newborn puppy on the newest puppy chow there is, with extra vitamins. You can't use the traditional drugs or treatments previously available. You can opt to do the immunotherapy that has had good results, but not completely on the positive side, and add to it this experimental drug. What would you do? 

Jimmy Carter Cancer Free Thanks To Immunotherapy

I might be a little out there on the limb than some people, but hey, I'm in for it. If I grow an extra ear, no problem, I'm getting a little hard of hearing anyway. If I lose my hair, that's OK, I look good bald, I've been there too, chemo hair, don't care. 

So again, in 32 years I will sit in "the chair". No, not a nice recliner in front of our TV, not one of my sweet adirondack chairs that I've been making, not even a worn out webbed lawn chair. This is the "chemo chair". A description that sends chills up the backs of anyone who has sat in one before. It's not a fun ride. I have a brand new fancy port - a - cath installed with O miles on it. Let's take that baby for a test run. 

This time, I will technically not be getting "chemo", rather I will be getting immunotherapy and the clinical trial drug. The Keytruda is administered just like chemo, in an IV drip. So I'm plenty familiar with that. The wildcard in this one will be the clinical trial drug, so secret it doesn't even have a name yet, just its clinical name 'ADU-100". 

This drug will be injected directly into one of the tumors in my neck. You can easily feel one of the tumors, it hurts like crazy when I push on it. And they want to take a sharp needle and inject medicine into it?? Hmmm, that's gonna leave a mark. I bet it hurts too. 

This will be like many of the hundreds of other procedures, tests, scans, surgery, whatevers that I have had over the last 32 years that I didn't know what to expect until it happened. The only difference is, we need this one to work. We need this one to hit my veins like a blood hound hot on the trail for a cancer cell. And when it finds it, we need it to do some business with it, move on down the road and find the next one, and repeat. 


Tomorrow morning at 630 AM if you hear someone screaming, it might be me asking that doctor (nicely) what the ##**@!!! was that????

And because they have no idea what the side effects will be on me, what, how, or when I might have a reaction, I have to stay there for six hours after this injection so they can watch me. I plan on falling out in the floor after about hour 4 and flopping like a fish just to liven the place up some. 

Then, we come back to the cancer clinic on Wednesday morning to have more blood drawn and for them to check out the progress of that third ear that will be growing on my back. I can't wait, it's going to be great!

Donna and I are hold up in the hotel close to Vandy, it's like the night before the big (whatever puts butterflies in your stomach). We have to be there at 630 AM, and it's now 11 PM or so and I'm jacked up on strawberry cheescake pudding cups, miniature candy bars, and a $3.00 4 oz. carton of milk. And one pain pill with two Tylenol chasers. I might not sleep until next Tuesday.

Other Articles About My Latest Series of Diagnoses

You can’t put a Price on a Life-This Just In….Yes You Can 
Diagnosis #5 Because Apparently #4 Wasn’t Enough 
Things Usually Go Right, But Sometimes They Go Left Down The Highway to Hell

Dear Family-I’m Sorry I Gave You Cancer….4 Times 
Learning to Live As a Laryngectomee 
2 Weeks Out From Life Saving, Life Altering Surgery 
Tonight You Won’t Be Able to Speak, What Will You Say Today?

Gratitude and Humility-How Do You Get It? 
10 Positive Things With a 4th Diagnosis….Wait..What? 
Random Thoughts While Waiting For Cancer Surgery 
Diagnosis #4 Just Got Real 
Dancing With Cancer For The 4th Time 

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