Monday, September 12, 2016

OK. So what we need is a different new plan

Yes. I did ask for a plan. Yes. I did say that being able to fight back was better than having to sit and have cancer knock me about. Yes. I did say Sheri and I would be ready to go and tackle my multiple myeloma again, if only we had a plan.

Well. It would seem that there are plans and then there are... plans. I figured our plan would be more of the same. I thought we'd take the medicines we've been using and tweak them into a different order and strength. After all, that's what we've been doing.

I wasn't prepared to have to toss aside what we've been doing, almost completely, and head down a different road; in this case, the road less taken. The treatment that makes up our new plan is really new and pretty cutting edge. Obviously, that's a good thing, but the process is very involved and means spending quite a bit of time in the treatment chair.

I admit that I've been spoiled. Since my stem cell transplant, I've been able to take my chemo and other medicines in pill form, at home. When they made me sick, I was right there ready to lie down at any time and throw up in bucket of my own choosing.

In the immortal words of the not-so-immortal Mary Hopkin, “Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end.” Yeah, well...

The new plan calls for, six (maybe five) medicines to be deployed before I take the chemo itself, and more steroids for two days after. The first course needs to be given over two days; about five hours the first day and two to three the second. The whole process includes a high volume of steroids which WE KNOW make me very uncomfortable, in fact borderline crazy. While I realize crazy is not a medical description, it is certainly less offensive than bats**t which probably better describes what happens when I take minor doses of steroids, let alone the copious amounts I have to take with this new plan.

I have to take the majority of the medicines while in the clinic because of the worries over side effects. The main concern is something called infusion reaction; that is, reacting badly at the site of, and because of, the infusion itself. I have had an initial bad reaction to everything I've been given through this fight. I think being in the clinic at time of insertion is just what the doctor ordered.

I have to say, this is the most nervous I have been in a long, long time. While I know a lot about the treatment, I don't really know what it is all going to mean to me. Also, it is a whole different approach. Previous treatments I've endured have been aimed at attacking existing cancer cells. This new one seems to be inserted at the DNA level to boost your own immunize system to put up the fight. Now, is it just mean, or does that sound worrisome to you?

In the somewhat limited use the drug has had, it seems to be very successful, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.

But, here is a partial description of the drug's mechanism of action: “This is an IgG1k human monoclonal antibody produced in a Chinese hamster ovary cell line.” Take a second and think about that. Not just a hamster, but a Chinese hamster. Maybe Chinese hamster is like a “wink wink” so that competing companies are thrown off. Maybe it actually means a hamster taken from Bob's (not his real name) Pet Store.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who work so hard in cancer research. They are fighting to save my life. There aren't words, not in my book anyway, to say how much that means to me. But at what point do you look around the lab and say, “Hey. That Chinese hamster in the corner! Let's give her a go?”

I expect the treatment to begin this week, although it may be hard to put two consecutive days together, we'll have to see. But this whole treatment alternative has me on edge, thrown for a loop and any other similar cliches you wish to bring to the game.

I will say this, and it absolutely true... you can look it up... On top of all this, I have to at least save some concern for the fact that game wardens have been trying to catch a bear (brown, I hope) that has been roaming our town for over two months. How's that for a line of concern: a Chinese hamster to a Maine brown bear? You gotta laugh.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere