April 09, 2009

When "nothing" makes you happy

The taste of saline was strong, stronger than I remembered. It had been awhile. The tears themselves started from laughter and evolved to tears of sorrow.

Mary and I watch "Marley & Me" last night here in Houston. I won't talk much about the movie so as not to spoil it for those of you who may not have seen it yet, however, it was a great movie. It won't win any awards mind you, but for those of us with dogs, and Labradors to be specific, the reality is spot on. As the movie evolved on the screen the tears of laughter turned to tears of sorrow. It was not just about the fate of the dog, but the thoughts of death itself.

It all hit too close to home for me.

It was the culmination of the day's events, and the fact that it is Holy Week.

Yesterday we spent the day at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. Through a few contacts we were able to secure an appointment with the Chair of the Genitourological department, who I will refer to as Dr. L. More on him later, but in a nut shell, what an incredible doctor, man, care giver.

After checking in at 10:00am and going through the paper work process we headed to the lab so the vampires could extract seven vials of my blood. The lab area was a stark shot of reality; packed with cancer patients in various stages of treatement. From wide eyed newly diagnosed patients to those poor souls that chemo has obviously ravaged. Silent Hail Marys streamed through my concious thoughts as we waited.

After the finishing up at the lab, we ate lunchand then returned to the seventh floor to wait for our 1:00pm appointment with Dr. L. As is typically the case, we did not follow the planned schedule... we actually met with the doctor at 2:15pm. The wait was a much different experience. Much of the time was spent completing a lengthy review and clarification of my status, x-rays and scans with his nurse practitioner, so the hour flew by.

Our time with the doctor was approximately thirty minutes, no more. The thirty minutes were, for the lack of a better term, incredible. After four years, we think we know a lot about prostate cancer, but we learned more in that thirty minutes than most of the last four years combined. In this case it was specific to me, but it really opened, or re-opened my eyes to my current status.

Since I've rambled quite a bit, here is the bottom line - his recommendation? Do 'nothing' for now. On the one hand, this is fantastic, on the other, as someone with a demon called cancer living inside him, doing 'nothing' is one hard pill to swallow. After listening to and letting his recommedation sink in, it really makes sense. The highlights are this; the bone tumors are 'attached' to the bone, not attacking or destroying from within the bone. Two, chemo is still working, we need to allow it to complete it's full course before we jump into the next treatment. The doctor advised us to approach our treatment strategy as one would any chronic illness. To fully consider my symptoms and current condition when making treatment decisions and making sure we reap the full benefits of each treatment. He was quite complementary regarding how we and our doctors have managed my case to date. So we return to Kansas City with orders to watch a few new blood markers because given my condition, the PSA level should not be the exclusive marker to track the activity of the cancer cells. Details of the new markers will be shared in a future blog.

The doctor also provided a lot of hope for the future. There a number of drugs in clinical trials that are or may become available when I may need them in the months and years ahead. It is the current research and clinical trials that reinforces our hope.

Our experience with MD Anderson this time was so different than in 2005. 180 degrees different and in a wonderful way. The compassion, and strategic approach that the staff shared with us was exceptional. Primarily, we credit this experience to Dr. L and his staff. The other factor is that Mary and I have matured in our knowledge and approach to managing this beast called prostate cancer.

7 comments:

tarhoosier said...

David:
Good news on all fronts: A relief from further treatments for the time being; a superb experience in place of the previous visit to the same location; contact and advice from one with the precious insight needed; good words for your current care team; A few tweaks and twiddles to refine your process. And an entree into further trials and investigations if and when necessary. All in all, well worth the time and energy invested.

John Cochrane (tarhoosier)

johne said...

David,
For me, I couldn't have picked a better time to begin reading your blogs. Holy Week; a time for reflection.

As the head of a young, and rapidly-growing household,(Josie, 8, James, 5, Jack 13 mo's, and baby girl on the way in June!) things are always moving very fast. I realize that not enough time is spent sitting still and appreciating where we are now.

As always, our families' prayers will continue to be with you and yours.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with so many!

John Euston

John Wagner said...

David,

I am so very happy you and Mary had such a positive experience at M.D. Anderson and are coming away with more knowledge and encouragement!

I know how overwhelming the M.D. Anderson experience is when you realize everyone in that huge place either has cancer, is a loved one of someone with cancer, or is involved in the care and treatment of someone with cancer. Each one has an emotional story to tell.

The 'do nothing' approach is probably the most difficult to get used to. With my type of cancer, we call it watch and wait, or more accurately, watch and worry. The normal reaction is to treat, and treat now to get rid of it.

Anyway, again I am so happy for you guys. May you have a wonderful Easter as we celebrate the most beautiful time of hope, redemption and new beginnings.

Anonymous said...

David, thanks for the update. It's great to hear the trip went so well. More than anything, you have been blessed with encouragement from the leading authority on PC. Not only have you made the right decisions along the way, but hope is still alive. What a wonderful Easter gift. There is a reason this visit happened the way it did, when it did.

God bless you.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

David,

What a great post - on several levels.

I'm so glad that the experience this time at MDA was "180 degrees" different than 4 years ago. I'm sure that both of you felt a sense of relief.

I'm also extremely happy to hear about the meeting with Dr L. It seems that he was able to reinforce that you have been doing all of the right things to date. Also, his recommendations and prognosis sound very encouraging, and hopefully you both have a renewed sense of optimism!

Very good news for Holy Week. Looking forward to hearing all about the trip and making plans for the upcoming golf tourney.

God Bless~
Mark

Anonymous said...

Happy Easter!

God Bless

Anonymous said...

David,
I am so happy for You that things went well in Houston this time .
DR L sounds a lot like My own Dr in Boston .I can relate to everything you say especially how hard it is to "stay the course".
May God Bless You and Your Family during this Easter Season
Dan J