After finishing five months of weekly chemotherapy, Karen and I returned to Houston's M. D. Anderson Cancer Center on Sept 12 for my second CT scan. The first scan in April was negative for tumors but there were a few odd anomalies noted then that needed to be rechecked to verify that they weren't serious. So, the same radiologist that analized the first scan also read the second, and he was able to compare the two scans to look for possible progression of the cancer.
Fortunately, this September scan was completely negative for evidence of cancerous lesions. All of the "issues" seen in the first scan were either reduced in size or gone altogether. But as the oncologist warned, this does not mean that my cancer is cured or even in remisssion. It simply means that there is no metastasis at this time, and it is impossible to predict when or if it will occur. Pancreatic adenenocarcinoma is notorious for producing many hundreds of micro-metastases that are microscopic in size and cannot be detected by traditional imaging techniques. These scattered islands of cells tend to lay dormant, sometimes for years, until they decide to suddenly begin growing and causing trouble. It is my fervent hope that these rogue cells remain happy and quiet for many, many years to come.
So what do I do now? The oncologist said that I should do nothing, other than get re-scanned every 4 months or so. But doing nothing and just waiting goes against my nature, so I'm looking at some other options. I still am involved in a clinical trial where, depending on the coin flip, I may receive a one month course of radiation directed at the old tumor site. But when this trial ends, I think that I may volunteer for another clinical study. New Link Genetics out of Iowa has developed a vaccine that is currently being tested on pancreatic patients to see if it can stimualte the body's immune system to fight and destroy tumor cells. Other similar cancer vaccines have generally met with disappointment, but a new melanoma vaccine has found modest success and has earned FDA approval. So, maybe this pancreatic vaccine will show some promise too for treating future generations who get pancreatic cancer.
Meanwhile, I am enjoying my retirement here in beautiful east Texas. Karen and I walk the dogs early every morning, weather permitting, and you can find me in the local gym every other day. I volunteer locally with a group of retired Methodist men for Habitat-for-Humanity-like work repairing and updating homes for disadvantaged families. Since way back in my high school days I did some summer work wiring houses, my job in our group is electrician. Happily, no one has been electrocuted and nothing has caught fire....so far.
Today, September 17th, is our 35th wedding aniversary. Karen and I have a reservation tonight at a small fancy restaurant here in town.
Life is good......