The trifecta refers to my treatment over these past months: Keytruda infusions every 3 weeks, radiation treatments to my hip and right arm, and now T-vec.
I decided to write an update tonight because I just received the Med Center’s first out-of-trial T-vec injections in the tumor on my right leg. It’s a big deal! T-vec (IMLYGIC, talimogene laherparepvec) is a weakened form of the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (commonly called the cold sore virus) that is injected directly into a melanoma tumor. I didn’t receive the 100% virus today, but a lower dose till they see how I react. If all goes well, I’ll receive the full dose in 3 weeks and then every 2 weeks afterwards. The first needle wasn’t too bad although the doctor had to move it around to fill the tumor with the drug. The second needle was a bit more uncomfortable in that it felt more like a flu shot and the drug started to feel like a burn. The burning feeling didn’t last more than 5 minutes, if that. It was all bearable, thank goodness. I’m supposed to wear a clear dressing for 1 week. So far, so good – no fever, no pain. When I got home, I did feel like I needed a nap but I think that was just from the stress of knowing it was coming all day and not knowing how much it would hurt. A quick cat nap and I was fine.
I’ve been reflecting on sharing my positive, upbeat attitude in this blog because maybe that isn’t attainable by everyone. Am I setting the bar too high for myself and anyone who reads this? It’s so very different for every cancer patient, and you really cannot compare one to another. Yes, I’ve gone through hell with some of my treatments over the years, but I recover. Not everyone gets to recover. Not everyone has the support system I’m so very fortunate to have. Not everyone has the research capabilities I’ve been fortunate to learn. Some have all the resources and still don’t make it. I’ve been feeling guilty for being a survivor – why me and not the others? It just pushes me more to make a difference in patient care and education. There’s a lot of work to be done and maybe that’s why I’m still here.
I continue to lament the lack of integration within the Cancer Institute. Treating only the cancer and not the entire person is a serious shortcoming everywhere within the medical system. Using only conventional research science and not considering the incorporation of plants/supplements, meditation, yoga, exercise, diet, and so much more is a huge gap in fixing the internal environment that allowed cancer to grow in the first place. I’m finally getting ahead of my cancer, but I’ve also made huge changes to my life – the Block Center’s modified vegan (and organic) diet, exercise, and retirement. There’s more I want to do, and I’ll get there step-by-step. I’m hoping to be part of starting a melanoma support group so we can share what we’re doing to feel better outside of clinic. I want everyone to have access to the same information I’ve been using to build my health.
Now, because I use this part of my blog often, here’s my calendar of treatment since my December post:
12/30 – labs, infusion (I had my internal medicine doctor add some blood tests to my labs and all were within the normal range
1/15 – brain MRI and radiation oncology appt
1/20 – labs, doctor, infusion
2/01 – radiation planning for upper right arm
2/02 – dermatologist
2/09 – electron radiation
2/10 – labs, doctor, infusion
2/15 – electron radiation
2/22 – electron radiation
2/29 – electron radiation
3/02 – labs, doctor, infusion
3/23 – PET scan, labs, doctor, infusion (stable)
3/28 – mammogram (no evidence of breast cancer)
3/31 – Retirement Day!
4/04 – internal medicine doctor appt
4/07 – dermatologist
4/14 – labs, doctor, infusion
4/18 – brain MRI and radiation oncology appt (all clear)
5/05 – labs, doctor, infusion
5/12 – T-vec injections (next injections 6/1)
Results of March 23rd PET scan: Brain clear with January lesion gone. Lungs had no FDG avidity. Abdomen is mostly clear with no FDG avidity. The tumor on my right lateral proximal tibia increased in size (from 1.2 x 0.9 cm to 1.4 x 1.0 cm) and avidity, hence the T-vec injections today. The tumor in my right arm (humeral diaphysis) decreased in avidity and became less well-defined due to the radiation treatments in February. I think my next PET scan will be in August/September.
My thoughts and prayers are with those fighting the fight and with those for whom the fight is over.