It’s been a while since posting any update on my health—basically because there has been nothing new to report. The past week or so has been given to several medical tests and meetings with my oncologist and (potential) surgeon, so now I can provide an update. Granted, it may sound like nothing has changed, but there is something to report.
First, my latest MRI is in. It’s good news/bad news. The bad news is that there is no visible change to the tumor mass (no visible shrinkage). The good news is that there is no spread (as before, no metastatic spread of the cancer anywhere else in my body). That is very good news. Basically, what this amounts to is that, after 10 months of chemotherapy, I’m still in the same place as far as the tumor goes (at least visually). But the surgeon suspects that, while the tumor size hasn’t changed, the tumor is likely at least 50% dead. But it still needs to be addressed. I’m not at the point of surgery yet without the shrinkage, but in his experience, shrinkage can still be had at this point via selective radiation. “At this point” means in the wake of the ongoing success of my “pancreas to the liver” stent, which has improved my internal situation as to the locus of surgery. The surgeon sees a path toward using isolated radiation to reduce the living tumor tissue—a method that will not rule out later surgery should that be doable. (Recall that, in my case, surgery is the only “cure” option, which is a different word than “remission”). So we want surgery to stay on the table, but the next phase of all this will be consulting with radiologists. That has begun as of this week. If we go down that road, which we all expect now, I’d also be moved to some sort of oral chemo. My guess is that these changes and procedures are at least a month away. We’ll keep you all posted when we have information. This will all be handled through the Mayo Clinic down here in Jacksonville, too, and may be part of a clinical study. The surgeon encouraged me to participate. We’ll see how things develop as we move forward.
Second, in related developments, I’ve actually managed to gain weight for the first time in a year (I’ve put on a good 5lbs in the last couple of weeks). That’s nothing to sneeze at in my situation. It means I’ve adjusted to the chemo and have a regular eating routine figured out. I still have little to no hunger impulse, but I know what I can eat with moderate enjoyment and how to break that into 4-5 small meals a day. The hunger impulse issue (this is my guess now) won’t change until the tumor mass is dealt with. My voice also seems to be getting more normal (at least more “normal” days each week than has been the case). My energy level has improved a bit, too. Granted, most days I am busy 5-8 hrs through the day writing, prepping a course, doing the podcast, and doing some research. (And I’ll soon throw generating more content in the new DRMSH.com community into that mix). I take naps when I need to and get the right amount of sleep. I have no pain issues other than joint issues that are normal wear and tear at my age (59). But I just generally feel better than I have compared to the preceding few months.
So to wrap up, we’ve had a “glass half full” week. Everyone wishes the chemo had been more effective, but (surgeon’s words) I’ve cleared other hurdles that incline toward other possibilities. Please continue to pray for me in light of this update, and for my wife Drenna, upon whom I depend to keep me on track with medications, and who devotes herself to taking care of me in every other way so well. The whole situation is a strain on everyone in the house in some way, but she bears most of it – and does so very well.
Dr. Michael Heiser