Big news! Huge news!
I had a major-big-HUGE doctor’s appointment Monday, and as is patently obvious from the chart above I am in awesome condition. My P21 tumor-suppressor gene turns out to be positive in 100 percent of cells. And the all-important P53 gatekeeper gene is positive in 50 percent of cells. There’s a bit of concern because my EGFR WT seems a tad high, but we won’t worry about that right now, because as I reported in an earlier post my MGMT count is very, very low. Don’t believe me? Well I have the printout with all the numbers to prove it.
Any questions? Having trouble keeping up with this cavalcade of good news? Please refer back to the chart above, which was put together by the fine folks at Sesame Street in conjunction with retired football coach and broadcaster John Madden, who has generously offered my oncologists the use of his famous Telestrator to help them treat my brain cancer.
Oh yeah, that reminds me: I have brain cancer. Unfortunately, no updates on that front.
I’m actually kind of disappointed, because I was hoping to have a bunch of news to report after this big appointment with Dr. George Bobustuc, my neuro-oncologist. But as I suspected going in, that’s not how cancer-treatment works. Having brain cancer and trying to keep your friends and loved ones updated on your condition is like being a newspaper reporter with a really boring, obscure beat that produces mostly mind-numbing, incremental news of very little interest to a general reading audience. The doctor’s appointment is like the big news conference that you go to with high hopes that you’ll come back with some blockbuster story that your editors won’t be able to resist splashing across the top of the front page. But more often than not, you just trudge back to the office with a notebook full of gobbledygook and no story.
I had this experience many times as a reporter covering NASA in Washington. There would be these really important hearings in some tiny, ornate inner-sanctum on Capitol Hill where fat, white-haired men would belly up to a conference table to make multi-billion dollar decisions about the space agency’s budget for the upcoming year. As a reporter, you’d often have to scratch and claw just to get past the rope line and squeeze your way into one of these hearings. Once inside, you felt like you were witnessing something big simply by virtue of all the trouble you had to go through to get access to it. Then by the way all the pompous senators or congressmen would bloviate and carry on about the internal machinations of the NASA budget and the federal appropriations process, it really did seem important by golly. But I vividly remember the sensation of leaving such meetings so often and heading back toward the subway thinking I had a great story locked and loaded, only to forget exactly what that exciting story was by the time I reached the Metro station. Then, by the time I arrived at my news office and sat down at my desk to write, I’d scour my notes over and over again to find…nothing really worth reporting. It dawned on me that I might as well have spent my day picking up random scraps of paper from the gutter and trying to base a newspaper story on that. Still, I had to justify to my editors why I’d spent all that time at the hearing. The solution? Pull a story out of my ass. That’s why God created journalism schools — to create a corps of professionals trained to survive, evade, recover and escape in exactly these kinds of emergency situations. One time I made my story about how dumb it seemed that multi-billion dollar deliberations involving taxpayer money would be made in shoebox-sized rooms that, while theoretically open to the public, might as well have been sealed, underground vaults. If NASA’s $15 billion budget really required no more than a couple hundred square feet to discuss, I reasoned, then the entire federal government should be able to fit itself neatly inside a single office building with no more square footage than a typical K-Mart store. On another occasion after covering a non-news-producing news conference on the Capitol steps in sweltering summer heat, I wrote a story proposing that congressmen organizing such events be required to attend them entirely naked. That way, I thought, they’d really have to have something genuinely important to say before going on camera. Neither of those two stories made Page One, but they got me through the slow news days.
Updating everyone today on my latest appointment kind of reminded me of those times. That diagram up there? I just ripped it off Google Images after punching in a couple of the key genetic terms (P21 and P53). I have no idea what that chart shows. I don’t even think John Madden could explain it. But it looks vaguely like a draw play setting up a couple of crossing post patterns. I still can’t figure out why there needs to be a pulling right tackle involved in the play.
On a more serious note, I did get a full printout of all my “immunohistochemistry” results from Dr. Bobustuc, which show that my current chemotherapy drug Temodar should have positive effects in the effort to whip my cancer into submission. But I won’t have any concrete results showing those actual effects until Oct. 19. That’s when Dr. B scheduled my next appointment along with a follow-up MRI to see how the six-week chemotherapy and radiation regimen has worked. That date will be almost three weeks after I wrap this treatment up on Sept. 30. After that, I’ll get a one-month break and then probably be on some sort of maintenance program with monthly doses of chemotherapy (without radiation) on an indefinite basis. Dr. B told me I could expect to be reporting in for MRIs about once every two months to make sure another tumor has not returned. Another one of these little bastards could recur either in the site where the previous one was removed or in some other locale in my brain.
If that happens, hold the presses. We’ll have some real news then.
If it doesn’t, well allrighty then. I’ll just find something else to write about.