Quick brain update
Today was four weeks to the day after my June 2 surgery, and I celebrated with some more good news. I had an MRI brain scan done this morning at Orlando Regional Medical Center’s Lucerne Pavilion and a follow-up meeting this afternoon with Dr. George Bobustuc, my neuro-oncologist.
The scan came back almost as clean as the iconic Homer Simpson scan pictured here, but there is still some residual fluid around the outer edges of my brain that is part of the post-surgical healing process (and, unbelievably, is not merely Budweiser). Either way, it needs to go away. The doc also said he wants to keep a close eye on a small spot that he called a “nodule” near the margin of the new cavity. He thinks it most likely is a scar or scab resulting from the surgical incision, and that it will probably heal naturally on its own. But we’ll have to monitor it carefully, so he wants me to get another scan in about four weeks.
The best news is that Dr. Bobustuc now believes that my original, pill-form chemotherapy drug (Temodar) has not failed — as was feared in May when the doctors identified what they believed to be recurrent tumor cells and opted for the second surgery. As it turned out, the doctor explained today, the pathology report on the removed tissue was unable to parse a sufficient quantity of live tumor cells even to do an in-depth analysis like the one that was done after my first surgery. So that means most of what was taken out this time was either healthy tissue or necrosis (dead cancer cells) that had been killed off in my earlier radiation and chemo treatments. Yay Temodar! Maybe we should throw a bunch of those pills at the BP spill in the Gulf.
The only issue with Temodar going forward is that it is so powerful that I need to scale back the dosage to reduce its effect on my bone marrow, white blood cells and immune system. I’ve been taking it now and it’s been keeping the cancer in check since last August. So now the doctor wants to keep me on lower doses of Temodar and bring in a new, pill-form chemo agent called Xeloda — which is not as hard on the bone marrow. He also will have me taking daily doses of Celebrex (the anti-arthritis pill, which promotes the effect of cutting off any potential blood supply that tumors need to grow). So starting next week and until further notice, I will be taking all three drugs on a 14-day cycle (7 days on, 7 days off, 7 days back on, etc.). My next scan will give us an idea of how it’s all working.
The bottom line: Yes, I still have brain cancer. But long after it might have taken away my life if my case put me in the normal survival range, it is not even starting to beat me. And my doctor reiterated that he expects to be treating me “for many, many years”. There will of course be rough patches along the way, but all in all I am happy with that outlook. It’s as least as good as the U.S. draw against England during World Cup group play. And that was pretty damned exciting.
July 24 will be the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. At that point, I will consider myself an official cancer survivor. I may even get a T-shirt out of the deal.