Graduation Season

June 4, 2012

Tis the season…for graduations.  In our case, it’s our daughter Stephanie and the celebration is her graduation from high school.   As we did for her brother Nick, we hosted a big blowout.  A wide variety of family and friends showed up as part of the celebration.

It’s not just Stephanie’s graduation that we’re raising a glass for.  For my wife Sarah, who teaches kindergarten, it’s a celebration of the end of another school year.  For Sarah’s sister Liz, it’s a celebration of her birthday.  For me, it’s the end of another semester on my trek towards a Master’s degree and the knowledge that I have two classes left, plus my thesis.  At this time next year, I hope the celebration has my name on it.

It’s an odd feeling to have both kids finished with high school.  With one planning to live on campus and the other one staying at home, we can’t quite call ourselves empty nesters yet, but the time is coming soon.  Maybe this year, maybe next year, but it’s coming.

For any parent, I think this time frame leaves you just as confused as the day they were born.  In both cases, you know it’s a momentous occasion.  And you like to think you know what’s coming next, but you really have no idea.  You just hope you don’t do anything to screw up the works.

Not long after Nick and Stephanie were born, I read an article that said parenting is the one pursuit where the goal is to eventually put yourself out of a job.  You’ll always be their Mom or Dad.  But if you’ve done it right, they don’t really need you anymore.  Hopefully then, the time they spend with you from here on out is because they want to.

And maybe that’s the goal that most parents really work towards and pray for:  a child that is self-reliant, decent and able to make their way in the world; but who also wants to spend time sharing their life with you.  So here’s to graduation and the celebrations they bring, both now and in the times to come.

 

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Clinical Trial

June 4, 2012

As of May 10th, I’ve been on a clinical trial of a potential new cancer drug for 8 months.  The last four of those months I have been on the actual drug.  We were initially confused by the news that I’d been on the placebo, since my cancer tumors’ growth had slowed down considerably.  One set of tumors, the ones in my right elbow, were showing signs of cell death or necrosis.

Our biggest worry was whether the actual medicine would work.  My cancer, chondrosarcoma, is a cancer of the bones and ligaments, and is notoriously hard to treat.  It doesn’t respond to chemo or radiation.  Surgically removing the tumors is the usual treatment, but in some cases, like mine, removing the tumors activates dormant ones.  So when you take a tumor out, you agitate the five tumors around it.  Talk about a vicious cycle!

The clinical trial drug takes a different approach than the slash-and-burn of surgery.  Researchers have discovered that a pathway exists between cancer cells that helps them grow.  Block the pathway and the cancer cell starves.  It stops growing and according to theory, shrinks and dies.

I say ‘according to theory’ because my tumors have stopped growing, but have yet to start shrinking.  This has left me anxious and my doctors somewhat befuddled.  The last set of scans and x-rays, done on May 23rd and 24th, show no further tumor growth, but no shrinkage either.

As of now, the trial continues three one-day visits for bloodwork and refills over the next six weeks, and my next set of scans  in mid-July.  Sarah and the kids are going along on the July trip.  I’m hopeful about the potential for good news then.

As long as my tumors are not showing progression-not growing, I’ll stay on this clinical trial.  If I start showing progression, MD Anderson will drop me from this trial and move me to a different one.  They have several trials that are either active or in the planning stages, so it wouldn’t be giving up, just changing course.

If I have to change, I can.  But I hope it’s not necessary; I hope the current drug works and makes my tumors shrink.  But I can’t complain.  Last year at this time, my local doctors told me I had between 5 and 15 years to live.  This year, we have a new path.  We have hope and a future.  The plan is to die of old age, NOT bone cancer.  It doesn’t get to win.  I do.