Tag Archives: T-Cell Infusion

Cone of Happiness

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It is with great relief and gratitude that I close out a year of arduous and, possibly, effective treatment treks from Oregon to Philadelphia for my recurrent stage iv ovarian cancer.

Cone of Happiness

Cone of Happiness

I first arrived at UPenn’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine on April 4th, 2013. It had taken me twenty months to qualify for this tentative visit. Paperwork was signed on May 8th, Aphereisis #1 completed on May 22nd with my starting round of treatment June 5th and 6th of 2013. On March 12th and 13th 2014 I completed my 15th trek to Philly and my 11th round of treatment not knowing it would be my last. But it looks like that was my closing treatments for the part one of this clinical trial! Wow!

It’s been a complicated month since I lowered the Cone of Silence. It is never easy to interpret test results without the hands-on experts leading you and my great UPenn doc was gone until April 10th. The Internet told me a pericardial effusion was a bad sign. On April 17th, my doc could finally advise me from looking at the actual scans that the size of my effusion, a mere 1-2 cm of fluid around the heart, was not a concern. (Another probable side effect of Avistan.)

While waiting to understand my March test results, my body was increasingly crashing from the burdens of Avistan, a drug I knew I was set to go off, which tempered my complaints. What I did not expect was on April 10th UPenn offered that in lieu of dropping Avistan, they would give me a month off of treatment and add a day to my next proposed treatment cycle to determine if they could administer the Avistan. My heart dropped a little. I wasn’t sure I was up for more travel and more Avistan but I did not want to be cavalier about stopping participation in this trial given all that it has meant for extending my life.

Luckily, I had an appointment with my Oregon oncologist scheduled for the next day – my first visit to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) in a year! As I biked to OHSU the next morning I found tears of joy on my face – it was wonderful to be enjoying a commute to my medical world. Entering OHSU-land (the largest employer in the city of Portland) I was awed by how affirming I find this community. I park my bike with hundreds of others. I get my free ticket for a jolly tram that arrives like a descending sculpture over my head and takes me to the top of the hill as if on an adventure versus a medical treadmill. It’s Tulip Sales Day so bright colored blooms are being sold for five dollars to support some good cause. My appointment is in the women’s center, which offers huge windows, a play area for children and adults on a wrap around balcony outside, all taking in the awesome view of mountains. Every moment at OSHU gentles the medical woes with positive possibilities. It is not so bad being sick amid a culture dedicated to hope and zest. Oh, I wanted to come home for treatment.

My appointment started early and my lovely, calm Doctor arrived with all my recent test results and said, “Wow, aren’t you doing great!” I explain that I have four vaccines left and she asserted before I have even biased her answer, “No, I think you are done. I think you have chosen a resolute and courageous path. You have gotten a lot of benefit and you will probably get no more.” I could have jumped in her lap and wept. Instead I listed my medical woes and she decisively attributed them all to Avistan, a drug she also believes in and dispenses often. But my body needs a break.

I await my two great docs deciding what is the proposed treatment plan for me here in Oregon. It is now my body’s turn to prove what it has learned from the Part One Autologous OC-DC Vaccines. I intend to cheer on my rebooted immune system in tracking down and eliminating new ovarian cancer cells. Or I may recur and get in line for a return to UPenn for the Part Two T Cell Infusion. I am fortunate to count down to either option.

May we build a world where all diseased people find they have positive options for getting diagnosed, finding treatment options and not being burdened with a payment plan. Thanks to this clinical trial, I might have a bit more time to contribute to that effort! Let’s add that to my to do list. much love, marcy

New To Do List

New To Do List

Philly Trek #14, Treatment #10 – Performance Art

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It’s been a while since I have shared a straight up report on my cross-country treks for medical care. I made my initial visit to Philadelphia, Trek # 1, the first week of April 2013  – a pre-intake intake, hoping to position myself, finally, for admission into the Autologous OC-DC Vaccine Phase One Clinical Trial. I had pursued entrance to this trial for the prior 20 months. We had heard a lot of “no’s” but now we were hearing “yes, maybe.” My cancer was looking stable enough to gain me entrance even if I was still amid my first recurrence. Eleven months later, still amid my first recurrence, it was time for Philly Trek #14, Treatment #10.

Often I have felt like a performance artist when completing my Philly Treks. Now, I model the courageous patient, now I crumble in a hospital bed, and don’t look now, because here the heroine, me, weeps on a crowded bridge as she shakes and vomits up her pathetic orange juice in the fresh snow – again and again and again and again, leaving a small and dainty pattern of no great offence. I, the artist, then continue on towards my housing and a new day that can only be better.

Performance Art

Performance Art

Trek 14, the February trek described in the paragraph above, was not dainty. It’s start was delayed a week by a last minute call from UPenn telling me to find new flights. My luggage already stood packed at the door as I awaited my ride to the airport. A bodacious storm (adjective lifted from one weather forecast) was predicted for the final day of my scheduled treatment, a day that requires a team of ten exact people to be at their posts. The Philadelphia weather projection made complete attendance unlikely. Cancelled, I was.

There could be no complications for my new treatment dates the next week or I would be out of compliance with the trial. Weather forecasts looked good at all ends of my travel but the night before my early morning flight to Philly an airline email informed me both flights were cancelled. I got the last seat in the last flights of the next day, feeling lucky, until I arrived at the Denver airport to see FLIGHT CANCELLED in the monitor. Yes, three flights cancelled in less than 24 hours and the weather was mighty tame. I rushed for assistance only to find not only no assistance but also rudeness. Southwest Airlines, I learn, does not shift you to another airline – and their next flight out to Philly was in 36 hours – too late for me to meet the chemo requirement. When I tried to engage them in problem solving (possible flights that might get me towards Philly on their airline) they said “no” and literally turned their backs on me. Oh my.

Only MY flight cancelled!

Only MY flight cancelled!

While a friend, just completing her own not fun medical procedure, stepped in to problem solve options over the phone, I still felt alone and very, very stressed – this was happening on top of a full week of travel stresses. After an additional $500 of expense and a few tense hours later I was set for the only remaining flight to leave the Denver airport for Philadelphia that night. It was on United and I arrived so late that the trains had stopped running requiring the additional expense of a cab. I was a wreck.

I showed up to treatment the next morning already sick with a migraine. My health did not improve but I did value the team’s dedication to easing my pain.

I decided the rigors of travel on top of treatment just might be too much for this gal.

I have testing and results along with my March treatment – always a dicey combination. My sister volunteered to fly in. It should be a great time to assess. My lab work continues to insinuate disease progression. My December tests were highly contradictory. Maybe this month’s results will offer clarity, always welcome.

What will the tests reveal?

What will the tests reveal?

I have had enough time and new information to feel calm with any outcome.

I am tired of travelling cross-country for monthly medical care and, luckily, this isn’t an endless drill. I either close out Part One in the near future, earning a travel break, or it’s time to move on to Part Two. The adventures of Part Two, T-Cell Infusion, dull travel concerns since I will be grounded in Philly until recovered which could take up to six weeks.

So, stay tuned for what comes next.images-2