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Outpatient Surgery Since Last Cancer Update

May 7, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Outpatient Surgery Since Last Cancer Update

At the end of March I wasn’t feeling well, temporarily stepping away from blogging on a regular schedule.

I wrote, in part:

March 2020 has been difficult. My last treatment was March 2nd. Since then my appetite has dropped off a cliff. Eating less, I haven’t my usual energy.  I’m not walking around our apartment as much, I’m sitting more and napping more.

Despite standing up when my Apple Watch tells me every hour I’ve developed couch sores on my rear end. This encourages me to spend more time in bed.

My day naps got longer and longer, throwing off my sleep schedule at night. Not being active has brought back the muscle spasms in my left limbs — a result of my 2008 stroke. 

At my late March oncology appointment my doctor diagnosed my problem: adrenal insufficiency. Basically my kidney cancer was screwing up my adrenal glands. The prescription quickly changed my energy levels & appetite — I feel like 30 again! I’m easing off the drug now, will meet with a endocrinologist next month to look into my adrenal glad issue.

In April I had outpatient surgery. Though not elective, it was welcomed. I inherited my mom’s tricky veins so I had a “port” implanted in my chest to make blood draws and infusion treatments easier.

A sign on the Washington University Medical/BJC campus

So while I’m feeling well again I’ve enjoyed not having to stick to a rigid self-imposed 4 day per week schedule. As I’ve been doing the past few weeks new blog posts will come as I have time and a subject that interests me. I’ll have at least one blog post per week.

In a future post I’ll share what it was like to have surgery and get cancer treatments during this epidemic. Stay safe everyone.

— Steve Patterson

 

Temporarily Going From Four Posts Per Week To Infrequent Posts

March 29, 2020 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Temporarily Going From Four Posts Per Week To Infrequent Posts
A 2012 photo of me on a MetroBus

When I first announced last Halloween that I had stage 4 kidney cancer I said I hoped to continue blogging — keeping up my four posts per week schedule  November though February was manageable.

… Continue Reading

 

A Difficult Three Weeks, But We Have Toilet Paper

March 23, 2020 Featured, Popular Culture, Steve Patterson Comments Off on A Difficult Three Weeks, But We Have Toilet Paper

My most recent immunotherapy treatment was three weeks ago. Since then I’ve been especially tired and have had almost no appetite. Normally I’d be baking bread, making dinners from scratch, etc. I’d been eating so well I gained 5lbs my last visit. I’ll lose wait again my next treatment day, a week from today.

The last three weeks have been anything but normal, for anyone. Very surreal.  Seeing photos of stores being out of toilet paper made me regret not buying more on our trip to Costco last month.

My last time outside of our apartment was Saturday March 7th, we went to ALDI for our regular monthly trip. They had toilet paper, but we didn’t buy any — though I later wished we had.

My husband is a home health aide, so he’s out most days helping his clients in their residences. This includes doing their grocery shopping for them. After he finished one day last week he stopped at a nearby Costco to pick up items on the list I’d given him. Normally we’d go together, but I was too tired and I didn’t want to be exposed to other people.

My husband took a few pics, like crates at the entrance to demonstrate social distancing.
A sign on a crate lists items that are out of stock — like toilet paper.

As we’re putting away what he’d purchased I hit the jackpot. On the very top of our tall pantry shelves…six rolls of toilet paper!

This package of 6 rolls is part of a larger bundle of 30 rolls.

Yeah, there go my fears of running out.  Of course, we don’t know how long all this will last.

— Steve Patterson

 

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Cancer Update: Treatment Is Working!

March 2, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Cancer Update: Treatment Is Working!

I first disclosed my cancer diagnosis last Halloween, on this blog’s 15th anniversary. Updates followed at the end of November and December.

To catch you up, I have stage 4 kidney cancer — which means it originated in a kidney but has spread elsewhere. I will never be cancer-free, treatments are about preventing the growth of tumors and further spreading.

My treatment isn’t chemotherapy or radiation, it’s immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy may work by:

  • Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
  • Stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
  • Helping the immune system work better at destroying cancer cells (cancer.net)

My treatments are two different drugs administered intravenously, one after another, now every four weeks. As part of a clinical trial I also take a 3rd drug orally every day — though it might be a placebo.

In early February tests revealed my first three treatments managed to stop the growth of my tumors. Today I’ll be back at Siteman Cancer Center, receiving my 5th treatment.

Side effects have varied, but minimally invasive. The worst has been increased fatigue. I’m fortunate to be on disability, not have to work. Initially I was too cautious, thinking I couldn’t do what I’d been doing. I’ve realized now that other than needing an extra nap, my life continues as before. My life just now includes one day with IV treatments every 4 weeks.

Reduced appetite is another, losing weight which is not something my doctor wants. I now eat throughout the day, every day. The dietician encourages me to consume as many calories as I can. This is the opposite of how I’ve been living in the 12+ years since my stroke. Last July, after a year of going to the gym, I managed to get below 200lbs. I went from being obese to overweight. Now I’m on the verge of going from overweight to normal weight.

I’m grateful for Food Outreach, where we get prepared food every two weeks. I still grocery shop and cook, but having frozen foods in small portions enables me to eat 5-6 times per day. I have salmon nearly every day now, a little too often.

When I’m at Siteman Cancer Center I’ve noticed just how busy it is. It’s clear that cancer impacts every part of society. Fellow patients represent all races, ages, economic classes, and geography — some drive many miles to be there, I take transit. We’re all treated equally, those with lots of money wait with a buzzer like the rest of us to be called back to a treatment pod.

Selfie on Saturday driving back home from a Target trip, the day after my 53rd birthday. I only drive about once a week.

Last month we did our annual trip to Chicago for the Chicago Auto Show, my first overnight travel since diagnosis & treatment. It went well enough I’m planning my first bucket list trip next month. In April I’m going to do a two week solo trip to Chicago with a side trip to Milwaukee, WI. This extended time will allow me immerse myself in Chicago and visit the state of Wisconsin for the very first time.

In Milwaukee I plan to see where a freeway was replaced by a boulevard, the Bronze Fonz, try their frozen custard, and ride their modern streetcar & a couple of bus routes. A future bucket list trip will include returning to Wisconsin to tour Frank Lloyd Wright architecture throughout the state.

My current treatment plan will continue as long as it is working. Once it stops, my oncologist will try another. In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy the passage of time.

— Steve Patterson

 

Will Know In February 2020 How Well My Cancer Treatment Is Working

December 27, 2019 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Will Know In February 2020 How Well My Cancer Treatment Is Working
My favorite color is orange so I’m pleased with the ribbon.

This year, like most, has had ups & downs. The big downer this year was when I was told I have Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma, aka Stage 4 Kidney Cancer.

My two prior posts:

Today I want to talk about kidney cancer and treatments. When a person has a small tumor in a kidney (stage 1) the solution is usually to surgically remove the tumor. Unfortunately, kidney cancer is often hard to detect — so it spreads — metastatic or stage 4.

One of my kidneys is now completely tumor. We can live with one kidney but surgery would’ve delayed treatment. My tumors have been growing and spreading since my initial CT scans so further delay wasn’t an option.

I’ve had two treatments so far — the 2nd was on Monday. Side effects have been minor, mostly greater fatigue. My 3rd treatment is next month.

Chemotherapy, right? No. Radiation? Nope. Immunotherapy!

Wait, what?

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation use medications or high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy is different because it uses your own immune system to fight off the cancer.

Some immunotherapy treatments help your immune system find the cancer or work harder to attack it. Others give you man-made versions of proteins or other substances to help your body fight the disease. Immunotherapy is a type of biologic therapy.

Immunotherapy is approved to treat certain kinds of cancer, including melanoma, lymphoma, and lung cancer. Immune-based treatments for many other types are being tested in clinical trials. (WebMD)

As chemotherapy has been ineffective with kidney cancer, I’m fortunate to be getting the latest in immunotherapy treatment. My treatment is two different drugs administered intravenously every few weeks. I’m also in a clinical trial testing a third drug taken orally every day. It’s a double blind study — neither I nor my doctor know if I’m getting the third drug or the placebo.

In February I’ll get another scan — our first chance to see how well my immune system has attacked the cancer. A good result will be either no growth or shrinkage of the tumors.

— Steve Patterson

 

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