Monthly Archives: September 2013

What’s the hardest part?

imageIf someone asked a group of patients “what is the hardest part about dealing with your cancer”, I’m sure the answers would vary but I’m guessing the bills would rank in the top 3. Pathologists, Radiologists, Oncologists, Anesthesiologists, Lab companies and the list of other “ologists” could probably go on and on. The bills from all of them manage to come in to our mailbox in a fairly steady stream. Even after insurance pays their portion, the amount due by the patient can be pretty staggering, sometimes mind-blowing. Everyone needs to get paid but the bills steadily add insult to your injury. 😦

Hallmarks of Cancer 1: Self-Sufficiency in Growth Signals

Really Good Article from Scientific American: LINK


The behavior of a cell depends on its immediate surrounding environment, known as the microenvironment. The assortment of growth factors in this microenvironment is the most important aspect regulating the behavior of that cell. All growth factors exert their effects by binding to a receptor.  Receptors are proteins found on the surface of a cell that receive such chemical signals from the outside of the cell. Each growth factor has it’s own receptor; think of it as a key (the growth factor) fitting into a lock (the receptor). Growth factor receptors tend to be ‘transmembrane molecules‘; this means that one end of the receptor ‘sticks out’ through the cell membrane into the microenvironment while the other end projects inside the cell. By spanning across the cell membrane, growth factor receptors are able to communicate signals from outside the cell (e.g. presence of growth factors in the microenvironment) to the inside of the cell. Revisiting the lock and key analogy, think of it as a key that fits into a lock that protrudes through the door-frame, instead of being flush against the door.

Cancer Mixtape?

mixtape1Back when I was a teenager, it was very common to create mix tapes to give to friends (or girlfriends) with a custom set of tunes to set a mood or fit a theme. I’ve been trying to think of what songs I would put on a mix tape to send to cancer. I had a few good ideas but not enough. Here goes:

  1. I won’t back down – Johnny Cash
  2. I’ll feel a whole lot better (when you’re gone) – The Byrds
  3. I’m a survivor – Destiny’s Child
  4. I hate everything about you – Three Days Grace
  5. Sick and Tired (of being sick and tired) – Cross Canadian Ragweed
  6. Stronger (What doesn’t kill you) – Kelly Clarkson
  7. Hurt – Nine Inch Nails
  8. Hit me with your best shot – Pat Benatar

This is a 90 minute cassette. What are some more appropriate songs to dedicate to cancer? I’d love to see some more comments.

Mythbusting Clinical Trials

For most of my adult life (before cancer), I mistakenly believed that clinical trials were the pathway of last resort for cancer patients who had failed to achieve remission via conventional therapies and were left with no alternatives. I was wrong. There have been so many advances in recent years from monoclonal antibodies to cell signalling pathway activators and inhibitors. Genetic testing is giving doctors and researchers the data they need to target therapies more precisely with less toxicity and treatment side effects. In my case, existing chemotherapies are not known to very effective in stopping the advancing state of this leukemia variant (mutation). Cancer treatment is becoming very individualized and clinical trials are delivering the future in cancer care today. Please give Dr. Tom Lynch a listen.

BTW, I’m a 3%’er 🙂

Keep on Truckin!

According to wikipedia, the phrase Keep On Truckin which came from Robert Crumb’s comic strip: “The strip’s drawings became iconic images of optimism during the hippie era.” Well, the hippie era is long gone but I have lots of reason for optimism. I visited the Sarah Cannon Drug Development Unit (DDU) again today.
The Good News: 🙂

Red Blood Cells, Hemoglobin, Neutrophil counts are all trending upward. Platelet count showed stable to mild improvement. White blood count remain kinda high but stable. All my lab values & vitals checked out positive and I am cleared to begin week four in this clinical trial (final week of cycle 1).

The Not So Good News: 😦

We missed the Bread Lady yet again. I did find an old newspaper article about her posted in the hallway and got a picture of it to share. I will be there all day next week and hope to catch up with her when she hands out yummy baked treats.


Another week on treatment

It has been three full weeks on the ipi-145 investigational drug now and I’m headed back to the DDU (drug development unit) for my weekly clinical trial check-in, exam and labs tomorrow. So far so good. What had long been swollen & painful lymph nodes no longer seem to be so tender; hopefully the drug is working. I am going to try really hard to catch up with the cherished “Bread Lady” of Sarah Cannon and share her story here. Thanks for stopping by.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar fights CML

While I am battling CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia), there’s another chronic form of Leukemia out there called CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia). NBA Basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar is living with and managing CML via a cutting edge medication called Tasigna. Our blood cancers are essentially incurable but with modern research through clinical trials, drug treatments are emerging which allow us to live on with them. The results are truly changing and saving lives.

Has it been another week?

B2953-33It’s time today for another check-in at the Sarah Cannon drug development unit for weekly labs and an oncology nurse practitioner visit. My trial pills will get counted, dosage diary collected and assuming my lab results are ok, I will begin week three of treatment in this clinical trial. I still haven’t noticed any unpleasant side effects from the ipi-145 investigational drug so that’s good for now. It’s still early in the treatment game but I am hopeful that a silent war against these rogue B lymphocytes is well underway now.