2020 – We Deserve a Happy Ending

December 29, 2020 – SiriusXM is set to B.B. King’s Bluesville. I’m driving east on Neshoba Road, headed to the Germantown Community Library to return several books. The volume’s slightly low, so I’m not really listening. I’m a bit distracted. As I stop at the traffic light on Germantown Parkway, I catch part of the lyrics to We Deserve a Happy Ending by The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. We Deserve...is basically a love song (in spite of the odd music video), but the song’s title sums up exactly my sentiments about 2020 and – most importantly – about my family.

Men at work.

A Nice, Simple Christmas

As I said a few moments ago, I was a bit distracted driving to the library. An hour earlier, Zach, our son, hit the road to return to his apartment in Midtown Atlanta. He’s lived and worked in Atlanta for the last three years. It was an emotional goodbye. Zach had been with us for almost eleven days – the most we’ve been together as a family since before Zach graduated from Georgia Tech (2018).

So Christmas 2020 was nice and simple. The four of us were content to hangout
at home and do nothing. We read a lot, played board games, occasionally watched
football, and baked goodies.
Lazy days together.

We were in our own little world, and I love it. Pandemic or not, I love the time we spent together as a family unit. It reinforced how special our being together truly is and how fortunate we are. 

‘Tis the Season

The holidays always bring out a little melancholy in me, but this year was different. Maybe it was having both Emily and Zach at home for an extended period of time. Maybe it was the realization that every holiday season the four of us spend together is a gift and I should cherish it. Maybe it’s also the reality that as our kids get older, eventually, our time spent together will change or diminish. Who knows?

‘Tis the Season

What I do know is that I wouldn’t trade spending the past several weeks – going back to Thanksgiving – with Vicki and the kids for anything.

You can have your Caribbean cruises, your Disney World excursions, your time at the beach, et al. I’ll take my family time…all the time. My family deserves everything I can give them…and time is the one thing I can still give them. I wish I could give them more of it.

We Deserve a Happy Ending

Everyone deserves a happy ending after everything we’ve endured in 2020. Vicki and the kids are no exception. Frankly, dealing with cancer is tiresome – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s draining. It’s draining for everyone involved, especially family and loved ones.
We’ve been through a lot, and 2020 presented us with new challenges and new worries (see The Verdict Is In). I simply want a happy ending for Vicki, Emily, and Zach.
Quiet…a bit eerie.

That’s my Christmas Wish.

Health Update: Immunotherapy Blues

It’s 7:15 Christmas Eve morning. I’m waiting on the third floor of the West Cancer Center for my lab work. My three-week infusion schedule landed on December 24th. It’s quiet in here. Empty. Kind of eerie. I’ve never seen it so empty. 

But I’m not alone. Emily is here with me. I’m thankful for that.

This is my fifth infusion of Keytruda. While my December 3rd lab results showed that my internal organs are tolerating this immunotherapy treatment (see ‘Some Pretty Good News‘), the side effects are getting the better of me.

Fatigue, tiredness, sore and weary muscles, aches and pains, constant itchiness, and neuropathy in my hands and joints. Not fun. Not fun at all. Like I mentioned a moment ago, having cancer is a drain – not only on the patient, but on those around him.

Ready for 2020 to end.

But if it keeps me going…allows me to spend more time with my family…then I’ll put up with it.

Maybe someday I’ll have a happy ending.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks, as always, for listening.

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Writer’s Note – I’ll continue to update my blog on a periodic basis. No set schedule. So, I want to thank everyone who continues to stop by and check out my blog. Please leave a comment or message; I’d love to hear from you. 

Week Two

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Not much new to report this week. As I mentioned in an earlier post (see School Daze), we took Emily back to college this weekend, and the heat along with the meds took their toll on me. That’s been one of the more frustrating aspects of dealing with my cancer – I don’t know what is affecting me: the tumors or the medicine. I discussed in the Week One post that Gleevec has several side effects, which may manifest themselves in different ways. Unfortunately for me, I also have some other ailments that may or may not be “masked” by these side effects.  So, it gets frustrating trying to figure out which ailment is a side effect and which is something unrelated to my cancer.

Say “Hello” to my little friend

(Note: I find it interesting as this newest phase of my journey continues, that I am now able to say “my cancer.”  Prior to that I was saying that I was “very sick.” Perhaps that’s a sign that I’m acknowledging my situation and not running from it.)

The worst side effect so far has been the fatigue, which may impact my ability to volunteer and work outside of the house. I will continue taking Gleevec for the remainder of this month. On September 11th, the doctors will analyze my blood to see if my “counts” are in order and I’m not in danger of liver failure or internal bleeding. I also have occasional chest pains that, according to the nurse, may be the cancer or another side effect of the medicine.

As always, thanks for listening.

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Writer’s note: I’ve been on a brief hiatus since before Labor Day.  You’ll see several posts today and tomorrow as I play catch-up.

Week One

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Week One

As of today, it has been one week since I started my medication, Gleevec. Also known as Imatinib, Gleevec is called a protein inhibitor. It was originally created to fight certain forms of leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal tumors (GIST). The reason I take Gleevec is that through genetic testing, my doctors found that my tumors have a certain mutation, known as a c-KIT or KIT gene. According to some studies published in 2011, melanoma with the c-Kit mutation has responded well to drug therapy using Gleevec.

I will be on Gleevec for the next 60 days to see how my tumors respond to the drug. After 60 days, I will have another PET scan to see how well the drug is working. Depending on the results of the scan, I may stay on Gleevec, move to another drug or treatment, or begin a clinical trial.

So, for now, it’s just wait and see.

Oral Chemotherapy Drug

Gleevec is a pretty normal looking pill. It’s taken orally with water and on a full stomach. There are some possible side-effects such as nausea, body aches, fatigue, and – possibly – swelling. I’ve had a few of these symptoms, but nothing major. All of this sounds fairly standard, but, as with other aspects of this journey, there’s nothing “normal” or standard about a drug treatment.

Health Insurance Blues

I had my eyes opened when I began dealing with the insurance company about getting my prescription. First, Gleevec can only be dispensed from a pharmacy certified to handle cancer drugs. My prescription was actually overnighted from Indiana via UPS using dry ice cold packs.

Second, these types of drugs are not typically covered by the standard pharmacy benefit, so you have to meet your medical deductibles and/or co-pays before the insurance company covers anything.

Gleevec – hopefully a wonder pill.

Third, this medicine is EXPENSIVE! When the woman on the other end of the phone told me the covered cost, I nearly passed out. When I asked what the retail price for a 30-day supply would be, and she told me that price, I actually said, “You’ve gotta be kidding?”

No Generic Options, Yet

The company that makes Gleevec, Novartis, owns the patent, which won’t expire until 2015. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Novartis got dinged a few years ago in the media for not lowering the price of Gleevec and some other cancer medicines. (According to some business websites, Novartis has made back the development cost of Gleevec several times over since it was approved in 2001.)

Anyway, as I said above, this has been an “eye opener.”  Thanks for listening.

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