Hi y'all! I just got back to my hotel room after my visit with Dr. Legha. He looked at the CT scans and said they show that the existing tumors in my abdomen have grown slightly and that there are at least four more tumors. The new tumors are both in the liver and outside the liver, between the kidneys and liver and pancreas. He acted concerned but not panicked about these. He said the primary focus right now is to treat the brain. At the same time, he said it is critical to hit physical therapy hard to regain as much use of the leg as possible and to minimize muscle atrophy in the leg.
Dr. Legha said I should proceed with whole brain radiation, which I am scheduled to start on Wednesday. He said I should complement the radiation therapy with a chemotherapy drug called Temodar. Temodar is an oral chemotherapy that "interferes with cell growth" in the brain. It generally does not affect tumors in other parts of the body. Dr. Legha said the tumors in my abdomen, although larger and more numerous, are stable enough at present that we do not need to treat them at this time. He said it is more important that we get the brain metasteses under control and regain strength and functionality in the leg. Once we deal with those issues, we then can pursue chemotherapy treatments for the abdominal tumors.
The only other possible treatment we may pursue in the near future concerns the subcutaneous node on my right ribcage. This surface tumor, which was growing under the skin, has begun to penetrate the skin. Dr. Legha said I should talk to the radiologist about using radiation to treat this tumor before it breaks through the surface of the skin. He said we can wait to apply radiation therapy until the node begins to cause pain (Dr. Legha said it will become tender and sore as it nears the surface of the skin).
So that's the long and short of it. I was happy to hear him say the cancer has not metastasized to my lungs. I'm even happier that I can pursue treatment at home and that I should be able to attend my brother's wedding in October. But as much as I try to put a positive spin on things, the fact is that the news--once again--is not good. I would be so grateful to hear a doctor just one time tell me something that is undeniably good. As in "all of the tumors are smaller" or "some tumors are gone." There's no point getting too distressed about things, and I continue to hope that future treatments will lead to good news in the future. It's this hope that helps me stay positive about the whole situation. But, as my neurosurgeon Dr. Mueller said to me, "You've had a grand slam hit against you," and each time I hear that the scans have detected another tumor or that my LDH levels are up (LDH levels provide an indication of tissue damage in the liver) it feels like another batter hitting one over the fence.
But that's enough about me. : ) I need to send out thanks to all the people here in Houston, who have made this an enjoyable trip. We ate a delicious Italian dinner--prepared by a native of Rome, which is the best way to get an Italian dinner--on Friday night at the home of Stefano and Betty (Hanigan) Costantini. Betty was my babysitter when I was a kid. She has four impressive children, two handsome boys (Mattheo and Tomaso) and two beautiful girls (Anna Maria and Isabella). The whole family made me feel right at home, and I hope I get another chance to visit Ristorante Costantini! We followed that up with an authentic Texas barbecue with Jerry Toomey, his wife Margaret, daughter Ann, and son-in-law Greg. Jerry is an ND grad, and Ann and Greg have a son who is a senior at Notre Dame. We were joined by Cathy Connors, the president of the ND club of Houston. We watched the Notre Dame v Penn State game. The football skills of the Fighting Irish were the only disappointing part of the evening. The dinner was prepared by Margaret, who has proven time and again to be a master chef. The Toomeys offered to take us out to dinner or have us over for a meal in their home. The decision was a no-brainer: a meal in their home is better than any restaurant I've ever eaten in. Tonight we will be dining with my college roommate Kevin Gardner and his wife Melissa and son Trey. They are always so welcoming when I come to town, and it's fun for me to see how much Trey has grown between visits. He's one of those kids who just make you smile when you see him. With friends like these, it's no wonder I'm almost beginning to feel like a Texan!
And thanks to everyone for posting their blogs. Please don't feel guilty about not posting or not emailing. I know you're out there, and the fact that you even read the blog humbles me. And no, you're not technologically challenged if you can't figure it out. I work with computers for a living, and I still come across things on the Internet that leave me perplexed and cause me to give up.
Finally, thanks to my sister Michelle for accompanying me on this trip. It has been a real privilege for me to spend so much quality time with her. She was eight years old when I moved away to college so I have missed out on so much that has happened in her life. I have enjoyed getting to know her better during our time together, and I am awed by the person she has become. And the best part is that we have resolved all of the world's problems in the last four days and are ready to provide personal counseling to Britney Spears whenever she is ready to get her life in order. : )
Take care y'all!