Things Change Quickly
15 July 2015 | Annapolis, Maryland
I just re-read the post I made a little over a month ago. How quickly things change. We were excited about the great scan results but less than a week after that posting Bill had a new lump growing in his leg. The doctor said it needed to come out so he had a quick and easy surgery and no one was surprised that it turned out to be melanoma again. Unfortunately it didn't take long for another lump to start growing again, and quickly. At that point the doctor put him back on the original targeted drug therapy that worked so well last November to shrink the lump again with the intention of cutting it out and doing another skin graft. Bill suggested having another chest CT scan before starting the drugs again and the doctor agreed. Unfortunately the scan showed a 22mm tumor in the left lung and a 6mm tumor in the right. That's a small amount of cancer but still not a good thing.
Bill has now been taking the original targeted drugs for three weeks. Yesterday we went to see the Johns Hopkins oncologist to discuss what happens next. We have felt very unsettled recently, so many things are up in the air. After seeing the doctor though we feel a little better. The doctor is confident that the immunotherapy infusions Bill had from March through May are not going to work. He told us we have two options right now. The first is to continue the original targeted drugs until they stop working. On average they only work about nine months (and we've already done five months) but some people have had them work for up to three years. Since Bill has such a small amount of cancer in his body he may be one of those people who the drugs work longer on. It's a good option, but in the past two or three days Bill has had some uncomfortable side effects so we aren't sure how long we want to continue on them.
The second option is to go with the next approved immunotherapy drug infusion, Keytruda. The good news is that it has less side effects, a higher success rate, and works more quickly than the first infusion drug, Yervoy. The bad news is that it needs to be given every three weeks for a minimum of a year if it is working at all. The doctor decided that there was no point in having the new lump taken off - so no more surgery! Bill keeps saying the lump is like the canary in the coal mine - no matter what treatment he has if it's not working that lump will start growing again.
Bill is determined that we are going to continue our cruising life. Either way we go - with the drugs or the infusions - we can make that work while we travel south on the boat. If Bill is getting the infusions then he can come home somehow, or find an alternate place to have them. It is not impossible to do that every three weeks. It will be more expensive and certainly a pain in the neck, but he keeps saying its better than staying here and shoveling snow! We are still planning on leaving in early November. We aren't sure where we will end up yet - but we know it will be warmer than here!
In the mean time we've been trying to work on the boat and have done some traveling. We spent a long weekend on the Jersey shore with Bill's family. After that we took our grandson, Sam, to West Virginia and did some caving and rappelling, as you can see in the picture above. We also went to visit the National Radio Telescope Observatory in Green Bank. We had a great time but were totally exhausted when we got home.
Work on the boat is going very slowly but today we finally managed to finish our dorade project. We've been working on installing four dorades to bring more air into the cabin for months now. We are both very glad that is done. Next we are going to work on completing varnishing the interior teak - a project we wish we had never started!! I'm hoping our next blog picture will be a lovely picture of the boat's interior - no one is seeing it the way it looks now!