As stated in my last report that “no news would be good news.” Well, it appears that has turned out to be the case. In May, an MRI was completed. The results showed that the tumor had actually decreased in size and the thrombosis to my heart remains stable along with the lesions in my lungs. All of this in spite of the fact that the immunotherapy treatment had been discontinued. I was very much concerned that the lack of treatment would allow the cancer to start growing again. On July 27, a PET scan was completed that shows the intensity within the tumor. This also was good news. Of course the cancer cells are still present but no growth was observed in terms of size and/or intensity. As a result, the oncologist has now recommended that Jodell and I go meet with a surgical team at Sloan-Kettering in New York City to discuss the pros and cons of having the tumor surgically removed. It is a possibility that, after their review, the doctors decide that surgery is too risky and not an option. I was told to wait for a call from someone at Sloan-Kettering to start this ball in motion. Until we have that discussion, I can’t speculate when this surgery, if possible, would take place. Stay tuned as this drama unfolds. I just hope it does not affect any fall fishing trips! 🙂 James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
One year ago this month, I was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Stage 4 means the cancer originated in one place (my liver) and has metastasized to other areas in my body. I have lesions in my lungs and a thrombosis (tumor and blood clotting) that extends from the tumor on my liver, up my inferior vena cava and into my heart. As Bill Murray in Caddy Shack would say…”so, I got that going for me”. Obviously it has been an intense year with the most intense being the first month (April 2019). These are a few of the “high” lights:
- After the diagnosis and the biopsy I came close to internally bleeding to death
- I was told if this had not been caught, I would have died by June or July of 2019
- Once I was stable and the treatment began, I was told that I had, optimistically, 2 to 3 years to live
- I would never be able to say that I was cancer free
- The medication used for treatment turned me into a type 1 diabetic for the rest of my life
- And, just for good measure, I had a heart attack earlier this month.
However, not all is doom and gloom. There is some sunshine to be had:
- The heart attack resulted in a couple of more stents and my heart should now be tuned up and, hopefully, ready for another 60 years!
- The treatment has been successful in treating the cancer. The thrombosis and tumor has remained about the same size but the lesions in my lungs have gotten smaller!
- April 2019 was no fun but beyond that I have not felt much ill effect from the disease and/or the treatment. I remain active with my “honey-do’s” around the house and even sneak out to go fishing every now and then.
- When I last asked my oncologist for an update on my projected life span, He laughingly said…I don’t know! You are now into unchartered waters! He calls me the unicorn as none of the medical staff expected this type of success!
- In spite of his comment early on about never becoming cancer free, he now says he can map out a way to become cancer free. He acknowledges it is a long shot but it’s a shot.
So the road ahead is as follows…I won’t be getting anymore of the immunotherapy treatment due to the side effects I have encountered unless something changes. This will determine if my body’s immune system, on its own, has the upper hand and will continue to diminish the size of all the cancer tissue. I will be scanned 2 or 3 times over the summer to see what is going on with the untreated cancer. (I just hope we are not taking our foot off the cancers neck and letting it up off the mat!) If all goes like we hope, the cancer will continue to dwindle and at some point early fall, surgically remove the tumor and the thrombosis and let the lesions in my lungs disappear at some point. As I mentioned above, this is a long shot and the game plan is subject to change depending on how things develop.
So from this point forward (at least until fall), no news is good news. Don’t get restless if you haven’t seen an update in a while. There won’t be a need for an update report if things go per plan. James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
As mentioned in my last update, I was waiting for the new plan of attack going forward since diabetes is now a part of the equation. I do have that strategy now but hang on for a second while I explain the latest bump in the road. I had a heart attack Friday and am now typing this update from my recovery bed in the hospital. Had a stent installed in my right coronary artery and was put on notice that I would need to come back in a week or 2 to install another in my LAD (widow maker) as it is 70% blocked. So all the spinning plates symbolize liver tumor, lung cancer, diabetes, thrombosis to my heart, and heart attack / stents. Now for a bit of good news: A recent PET scan showed that the spots in my lungs are decreasing in size and the tumor on my liver is the same size or maybe a little smaller. So the plan to keep all the plates spinning is to hold off on the immunotherapy and not treat the cancer at all for now and attend to the heart issues. Hopefully the tumor and lung lesions will continue to decrease in size or at least remain stable. Best case would be to have the cancer remain stable or smaller over the summer and, if every thing lines up correctly, cut the tumor out along with the thrombosis sometime towards the end of year. The reasons for waiting this long is to allow my heart stents and arteries to heal and let the cancer show that it is not growing. This is a very optimistic plan but the best option at this time. Any unknowns that pop up along the way will be addressed and, of course, could change the strategy. 2 Corinthians 12:9 – Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
As Jodell, myself, and a number of doctors were discussing the pros and cons of going through a heart surgery procedure to remove the thrombus in my inferior vena cava, I had another situation pop up. Early last week my mouth was extremely dry, I had lost 11 pounds over a one-week period, my eyes were dry and I became lethargic. I called Jodell to explain, she called the doctors soon thereafter I was in the emergency room. My blood sugar level was 635. Normal range is between 70 and 140. All the medical care professionals immediately went into action and infused me with insulin and kept me in the hospital for 3 days to get the dosage dialed in. Turns out the Opdivo drug that I have been receiving bi-weekly for my immunotherapy has attacked my pancreas and left it with no ability to produce the required insulin. In the past, the cancer drug has attacked my kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands. All of those conditions were treated and everything returned to normal and I was put back on my normal treatment plan. Unfortunately, in this case, the doctors don’t believe that my body will be able to produce insulin forevermore. The oncologist says no more Opdivo for me which makes me wonder what the new plan will be (TBD). So from now on, I am officially a type 1 diabetic. As a result, it looks like I will be eliminating major food group from my diet as shown in the above picture. What’s a little diabetes compared to stage 4 liver cancer??? Ain’t nuttin’ but a thang! I say bring on the next challenge (or not)! Isaiah 38:16 (NLT) Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live!
Today was the day of that all-important PET scan. Shortly thereafter I met with the oncologist to get the results. After everything was explained to me, I had the feeling similar to watching a football game that ends in a tie. Not much to celebrate but then again, nothing to be upset about. In other words, everything was about the same. The tumor on my liver is about the same size as it was at my last PET scan. Some of the lesions in my lungs have gotten smaller but others have gotten larger. The oncologist suspects that the larger ones are just inflamed from the treatment. The thrombosis that has grown up into my heart remains unchanged. So even though I described this as a tie game, a doctor friend of mine said that stopping an aggressive growing cancer like this is a victory and he would take that every day of the week! So I’m going to change my mind and call it a win!
Since the tumor on the liver and the lesions in the lungs have stabilized a little more focus will be directed towards the thrombosis in the inferior vena cava extending into my heart. We have a meeting scheduled with another doctor on December 19 to discuss options which could include doing nothing, surgery to remove it, or something in between. There are risks associated with every option but worth discussing. One thing is for certain…nothing is going to happen until I get to hold my grandson around Dec 27!! So for now the every other week treatment will continue as is until something changes or someone has a better idea. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I did not intend to put out another update until the all-important PET scan was performed in November unless something out of the ordinary happened. However, the natives are restless. I’m getting several inquiries as to what’s going on and when is the next update, etc. is so here is the latest and greatest.
I continue to get the immunotherapy treatment every other week. The aftereffects of the treatment are mostly non-consequential so far. My blood work numbers are pretty much normal, however, I’m still taking steroids to keep my liver and kidney enzymes under control. The doctor is weaning me off of those because the steroids make the immunotherapy treatment somewhat less than 100% effective. Hopefully in about 3 to 4 weeks I will no longer be taking the steroids and the enzymes will remain as they should.
I did have a CAT scan done on September 27 and got the results the following Tuesday and explained to me by the oncologist. He said that the tumor has stabilized (no change in size) and some of the lesions in my lungs have gotten smaller but others have gotten larger. I hear that as a net “no change”. The CAT scan indicates size only, not the intensity of the activity of the cancer cells with in the tumor. That is what the PET scan will show.
In summary, the doctor told me that I would be perfectly normal if it wasn’t for the tumor. My response was that sounds like saying that the Titanic is a perfectly good ship except for the big hole in the side of the boat. He said “yes, pretty much like that.” As you can tell he and I have become good friends since April.
So going forward, the treatment regiment will remain the same and we shall see what the PET scan has to show in late November. So the game plan is: steady as she goes and react according to changes, if changes occur. To be extreme to make a point: I suppose one scenario would be to continue treatments every other week for the next 30 years as long as everything remains stabilized which explains the picture at the top of this update.
As far as quality of life…. We have been doing a small finish out project at our home. I try to do much of the work myself because I like to and keeps me busy (installing laminate floors, installing doors and trim, painting, etc.) In addition, I try to keep up on my honey-do list whenever the lovely Miss Jodell snaps her fingers. I’m also entertaining the idea of securing some type of construction consulting work here in the Skaneateles area. Currently, I am in Tampa hanging out with Ryan and we intend to go fishing in the Everglades on Tuesday. So my point is I’m very grateful to be as active as I am and, at the same time, fight this life threatening disease.
My doctor has told me in the past that I will never be able to say that I’m cancer free but he apparently does not know the power of my God.
Thank you for all the prayers from the Saints and keep them coming!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer
Consider this a continuation of my last post. The last post was not definitive as to which way things were headed…..Either better or worse. If you recall, my kidney numbers (Creatinine) were extremely high. To combat this, I was given a lot of hydration. This caused other issues as described in my last post. The idea was to flush my kidneys to get the creatinine numbers in line. So in addition to the hydration they gave me medication to make me go to the bathroom. Once that treatment was completed on Friday, Jodell and I hit the road to go to Burlington, Vermont. It took two restrooms stops and a cornfield to get there but we made it! Now the good news: I was back in the cancer center yesterday for more blood work and a plan of action based on the numbers. Everything is pretty much in line except that the kidney numbers are still abnormally high but headed in the right direction. So the doctor put me in the infusion room to reinstate immunotherapy treatment. In addition, he put me on steroids attempting to keep the liver and kidney numbers where they need to be. Anyway, I see this to be a good thing because were now back on track in dealing with the cancer!
In my last report I indicated that there would most likely be a dry spell of updates until the next pet scan was completed sometime in November. I was anticipating routine immunotherapy treatment every other Tuesday. However, that was wishful thinking or just being naïve. I came in the cancer center for my immunotherapy therapy treatment on Tuesday and some of my vital numbers were out of whack. Seems that my kidneys were a little “jelly” of my liver getting all the attention the week before. So immunotherapy treatment for the cancer has been postponed until further notice while we deal with this kidney issue. I’ve returned to the hospital every day this week including today (Friday) for hydration and steroids. My blood pressure has been as high as 215/101. My heart rate as low as 42. And temperature as low as 96. However, those numbers are slowly returning to normal. I feel fine. It’s just frustrating that we can’t stick to the main task at hand and that is attacking the cancer! My next appointment with my Doc is Tuesday to discuss the way forward.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
July 23, 2019
I had my appointment with my oncologist today. I consider what he said to be good news! My liver enzymes have come back down close to normal and, as a result, treatments will resume on Tuesday of next week. I will continue this treatment/infusion every other week until changes, if necessary, to the game plan are needed. My concern is that the future treatments will elevate my liver enzymes once again to the point where treatment has to be discontinued. He confirmed that is a concern however also indicated that there is a way to manage that issue. So for right now, I consider my mission to become “cancer free” is back on track. Unless something unusual occurs, be prepared for a dry spell when it comes to an update to the “McVey Report”. The next milestone will be the next PET scan approximately four months from now. As a reminder, this scan will show changes, bad or good, to all cancer tissue.
Currently I feel great and not many limitations on what I can or can’t do. However, I have lost about 30 pounds since I was diagnosed. I see this as a good thing. My appetite is good so bring on the barbecue, ice cream, all the desserts you got, etc!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Just did some more blood work at the hospital. They called me and told me that my liver enzymes looked much better! Now where did that tumor go? Get back over here! We’re not done with you yet!