Just when I thought I had filled every nook and cranny with travel this summer, along comes three more trips. Only, I’m not going. Well, I sort of am, but not all of me. Confused? Yep. Me, too. To explain, I need to take you on a trip yourself to the outer edges of cancer treatment. It’s gonna sound like science fiction to you, but it’s where I live these days.
First, some context: I am chock full of drugs. Drugs upon drugs. So many drugs with such weird names that my wife and I have given up trying to remember them. When we make the attempt, the conversation just collapses into a heap of bizarre medical words. Some, I am sure, we have made up – Zubento-oxymeta-tylaguard, anyone?
It’s so bad that if I am ever unconscious and needing medical treatment, I have to carry cards in my wallet to warn the attending physicians to just slowly step away from me and cordon off the wing of the hospital I am in.
Ok, then. Enough drugs. Let’s do something new and innovative. Here’s an idea: let’s remove some of Ed’s white blood cells (that should be fighting his cancer, but are on vacation instead), send them on a trip to Atlanta (where they will be told, in no uncertain terms, to get their act together), return them to Ed in Tallahassee, and put them back in him, supercharged, ready to zap his cancer cells.
Oh, and let’s keep all the other drugs going as well, because who knows if we might stumble upon a crazy combination that sends Ed’s prostate cancer on a one way trip of its own (or perhaps instead causes Ed to simply spontaneously combust). Yes, I believe we have just crossed over. We have now entered the Twilight Zone.
I loved this show growing up. I just never thought I would be living in it. But this is my new reality, folks. Go ahead. Cue the theme song.
If I haven’t lost you already, here is a picture that will give you a better idea of what we are going to be doing (I am unclear if this treatment will actually remove my facial features, hands, and feet, but it looks like the nurse may be in danger as well):
And for those of you still shouting, “Tell us more, Ed, only this time with fake medical pictures!” here you go:
Kind of looks like Provenge transforms my white blood cells into octopuses whose favorite food is prostate cancer cells. This would be a positive turn of events, from my vantage point.
For the physicians and other medical people reading this blog, I offer you this further description (with words we normal people can’t pronounce):
A course of sipuleucel-T treatment consists of three basic steps:
- A patient’s own white blood cells, primarily antigen-presenting cells (APCs), also called dendritic cells, are extracted in a leukapheresis procedure.
- The blood product is sent to the factory and incubated with a fusion protein (PA2024) consisting of two parts,
- the antigen prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), which is present in 95% of prostate cancer cells, and
- an immune signaling factor granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) that helps the APCs to mature.
- The activated blood product (APC8015) is returned from the factory to the infusion center and re-infused into the patient to cause an immune response against cancer cells carrying the PAP antigen.
A complete sipuleucel-T treatment repeats three courses over the span of a month, with two weeks between successive courses.
Factory? Did they say factory? They are sending my white blood cells to a factory? Why does this unsettle me?
Bottom line: we are going to try to jumpstart my immune system to fight my advanced prostate cancer. Provenge is the first and only FDA-approved immunotherapy proven to help extend life in (certain) men like me. The goal is to be one of these “certain” men.
How much does this treatment cost? It’s crazy expensive. Thanks be to God, my insurance company apparently thinks I’m worth it (or maybe it’s the fact that I keep changing my name at the courthouse every month).
So there you have it:
It’s the summer of Provenge.
Surgery for a temporary central venous catheter is scheduled for July 11th, with the first round of treatment to begin July 14th.
Would you pray for me?
In the meantime, I am feeling remarkably well. Tomorrow, we go to New Orleans (love this city!) and after that, we are off for a glorious week in Maine. As always, the heights and the depths.
As you are traveling yourselves this summer, if you see my white blood cells out and about, tell them to come home soon. We’ve got important work to do.