cindytripp

25 vials—countdown to trial #4 December 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 9:37 pm
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Today after the lab technician finished drawing 25 vials of blood for screening, I figured things could only get better. It took awhile to fill those vials, but the process was like an assembly line, one vial after another. The informed consent form estimated the draw to be about 11 tablespoons, but it seems like more and I wondered if I’d have any blood left when everything was done. I did, of course, and I didn’t feel faint or ill. As usual, the staff at Sarah Cannon took great care of me.

The next step is this Friday (day minus-3), a one-time, small-dose infusion of an FDA-approved chemotherapy drug shown to improve immunotherapies. This drug should help the immune system overcome tolerance to the cancer drugs that target the tumors.

Cycle 1 begins Monday, December 8, with a schedule of two drugs already in the trial procedures but which for the first time are being given together in this trial. One drug is an experimental cancer vaccine designed to help the immune system create antibodies to stop growth of cancer cells. It’s given weekly in shots subcutaneously (under the skin) in four specific places (right upper arm or thigh, left upper arm or thigh, right and left abdomen). The second trial drug is given by infusion and binds an antibody to a molecule on the immune cells. After 8 weeks, the infused drug stops, and the injections continue for a couple more weeks. Scans are scheduled by day 84 (at 12 weeks, around the first of March), and those results plus regular blood work will determine if I continue with cycle 2. The procedure changes then too, with only one treatment every six weeks and the other five weeks off.

The next three months will be definitely complicated, but they feel this procedure is promising. That means I’ll show up weekly for whatever is on the schedule, and I’ll focus on the moments not the weeks. I’ll pray for predictable and manageable side effects and for clear results that indicate whether/when to stop or to continue this treatment, and I’ll continue to put my faith in the Lord.

I remember when I was diagnosed almost three years ago and how confused I felt. From the beginning there has been no certainty except the sovereignty of God. Although I’ve learned more than I ever anticipated about cancer in general and my cancer in particular, I’m still only certain of the sovereignty of God—and of His love and His faithfulness.

What a fitting thought for December. God’s promises are real, but that reality is not predictable. I can’t figure out this cancer or predict the outcome, and I can’t imagine what God intends for me with this experience; however, none of those things matter. I can know that He loves me, and I can rest in that love without knowing the details. What Isaiah records God as saying of Israel is true of me also: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” Isaiah 43:1). I am redeemed; I am called by name; I am His. What a reality!

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1)

 

Another detour in the road November 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 2:34 pm

The road switched again for me yesterday (Tuesday, November 18) when I had scans to see if the direction we’re going in is the right one. The results indicate some of my cancer tumors have grown slightly, some were the same, and some were somewhat smaller; in other words, nothing was remarkable either way. Also, one or two other tumors not identified previously were visible for the first time, probably because they had grown enough to be seen on the scan. No “new” tumors were reported, however. These scan results—combined with rough side effects, negative impact on my corneas and vision, and elevated C-125 markers for the last few weeks while I was on the drug—make staying on this trial no longer advisable. I’ll start trial #4 after Thanksgiving.

I confess that for most of the day yesterday I was disheartened by the news, and I didn’t pay close attention to the details of the new trial other than my oncologist feels this is the next step. Right now I’m carefully reading the trial protocols and information about side effects so I can meet with my doctor on Dec. 1 to go over everything. I continue to be very confident in the care and support and medication I’m receiving at Sarah Cannon Research Institute from Dr. Skip Burris and others.

This morning I noticed again the verse that’s painted in our kitchen: “His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). Reading those words are such a relief for me because I know I’ll be fine. The way forward has already been prepared for me because nothing that has happened or will happen surprises God. My circumstances can be overwhelming at times, but then isn’t that always true of circumstances? Keeping my eyes on Jesus and His promise never to leave or forsake me is the only way for me not to feel overwhelmed.

I am deeply grateful for your prayers and love and concern.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will for God for me [and you and us] in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

 

Another update November 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 9:10 pm

It’s been 5 weeks since my last infusion of the trial drug, and 2 weeks since I was supposed to start cycle 4. Here’s what’s going on with me as of today:

  • I feel fine, more than fine actually. I have NO pain.
  • The cornea specialist told me last week that 95% of the blisters on my corneas were gone, which is exactly how long he had said it would take (about 10 days after I stopped drug).
  • He said improvement in vision should follow, and as of today my nearer vision is becoming clearer; I expect the far vision to improve soon also.
  • My C-125 marker has been on a slight increase over the last three weeks—103 to 127 to 161 on Nov 4. Normal is under 30, but I haven’t been there since early in the summer when trial 2 was still working.
  • I’ll have CT scans in a week (Nov 18) to see what the three large tumors are doing, and then I’ll meet with Dr. Burris to discuss treatment based on what the scans show.
  • Options discussed today are to reduce infusion dosage by a third or to modify the trial or to begin another one. My doctor and the drug company will make a recommendation based on what they think is best, both in terms of quality of life and of increased side effects. They are all concerned about how few good days I’ve had and about the cornea issues.
  • I’m acutely aware of the power of prayer in my life. Thank you, and thanks be to God.
  • It feels weird to post this, but several people have asked if what I said in the ThanksLiving upper school chapel on Nov. 4 was recorded. For those who want to listen, chapel talks are posted on our media website at media.brentwoodacademy.com.

Everything is another opportunity to “give thanks in all circumstances because this is the will of God for [me] in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

 

a plan! November 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 10:12 pm

I saw Dr. Burris today, and I’m encouraged. Information is information, and knowing facts is better than wondering. Here what I learned and what’s next—Note this disclaimer: what I think I heard and what was said are sometimes not exactly the same 🙂 :

1) Appointment tomorrow (Nov 5) with Dr Chang, the cornea specialist I saw a few weeks ago, to see how my corneas are doing. I haven’t noticed a change in my vision, but I’m also not experiencing the pain I was when this was first diagnosed.

2) If my corneas are somewhat better, then he and Dr. Burris will discuss whether in a few weeks and with a reduced dosage I could proceed with another treatment of this study drug.

3) If there is no change or if my corneas are worse, then they’ll either wait a bit longer to see if my corneas will heal or else they’ll consider looking into another trial for me.

4) Best of all, I misunderstood my cancer marker. It was 127, up from 103, which is not a significant increase. Normal is under 30.

5) The CT scans show a decrease in size of the three tumors they are following in neck, chest, and abdomen. If there are smaller tumors somewhere in my body, they are too small to be picked up by CT scan (that’s good). The cancer marker, however, is something that they want to reduce since an increased number has indicated increased cancer activity for me.

6) Finally, I was asked to speak in upper school chapel today to begin the ThanksLiving series. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-22, especially verse 18: Give thanks in all circumstances because this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

I could acknowledge that “giving” thanks requires more from me. It requires me to take God at His word and to believe that what He says is true. My circumstances may be hard, but God is good. When fear tries to overwhelm me, I should focus on one moment when thinking beyond the moment freaks me out. So I breathe in and breathe out, and even if I don’t feel like it, I can choose to focus on the One who knows my circumstances and who assures me I am not alone.

I am so thankful for your prayers. I feel those prayers every morning and throughout each day, and I’m always reminded of the faithfulness of God in my life.

 

Finally! an update on Trial 3 October 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 2:04 pm

The last time I posted was cycle 1 day 1 of my third clinical trial (August 25), which was a long time ago.  I wish I could say that I’ve been doing so wonderfully, wonderfully well. Oh, how I wish I would say that I’ve been in such fantastically good health that I haven’t had a moment to write because of the constant, energetic, hilarious, high-quality FUN I’ve been having. I wish.

These last nine weeks have been difficult. The trial drug consists of a potent chemotherapy molecule bonded with a powerful antibody, and each chemotherapy molecule is designed to “bomb” the cancer cell and cause it to explode. Potent chemotherapy and exploding cancer cells have had very powerful side effects, including blisters covering my corneas. Oh yes, that feels just as it sounds.

Basically, the drug changes the shape of the corneas, which in turn changes my vision, and the blisters are an added bonus. I can’t see well with or without my glasses, and reading is almost impossible. For me, not being able to read hurts more than the blisters.

My next treatment has been postponed to allow my eyes to heal before resuming with cycle 4. At the same time, my cancer marker has to be monitored since that number indicates what’s going on with my cancer. My last C-125 marker was 103 at the end of September, but there was a “slight” (!) increase to 167 the end of October. I don’t know what that’s about since I was on the trial all of those weeks. I’m trying not to dwell on that increase too much, however, because it’s definitely another one of those details that I can’t control.

In the almost-three years since my diagnosis, there have been several of those out-of-my-control experiences. I’m realizing that any “control” was an illusion at best. Life often consists of experiences for which there are no easy solutions. Sometimes it’s a health issue; other times it’s a relationship or something else. My challenge right now is cancer, but I think everyone has some sort of issue. What has to be done is to is trust God with the challenges even if they can’t be resolved. It’s been my constant question: Do I believe God or not? Is my belief dependent on His resolving my struggle? If I expect God to answer as I wish He would, to resolve my struggle according to my plan, then my faith isn’t faith at all. Although I say the words and think I’m giving everything to Him, I blink my eye and discover I’ve pulled pieces back to myself once again. I’m not saying this well, but my struggle is often with the fact that I have to struggle at all; I want it to be a one-and-done deal.

Three 21-day cycles, one 7-day holding period, and my eyes are still blurry and still hurt. Struggle is part of the process, but how thankful I am that my life is not my own to manage. I’ll making the choice to trust in His plan because that’s the only solution that can bring comfort to my soul. I also know that I’ll have to make this choice again and again, and God will still be there.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)