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)