We are now proud owners of a new vehicle a 2008 Jeep Liberty – a model of Jeep Cherokee – which we purchased last Friday thanks to the help of our friend Denise Kacavas help companies cut of us and her brother-in-law Jim who runs a dealership – Allen Mello Dodge Jeep – in Nashua, New Hampshire Jim sent a driver down to pick us up in Boston and Marvin – a sales guy at the dealership helped us figure out what vehicle we wanted as we wanted to also get get four-wheel drive and lots of legroom in the back seats for our tall teens.

After we found the vehicle we wanted Jim even bought us lunch. Thank you Denise, Jim and Marvin and everyone else who offered help and advice with our car purchase.

A number of you had offered to help us move from Boston to Chester once we knew the appropriate dates, well, we now have those dates our plan is to now disassemble all of our IKEA furniture on Friday, April 13th, and move all of our stuff out between 1 and 5 PM on Saturday, April 14th we already have the freight elevator in our apartment building reserved for the move-out and are hoping to convince Linda’s father to drive a U-Haul truck to and from Chester (we plan on having a convoy up to Chester (with boxes in all the extra vehicles and furniture parts in the U-Haul truck) For those of you who have already volunteered to assist us please drop us a note if you can join us on either of these dates. Thanks!

Doug & Erin – We will glad accept those empty boxes you offered us yesterday.

In other updates – I am not experiencing any treatment side effects from the ipilimumab (and if they appear it won’t be for another 10 days, but I am still feeling extreme fatigue, a poor appetite and itchy skin from my radiation treatments and very itchy skin from the same. One other life change I am pursuing is the resumption of my course work for my MFA in Photography with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco – I have committed to taking two courses this semester – classes started today.

 

After a brief meeting with my oncologist this afternoon to go over what to look out for with respect to the side effects of ipilimumab – skin rashes and gastric issues – so we could let the hospital know that it’s happening.

The doctor said that the soonest I might experience the rash (the most likely side-effect) would be about two weeks from now.

My newly found cousin Carolynne who is also on ipi as part of a clinical trial says that after her initial four doses she had no side effects. I got to see her today because she had an appointment with my oncologist directly following my appointment, and she and her husband Mark came to visit us in the waiting room of the infusion center

The infusion of the ipi took place in Mass General’s Yawkey Outpatient Center on the 8th floor (one floor below where my oncologist holds his consultations. The infusion center is also where chemotherapy patients get their chemo treatments – each infusion area includes a TV and several chairs for guests, as well a chair designed much like a La-Z-Boy but not nearly as comfortable (for the patient).

This combination can create raucous neighbors as we discovered today. The guy visiting the patient in the infusion area to my right spoke loudly about everything, and seemed to be a know-it-all about every subject. Noise canceling headphones along with a music source are coming with us for the next infusion in three weeks to help drown out adjacent conversations and televisions.

We learned that the ipi infusion process takes over two hours as the nurses first have the hospital pharmacy prepare the ipilimumab infusion (267 ml for me based on height 6’2″ and weight (195 pounds clothed) – which takes about 45 minutes. The infusion is administered via IV (intravenously) over a 90 minute period along with time spent in the waiting room we spent about two and a half hours waiting to complete the first infusion of ipi.

The next excitement comes about on Friday afternoon when we go shopping for a used vehicle to use while we are living in the house in Chester. If anyone has good suggestions on how to not get ripped off by used car salesmen, let us know.

The next medical treatment takes place in the form of a Brain MRI on February 9th – a week before the second infusion of ipi and I may have another set of body scans a few weeks later (between the second and third ipi infusions) which may impact a booked trip home to Bonaire in the middle of March – the results of the scans would be more important than going back to Bonaire for a couple of weeks, I figure.

 

Treatment Start in Sight   January 22nd, 2012

I got word last Wednesday morning from my most excellent oncology nurse Ellen that all hurdles with my insurance company had been surmounted. And after going to the hospital to get blood drawn for reference values, I learned that I would be meeting with my oncologist next Wednesday for a final consult to precede my first injection of ipilimumab, also set for next Wednesday afternoon.

One thing I failed to mention in last week’s downer of a blog post was that one purpose of ipi is to set the brakes free on one’s white blood cells to allow them to better fight infection. Considering many of my existing white blood cells are TIL cells design to target my tumors, the ipilimumab should have a positive impact on slowing the growth of my melanoma. Not looking forward to the itchy skin side effect as I already have very itchy skin from both the radiation treatments I have gone through. My next ipi injection will be three weeks from Wednesday, and I have a Brain MRI scheduled on February 9th to see if my brain tumors are shrinking from the ipi. If shrinkage occurs, I will get to avoid brain surgery to remove a tumor in my right temple (which has been leading to small seizures on the left side of my body) and another tumor located on my cerebellum back of the head at the top of the spinal column. If there is tumor shrinkage due to the ipi – it should manifest itself after the first or second injection I won’t know until after my consult on Wednesday how often I will need to get CT or PET scans. My newly found distant cousin Carolynne has suggested that since we share similar genetics that ipi should work well for me, because it has done so for her. And since it boosts the effectiveness of TIL cells, that’s another variable in the tumor-fighting equation.

One practical impact this latest development has on future plans is that the 12 weeks of treatment will prevent us from moving back to Bonaire in April as we had hoped we coud do as of a few weeks ago. Instead, to conserve resources we will be moving into a house owned by Linda’s family in Chester, NH, not far from where we used to live in Derry, NH before moving to Bonaire in 1997.

 

Melanoma Sucks   January 12th, 2012

Melanoma Sucks

This blot post will be more succinct that my prior posts.

I had a PET scan and a brain MRI yesterday, and a meeting with my oncologist today. I learned that my scans showed that the tumors on my liver and lungs and right adrenal gland have resumed growth (in contrast to what my scans in early November showed. as have my brain tumors – post radiation my further treatment will involve a drug approved last March by the FDA, known as Yervoy (ipililimumab) which is administered four times over a twelve week period at a cost of $132,000 (paid by insurance hopefully). So instead of moving back to Bonaire in April I would downsize apartments in Boston to be close to treatment at Mass General Hospital.