Surgery and Update

July 11th, 2009

Hey Everyone,

First of all, my vacation to Costa Rica was awesome.  I had a great time zip-lining, scuba diving, surfing and just relaxing.  I am glad that I decided to go on the trip.  I was having some doubts as to whether or not I should go due to some pain I was having in my legs

I was originally scheduled  to return to Houston and MD Anderson for scans and to start the vaccine the week of July 20th.  However, upon returning to the US after Costa Rica, we made the decision to come down to Houston sooner, due to the severe pain in my legs.

The decision turned out to be the right one.  After having X-Rays, MRI’s and CT scans, my doctors discovered the source of the pain: a melanoma tumor located in the center of my left femur bone that was eroding the bone from the center out.  It was actually quite scary how close my femur bone was to snapping when looking at the x-ray. The orthopedic surgeon said it would have snapped within two weeks, had I not sought medical attention.

On top of this, my doctors discovered a melanoma tumor in my right calf muscle, which has also been a source of pain.   Also, my doctors continue to monitor the very small spot on my lungs.  And finally, there is a small new “Gus” on the back of my neck.

Obviously, I was stunned, shocked and saddened that the cancer had not only come back, but had spread outside of the lymph system to my bones and muscle.

My oncologist and orthopedic surgeon came up with a plan; Yesterday I underwent surgery on my left femur bone to remove the tumor and “clean out” the bone.  The surgeon inserted a 17.2 inch metal rod into my femur bone, from my hip to my knee, to ensure stability.   I am currently recovering with the help of wheel chairs, crutches and lots of pain meds. I will be on the disabled list for about eight weeks.  My triathlon and tennis goals will just have to wait a bit longer.

I will again have radiation treatments.  This time on my left thigh to kill any cancer cells that may be outside of the femur bone.  Also, I will receive radiation on my right calf to reduce the tumor there.  I will begin the radiation treatments in about 10 days and I will do them in Cincinnati.

Once I heal up from surgery and radiation, my oncologist would like to treat me systemically with the T-Cell therapy program.  This is where my old tumor “Gus” comes into play.  When they removed the tumor from my neck a few months ago, the doctors and specialists were able to grow t-cells from it so that they would be able to give them back to my body to fight any new cancer.  That time has come.  My doctors are hopeful that this therapy program will shrink the tumors in my body and keep any new ones from growing.

The T-Cell program requires chemotherapy as well as more Interleukin-2 immunotherapy and is a 2-3 week stay in the hospital.  The start date of this therapy has yet to be set, but will begin as soon as possible.  This is a difficult therapy, but as always, I will do anything to beat this.

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Posted by andy in His Own Words