I have to have another scan before I head down there. If the scan shows significant growth into my duodenum it may be too risky to do the therapy. They are worried about that area because if the tumor has reached through to the other side, and if I had some colitis, let's just say it could get ugly. If a hole was torn through the bowel and I had no immune system to fight off the crap leaking out, we are talking about a potentially fatal scenario. So they are being cautious. But we think it will be okay, and are planning that there will be minimal growth.
I am scheduled to be admitted to the hospital on the 17th. I will start the lymphodepletion phase of the trial that day, where they start killing off my immune system with a couple of chemotherapy drugs. It should make me nauseous and tired, but they say I will be pretty bored that week. In the meantime they will be growing my tumor fighting lymphocytes (the cells they took from my armpit tumor), which are now in the millions, to the billions. They will be put into one bag and infused when my immune system is effectively destroyed. Then they give you IL-2 to boost your new immune system. Remember those days in 2012? I don't think people take as many doses, but you are already sick from the chemo so I'm sure it's not picnic.
After you recover from the IL-2 and your blood counts come up you are done. It could be a little as a 2 week hospital stay (I've also heard of people staying 4 weeks). They want me to stay up in Seattle for 4 weeks even if I do get the shorter hospital stay, as there are some complications that could arise and they usually happen in that time frame.
I am nervous about a few things. Complications are highest on the list. There are some people who seem to go downhill pretty quickly if things go wrong. I will spare you the details. And then the bowel risk, but I feel like that will be okay. I try really hard not to worry about the money, but the insurance has denied our appeal and it is going to cost a ton. We will see when it all shakes out, but the best case scenario is just so much money. I worry about killing off this immune system, I have so much confidence in it, but it isn't working right now where I need it to be working, and I am getting my own T-cells back so that makes it okay.
I am excited about a couple of things. There is a 50% chance that I will get some sort of response (tumor regression or stabilization). There is about a 20% chance that I will get a complete response (all my cancer will disappear). That is a pretty big prize. I have been after it for years. This could work, and sometimes it seems like no sacrifice is big enough just for the chance at remission.
I will keep you posted.