Not “Brilliant.” But at least I didn’t think, “well, that was unexpected.” My first CT scan on the PD-1 trial was…. medium. Hopefully. The biggest tumor looks slightly bigger (2.2 cm from 1.9 six weeks ago), as do a few others. But there are still others that are unchanged. As in not bigger. As in stable. None of my docs are even slightly alarmed at the findings. There is often what they call a “pseudoprogression,” where the tumors appear to have grown. What (again, hopefully) often happens is that lymphocytes are attacking the tumors, so they look bigger on a CT scan. It could be a positive sign, as in my immune system is being boosted against the tumor cells. In any case, I am still in the trial, due back at Georgetown in three weeks for labs, then in six weeks for another CT.
My white blood cells, by the way, are hanging around in abundant supply. No longer do they look like Redskins fans in the stands after the last game against the Giants. They look like fans left after all of the (sigh) Broncos games this year. They’re filling the seats. There are thousands of them. Unfortunately, there are lots of liver enzymes, too. That is the marker that’s could turn out to be the problem limiter for me this time around. My liver enzymes are high anyway, but they’ve doubled in the last three weeks, putting me in, if not the edge of the red zone, then definitely solidly in yellow. Dr Giaccone suspects that level will drop as my body gets used to the Keytruda. Me, too.
So how do I feel? The first month was great, but now weird side effects are starting to rear their ugly heads. The worst is cottonmouth worse than anything I remember from when I was in high school………. Uh, yeah. (At least I’m not craving a loaf of white bread. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, move along.) My lips are chapped, I can’t taste very much (again!), and the whole inside of my mouth feels like it’s wrapped in Saran Wrap. I rarely sleep all the way through the night ever, but now I am up several times because everything between my mouth and my throat is stuck together. It’s weird. That, too, is “supposed” to abate some time. And when I went to get a manicure yesterday, I got the first look at my bare fingernails for a while. That familiar black line that I got when I was on chemotherapy back in 2001 is creeping up my nail bed. Sounds like a good excuse to keep on with the regular manicures to me. Creepy!
Anyway, I left from my appointment at Georgetown, avoided Pope traffic (a miracle in and of itself. We were in DC the exact same 48 hours), and headed to one of my favorite running paths, the Capital Crescent Trail. It stretches from the District way into Maryland. I had to do a long run (still training for the LA Half Marathon Oct 25), so I thought I’d do it at sea level. I’m always looking for an advantage! Not only is it flat, with lots of Oxygen, it has an ever-so-slight incline on the way out, so coming back was a winner. And there was this at the end. So funny.
I ran faster than I have been (which isn’t really all that fast) and felt pretty good, so I came home and signed up for the Northface Endurance Challenge 10K. My friend, Elisa, had been at my house for a week, acclimatizing for the FIFTY-MILER. I figured the race weekend was in my backyard (literally), so I’d get in on the action. Elisa is my Coach Dan’s wife; he flew in while I was gone, too (!). But by race day, Patrick, Dan, and I traipsed around Park City Mountain and Deer Valley tracking Elisa all day long. She was amazing. She finished in about 10 1/2 hours, 5th female overall. With a smile on her face… and a limp in her giddy up.
My 10K was the next day. I knew it was going to be brutal. I knew it was nearly 1600 feet of climbing, most of that in the first 3 1/2 miles. I knew when Coach Dan told me to run, no matter how slowly the whole way, that I couldn’t do it. But take a look at the start:
I couldn’t back that up. Within a mile, my own version of pseudoprogression began. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress at all, fake or not. Thanks, Northface, for giving me a course that allowed me to nearly double the time of my fastest 10K. 1:23. That’s a 12 or 13 minute mile, if you’re into running math. I still managed to podium. I was 3rd in my age group. Out of 3. But I wasn’t last, and I wasn’t swept off the course because I didn’t make the 2-hour cut-off. And Elisa made me breakfast after we walked home. And I have The Best Start Photo Ever.
My performance as a Sherpa for Patrick and Sarah at the Lake Tahoe Half Ironman was much more stellar. That adventure started with a train. Patrick and I took Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Salt Lake to Reno. It’s a great way to travel, if you have the time. It cost us $220 for both of us round trip, which is less than gas. The seats are like business class in a plane, AND we got to eat in the dining car twice.
I am actually home now for 13 straight days, which is a record for the summer/fall, and I’m loving every minute of it (Emmitt Smith and Lucy love it, too!). There are more adventures to come in the next few weeks: a Notre Dame football game; my 15th Livestrong Ride for the Roses, where I’m on Lance’s team again; maybe a SKYDIVING ADVENTURE (thanks, Jamie). Hoping that what’s going on in the mighty immunotherapy battle raging in my body is just a pseudoprogression, but I have no control over what’s happening inside, so my focus is outward. (Run-on sentence to end all run-on sentences. I still got it.) Doing. Experiencing. Being. Who knows about tomorrow? Well, I do. I’m going to run from Deer Valley home. There’ll be no running pseudoprogression in Los Angeles next month (probably). Defy.