Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cancer's End-game

Multiple Myeloma destroys bone; it literally eats it away, usually starting with the lower spine. But the cancer itself is a disease of the blood, similar to leukemia. Since we start out with a lot of bone, the cancer may chew away on us for years before it's symptoms become obvious. After all, everyone complains of a sore back now & then.

Being a disease of the blood, myeloma is highly mobile. Soon after the cancerous cells appear, they begin to spread, attacking the bone at new sites, which explains the multiple part of its name. Once established and able to spread, there is no cure. On average, you've got about three years to get your house in order.

Although there is no cure, radiation and a number of drugs have proven effective in slowing myeloma's spread. If the bone damage has not been too severe such treatment may buy you some time. Unfortunately, once attacked by myeloma our skeletons can not mend themselves. Some drugs are able to strengthen the remaining bony structure but rarely to the extent needed for pain-free mobility.

As you know, this all pretty new to me; there may be factors I've completely overlooked. But it wouild appear that working out a careful strategy of treatment offers a strong probability we can stabilize the affliction sufficiently to buy the time needed to finish a favorite project or to wrap up our affairs.


I'm receiving radiation therapy at the local Cyberknife clinic, a neat little facility just minutes from our home where a computer-guided x-ray machine is used to kill the existing tumors a slice at a time. Doing so isolates the lesions and reduces the pain and no matter how you slice it, this story is really about the pain.

The location of the tumor(s) having been identified by prior x-ray and MRI scans, three dots of radio-opaque ink are tattooed on your belly allowing the system to realign itself with an accuracy of better than half a millimeter. The initial programming has defined the tumors as targets, determining the optimum amount of energy to deliver on each of three axies so as to limit the amount of damage to the healthy tissue. Hit the big red button and the system delivers its lethal barrage at the rate of several thousand hits per second, each precisely on target using feed-back from a separate x-ray camera to keep track of its progress.

The sessions, which are painless, take about fifteen minutes. They have scheduled one per day for the next couple of weeks with the option for a bit of sniper work toward the end.

At the same time, the physicians have been working out a chemical attack to compliment the radiation barrage. X-rays and other forms of imaging provides some of the feed-back needed to guide the chemical attack but the most useful information is derived from a series of vampire strikes to monitor the chemistry of my bloodstream. These procedures are slower than the dramatic strikes from the Cyberknifes linear accelerator but infinitely more subtle, capable (in theory) of tracking down a single cancerous cell.



Anonymous said...

So sad, yet so inevitable. Here's to finishing that project Bob. May it live forever. The inspiration that we all over the globe have gathered from your common sense sermons is massive. You will always raise a smile knowing how much you have annoyed the know-it -alls. I can see your methodical approach to everything coming out in the last three (plus the one short lived) posts. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Focused ultrasound was first used by Israelis to kill (small) tumors of the womb, done INSIDE the MRI in real time! This technique is several years old now, available worldwide and could perhaps be applied in your case too. Please check it out - it seems to offer some advantage. Israelis work with polarised xrays now. You deserve the best treatment and we too would be happy to contribute financially. www.beetle.gr skaraveos@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for sharing what you are going through. I'm learning a lot from what you are writing.

I sincerely hope that these treatments work out in your best interest. Thanks for keeping us posted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts and stories. I wish you and your family all the best.

Unknown said...

Oh, geeez. Not another great person going (if you are...) just because the friggin' AMA *PUSHES* that stupid radiation crap. If you don't seriously Google some alternative solutions that are PROVEN, I'll be sad. Brightspot.org? Etc. Read around. You exit now, you won't be able to write your incredibly entertaining stuff. I will no longer be able to be jealous of your GREAT WAY of wordsmithing. Or is that word-smithing? I will not, any longer, be able to be annoyed at your over-hyphenation habit. LOL

But I know human nature. Someone can tell me the answer and I will discard it because of my own stupidity, even if the answer is OBVIOUS!! That is why a product or service has to be shown a person a minimum of seven times to convince them to *consider* (not buy) that product. The EEEvil AMA has shown its wares all of your life. For an organization that states in its own charter that it exists to protect the pocketbooks of its members, it sure does a good job of making one believe that it has one's interests in mind.

Just remember - ONLY your own body, when functioning correctly, could EVER be precise enough to fully cure. A healthy immune system recognizes cells with whacky DNA. It can whack them, too.

You might be interested that EVERYONE has cancer - several times in their lifetime. And most folks also have healthy immune systems that whack those whacky cells at the onset. The only difference with your situation is that there are enough cancer cells (several billion) to be detectible. It has just about "gotten away" from you (uncontrolled) and your immune system is tired, undernourished, and overwhelmed.

So knowing this, HELP your immune system. Don't weaken it further by using methods that damage good stuff (as well as the bad cells) in the line of duty.

You want an analogy? It's like cleaning a VW case of all of the internal varnish with a scraping tool and twisted paper towel to get in all of the crevices (no, you DON'T get to use solvent) as opposed to putting the whole bloody thing into carburetor dipping solvent. I betcha my dip job will be a better job than the first way :o) Ok now dammit - I know you can find a hole to punch in that - you know much more than me about mechanics (and I'm very good) - just go with my premise...

But I know I'll get several flames. I'm one of those idiot conspiracy theorists that track black helicopters in Arizona. LOL I don't care if I get flamed. Neither should you. I know I'm right. It's up to you to shift your paradigm. That involves analyzing your own human nature. Now is not the time to be all inquisitive about the machinery that they use (with dismal results) – that is good for making good conversation, but that’s about it. One can converse themselves six feet under. No – the answer is in your own immune system. Fix it. Our maker is pretty intelligent. Although we are not allowed to know the reasons some things happen, we can at least follow common sense.

I sincerely wish you success. You're like an old friend. Paul B

Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed with lung cancer in Jan 07. Went thru the IMRT. The laser guided ray gun your using. Simultaneously I underwent chemotherapy for three months or so I dont remember exactly. Fatigue is ever present and be sure to make good notes, you wll forget. Had a heart attack the day of my first follow up scan, wasn't expecting that. Been getting clean scans for a year and a half which is really just waiting for the cancer to represent itself somewhere else. Luckly I havent had any pain which hasnt been able to be dealt with drugs. Don't deny yourself the amazing pain medication available to you it really improves your quality of life. I personally being an old navy man,pilot, racing driver and alcoholic it hasnt presented enough disorientation nor misdirection to not be able to overcome and continue to function well. I wish you the best and minimal side effects. The treatment has stayed about the same for awhile but the management of the side effects have grown by leaps and bounds. Lose yourself in your loves and go ye forth for as long as you can. Dennis

Anonymous said...

I see black Hellicopters all the time.
And Mr Hoover you broke my writers block with the Grendal story.
I will always be greatful
Thank You