Having cancer is no fun. Chemotherapy, surgery, blood draws, scans and appointments, appointments and more appointments. It can seem like we cancer patients and our caregivers are not in control.
That can seem especially hard, though, during that period of time after a scan or blood test and the appointment with the doctor to review results. I call it the Longest Day, and I am not talking about the classic World War II movie, although we are all in a battle.
“You just don’t know”
After finishing my liver cancer treatment, I began my surveillance scans in July 2015. Scans every three months, followed by what seemed like the Longest Day, the 24 hours after the scan until we met with our wonderful oncologist, David Fogelman, M.D.
I had clear scan results in July 2015 and again in October 2015.
My scan in February 2016 went well, and then we met with Dr. Fogelman for the results. This time, they saw a little spot they did not like.
Before we got the results, I’d been hoping for the best, which would mean a clear scan. I had no pain, no symptoms and no reason to think anything would be found. That, of course, is one of the frustrations of being a cancer patient – you just don’t know.
You might think my wife and I were upset and disappointed when we learned about the spot – and we were. However, I was determined to keep a positive attitude. I knew that finding that spot was “good news” because it means MD Anderson is watching me very carefully. Of course, I did not want to have a new spot, but knowing I was being watched so closely meant they could catch things like this early and move forward with treatment.
I also found it reassuring that Dr. Fogelman said this was not an emergency. Even before the scan, he’d assured me that we’d have lots of treatment options if something showed up. He said the same thing after the scan, too.
Enrolling in a clinical trial
I am now entering a clinical trial for a new drug that is showing promising results for patients like me with the HD1 mutation, which can cause cancer cells to grow more aggressively. This trial is not a last resort for me, but I chose it because it may benefit me and help other people, too.
Right now, I’m undergoing a lot of tests to prepare for the trial. I’ll soon start taking a daily pill, which is supposed to shrink the tumors without many side effects. Based on the success of patients who came before me, I’m confident that it will work.
But, of course, I know I have more Longest Days ahead. I’ll be undergoing blood tests throughout the trial, which may be eight weeks or more. And I’ll need monthly scans to help determine whether the pill is working.
Maintaining a positive attitude
For now, I am passing the time like I have done since my initial liver cancer diagnosis. I keep up my daily routine as a business owner, husband and father. I do my best to be in control of what I do. I don't let the cancer control me.
As I like to say, this new clinical trial is helping my positive attitude reach a new altitude. The battle continues, and we will win!
Eric Kleiman volunteers with myCancerConnection, MD Anderson's one-on-one support program for patients, caregivers and survivors.