Conventional Medicine


Why? You ask.

Well, it’s 5 and 1 day.

It’s the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer. And, according to some statisticians, that means I am now a member of the 1 percent club — those who are still ticking five years after their diagnosis. I’ve never been a member of a one percent of anything.

God has blessed me, for whatever reason.

It's 5 and 1 day

It’s 5 and 1 day

When I was diagnosed in 2010, I saw five oncologists. One said three months. One said nine months. I even went for a second opinion to MDAnderson, a cancer center of excellence in Houston. The doctor there was very smug and suggested nine months.

I have been blessed to have some wonderful doctors. Dr Alan in Dallas and Dr. Jerry here in Austin have been a real blessing to me. Their nurses (Jean, Colleen, Anna, Thomas and Hannah)  have made me feel like family, and who can turn down a warm blanket?

So, over five years, I have been blessed to walk my daughter down the aisle to marry Rick. Along with Patti, I’ve been there to welcome Grayson, Rick and Casey’s baby girl. I got to see my son return to college. I celebrated my 65th birthday, even though no male member of the Aldridge family over three generations celebrated their 57th birthday. Patti and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. I got to enjoy time with Patti’s father and my mother before they passed. I get to enjoy life with friends and family.

Most importantly, I got reacquainted with my spiritual beliefs. I have no doubt been blessed by God, and I celebrate His presence every day. Our God is a loving god and I have been fortunate to be surrounded by his protective feathers (Psalm 91). He is the reason I am still here, I am convinced. I try to thank Him every day with praise and prayers of thanks/gratitude. He helps me smile every day. Thank you, Lord.

*****

The picture you see here is a celebratory one. For the 5 and 1 anniversary, Casey and Rick arranged for the state flag to be flown over the Texas Capitol in my honor. Brought me to tears. What an overwhelming gift.

To all my friends and family, I thank you for your prayers and wishes of well being. I hope you enjoy God’s love as I have and it brings joy to your hearts. God bless you all.

Grayson gets me to smile every time I see her.

Grayson gets me to smile every time I see her.

Cancer Boy, Patti and Gillis enjoy the spring bluebonnet blooms near Buda, Texas a few weeks ago.

Cancer Boy, Patti and Gillis enjoy the spring bluebonnet blooms near Buda, Texas a few weeks ago.

I am truly blessed by the grace of God.

Went to my oncologist’s office today. When I saw him in March, my cancer markers were very good, and he suggested I put off chemo.

A day later, he called to tell me that my c-19 marker, which determines movement of the tumors plus whether the tumors are growing or stable, had fallen dramatically. This was good news since, over time, they tend to rise with the advance of the pancreatic cancer. So, I was defying logic. I believe he said, “You are living a miracle.”

He is right. Patti and I met with him again today.

Again, the numbers are not advancing. They are stable. The good news keeps on coming.

I feel fine, no pain anywhere and I am truly grateful to God for the grace He has given me. As my doctor told me pragmatically in March, “Do everything you want to do. The cancer will show up again at some point, but while you are feeling good and your numbers are showing such positive response, I would hold off on any chemo and just go live.” I am so thankful to have a doctor who looks out for what is best for me, as his patient, rather than building up his bottom line. I trust him unabashedly. And, I played my first round of golf in more than two years a couple weeks ago. It was pure joy, plus I got to play with my two sons. Is there anything better?

We left the doctor’s office and said prayers of thankfulness to the Lord above. The Bible is just loaded with wonderful messages for all people, but the one that keeps resonating in my mind is Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness; nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

I find it remarkable that all God needs is feathers to protect his flock from evil and the results of evil.

God bless you all for your prayers. Thank you!

Open Access advocate and 16-year-old Open Scie...

Jack Andraka (Photo credit: Open Science Federation)

Tonight, on 60 Minutes there was a story about a 15-year-old science prodigy who is working on a way to detect early the presence of pancreatic cancer in patients. Most of the time, patients, like myself, discover they have pancreatic cancer after it has already metastasized to another organ in addition to the pancreas.

This young man’s name is Jack Andraka. The story on 60 Minutes focused on how this teenager, who has a long-time love of science, had lost a friend/relative to pancreatic cancer and decided he wanted to develop tools that would help doctors detect pancreatic cancer early before this cancer moved to other organs.

He apparently developed his approach, put it into a proposal and sent it to over 100 cancer research organizations. Only one, MDAnderson in Houston, Texas, decided to give the young man a try.

He has had some remarkable results, which in turn has turned him into a celebrity, of sorts — four times to the White House this year alone. But his approach for early detection is showing some tremendous promise.

If you want to learn more about Jack and how he has proceeded thus far, click on the link below for the story on 60 Minutes Overtime. Congratulations to Jack and his very supportive parents.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504803_162-57607276-10391709/parenting-a-gifted-child-lessons-from-the-andrakas/

My friend, Paul, sent the link below. Seems very inflammatory to mention that we may be seeing the end of chemo, but that seems the nature of cancer research. What is today’s clinical study is tomorrow’s treatment pattern. When you think about the power of the immune system, cancer treatment moving away from chemo and more toward strengthening the immune system sounds like “personalized” treatment.

If you or someone you love is in the throes of a cancer battle, you may want to read the CNN article below. Also, within the article there are links to TIME Magazine articles with additional information. It is very hopeful.

I’ve talked with my oncologist about this latest move toward building a stronger immune system to fight the cancer and he was very informed and looking forward to turning these clinical studies into practical application with great success rates.

 

CNN.com

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Over the past few months, when I have discussed my cancer treatment with friends and family, a few have pushed back to ask why I chose to go the chemo route, especially when I had been so against it at the very beginning.

I finally have a good way to answer that. What follows in this posting are two versions of a song called The Water is Wide. There is a James Taylor version and a Karla Bonoff version.

I suggest you listen to them both:

WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE? (I would really like to know)

Hard to pick one, right? Well, some may say, “I really don’t like the song at all.” Or, “it’s easier to understand the lyrics the way James Taylor sings it, but Karla Bonoff’s version is more emotional for the listener.” Seems a little bit like all the answers are right.

It’s kind of like the chemo, too. Every patient is different. I don’t like the chemo, but it seems to be helping right now. Whenever I go to the infusion center, I never see the same person twice. Everyone is unique and getting their chemo that matches their exact, specific needs. Some are there for hours, some for just a few minutes. Some bury themselves under blankets; others wander around the center. Some will talk their heads off; others are quiet. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone with a sad face, and that is a very real reason I keep going back.

I would just as soon not have any chemo at all but the tumors are shrinking or stable. So, for now, whenever we’re coming into the house late at night after being out, someone needs to be able to glow in the dark and shine a light on the key that gets us in the house. And, I guess that’s me for the time being.

Now, if you want to just plain get up and dance, there just ain’t nothing like the song below to help you do that!!! Isn’t music just about the best thing there can be?

Had a meeting with the oncologist today to get the results of the latest CT scan that I had last Friday and to take some chemo.

Turns out that my platelet levels from the blood test they take at every visit indicated that I could not take chemo today.

The CT scan showed defined shrinking of the major tumors in the pancreas, liver and lungs. Other minor tumors are not metastasizing and are stable. Great news.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Folks, the link below is to an article in the NYTimes today about a cancer conference taking place in Chicago that is touting the importance of the immune system in fighting cancer and some breakthroughs that are happening. This appears to give strong credence to the statement that the immune system can play an important role in fighting cancer. This is what I have been doing for the last 32 months.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND: I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on September 20, 2010 in Chicago. The very next day, at an appointment with a Chicago oncologist, the doctor told me that if I didn’t start his suggested cocktail of chemo drugs that day, I would be dead by Christmas. Well, it’s June 2013, and I am writing this, not some impersonator.

I got a second opinion from MDAnderson, a cancer center of excellence in Houston shortly thereafter. MDAnderson was not as adamant about the speed for starting the chemo as they were certain that neither surgery nor radiation would help me. Chemo would extend my life perhaps a couple of months or so.

Over the course of the next few weeks or so, Patti and I met with five oncologists. We were living in Dallas by then (having left Chicago behind to be closer to family). Every oncologist recommended chemo, but every one differed on what the chemo drugs should be used. Gemzar was somewhat universal.

My brother-in-law, Bill, suggested that I meet with a holistic practitioner to supplement whatever decision I made about pursuing chemo. Bill was fighting melanoma, using Julia, the holistic practitioner, to supplement his periodic visits to MDAnderson to monitor his fight. Julia said to me after a few initial visits: “If you are so committed to going the chemo route, can you at least give me three months to build up your immune system before you start the process of introducing chemo poisons to your system?” As a holistic provider, Julia was certainly no fan of chemo drugs.

Something about what she asked and the following conversations just made sense to me. I put off the chemo and began pursuing the building up of my immune system and following my faith. This involved quite a variety of vitamin and nutritional supplements, changing nutritional habits (swearing off red meat and carbonated beverages), experiencing a variety of light therapies designed to disrupt cancer cell duplication. Sometimes this meant 4-5 trips to visit Julia a week, some visits lasting from 30 minutes to a few hours. And, absolutely none of this was covered by any insurance.

But, Patti and I were fortunate to have enough to pay for these treatments. We are blessed.

THIS ARTICLE TODAY: At the conference in Chicago, various doctors and researchers are saying that it could be the immune system is more important than originally thought in fighting carcinogenic cell reproduction in the body. Of course, the article mentions that a few of the most powerful drug companies are working on clinical trials with a variety of immuno-related drugs that could replace chemo drugs. One researcher even went so far to mention that immune-related therapies could even replace chemo — certainly not without major pharmaceutical help.

When I read this article, I was near tears. When I was going through the immune build-up with Julia, it just seemed obscene that I could not get any of her treatments approved by insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a role for the drug companies, but there are roles for a variety of different approaches. I am just ecstatic that these clinical trials, while self-promoting drug company solutions, may soon find a place nestled comfortably among cancer-ridding solutions. Thank you, Lord!

I am also including here some links to some other recent articles about this latest development,

If you read the NYTimes article below, be sure to read the comments about “cancer tails.” God bless you all and your families

Promising New Cancer Drugs Empower the Body’s Own Defense System

By ANDREW POLLACK

The drugs work by unleashing the immune system to attack cancer cells, much as it attacks bacteria or other foreign invaders in the human body

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