Hallelujah, and more needles

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North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) close up, by Tatiana Gettelman on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I went for my second acupuncture session yesterday. I knew what to expect (a little ouch and a lot of ahhhh), which made it both easier and harder to withstand the jabs that hurt. The sole of your foot is a pretty unpleasant place to get stuck. I hope you never need to find that out.

But generally, things seem to be easing up. I realized my sneakers were making things worse, so I switched to some fall boots, and my heel feels much better now! Back to the usual, more familiar discomfort of my toes feeling crunched…

I realize I never reported here on the results of last Thursday’s brain MRI. Everything looks fine. There were no new spots, nothing has started growing again. It was a busy day in Dr K’s office, so Nurse Practitioner A and Dr K saw me in a pre-exam room, and had their first look at the images as J and I sat there, clasping hands and waiting for a verdict. There was nothing to report. Sweet, sweet nothing.

So instead, Dr K (who is extremely understated) decided to let me know just how extraordinary my progress has been, and let me know that he’s been seeing similar progress in a lot of his other patients who have brain metastases of melanoma. He collects the MRI brain images of his patients for slides (since his specialty is gamma knife surgery), and he said he now has too many of these progress slides. What a wonderful surplus to have.

He also said that I’d already far surpassed the survival rate for brain mets. I didn’t press for statistics, because I know those change all the time, that data is being compiled as we speak of survival rates with the drug therapy that I am on. I don’t typically search for data, because I know that my (former?) classification as Stage IV is a meaningless one, and therefore the other data I might find is probably suspect, too.

But my curiosity got the best of me, and when I got home from the appointment, I did search for information on how things were before my current therapy was widely available. According to this review article published in 2013, the median overall survival rate for people like me was four months.

It has now been 18 months since my brain metastases were found. Almost a year since my “touch-up” gamma knife surgery for one tumor that had begun bleeding, with Dr K opting to treat it noninvasively instead of with open brain surgery, which many of his colleagues had advised. He said it was a gutsy move on his part not to listen to them. I am so glad he had the guts.

I don’t think a day passes that I don’t think about Kate the Great, wishing that drug therapy for metastatic melanoma had achieved this kind of success for her, and for many, many others. We do still need more good slides, Dr K. We need millions of them.

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4 thoughts on “Hallelujah, and more needles

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