Malignant: Looking For A Lottery Ticket

Trick Or Treatment?

My Soma Coffee pal Steve Llewellyn sent me a sweet message last night. He said he’d read of my adventures with the olive pit and suggested I look into getting treatment at another center. Here’s a clip of his communique to me:

Started researching your condition… and since you haven’t started treatment yet, thought I’d share this with you. You’re probably aware of the [University of Michigan] program, but if not, take a look. Apparently, they have better than average success in preserving the salivary glands with their approach to radiation treatment.

First off, how cool is it that people just start researching my disease when they hear I have it? People do care for each other in this often scary, sometimes lonely world. It’s shocking how many folks have promised to help, from offering a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold to cooking and cleaning for The Loved One and me or driving me to radiation sessions. It almost makes me glad I caught cancer. Then again, let’s not get giddy, but you get the point.

I did indeed look into UM’s cancer treatment program and then, the Internet being what it is, I started going hither and yon looking at all sorts of treatment options. The Loved One has been doing that ever since this cancer first bullied its way into our lives. Me, not at all. I was too busy taking care of my emotions. I felt it was more important for me to concentrate on not getting beaten down by fear. I figured if TLO found some fabulous new treatment option, she’d tell me. And she did. Only I kept taking all her research messages, pdf-ing them, and sticking them into a desktop folder for later perusal. Frankly, I didn’t yet have the stomach or extra brain-power to juggle that info.

Anyway, I discovered a new technology called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). The way regular radiation therapy works, a beam is directed in the general area of my neck, destroying a lot of tissue and, in the process, knocking the bejesus out of the tumors. The loss of salivary glands, taste buds, localized healing properties, etc. is considered, shall we say, collateral damage.

As far as I can tell, IMRT minimizes that collateral damage. Narrow beams of differing levels of radiation energy are directed at the tumor(s) with a more pinpoint accuracy. This entails complicated three-dimensional computerized imaging of the target tumors plus directing the beams at the targets from a variety of angles.

The IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care describes IMRT as “a state of the art radiation delivery system, which has been called the most significant breakthrough in cancer treatments in the last 30 years.”

RadiologyInfo.org claims these advanced IMRT machines “safely and painlessly deliver precise radiation doses to a tumor….”

The National Cancer Institute says of this new technology “This type of radiation therapy reduces the damage to healthy tissue near the tumor.”

If all that is true, why in the world would I go through the living hell that chemotherapy and traditional radiation therapy would entail?

See what’s happening here? Now I understand why people have been conning and quacking cancer patients for time immemorial. Everything from apricot pits (laetrile) to antineoplastons to machines that lower the voltage of cancer cells to naturopathic herbal remedies like mistletoe extract have been hailed as spectacular healing agents.

I’m scared to death. I neither want to die, to loose portions of my throat, or to have to endure tortuous pain and other unpleasantness. So the first time I do a little digging, I come upon a panacea that promises not to destroy as many of my healthy body parts as chemotherapy and traditional radiation.

But is IMRT just a panacea? It seems those touting it are reputable, accredited medical providers. If IMRT won’t clobber me as badly as what Dr. Wu is planning for me, why hasn’t he mentioned it to me?

Some possible reasons:

  1. IMRT is too new and perhaps too unproven to be of use to me.
  2. My particular olive pit and its satellites are too big for it.
  3. Dr. Wu’s outfit, IU Health Cancer Radiology Center in Bloomington, doesn’t have an IMRT set-up.

Possibility No. 3 is disturbing. The American health care delivery system is not known as the world’s most efficient and comprehensive. It’s profit-based. The vast majority of IU Health operations are for-profit enterprises. If Dr. Wu’s location doesn’t have IMRT machines, it does his business no good for him to recommend the treatment for me. Would he be so craven as to withhold that information from me?

Who knows?

All I know is, I’m going to call him first thing Monday morning and ask him about it. I’m also going to make some calls to operations that do the treatment. As I told The Loved One, hell, if I have to, I’ll gladly travel to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or to the University of Pennsylvania to get IMRT if it’s doable for me. (She responded by looking at me through narrowed eyes and saying, “That’s why I sent you information about it weeks ago.” Hehe, sorry honey.)

The whole thing might turn out to be my mistletoe extract. Even if it is, you can’t blame a guy (and his Loved One) for hoping.

2 thoughts on “Malignant: Looking For A Lottery Ticket

  1. David Paglis says:

    This is encouraging news indeed. It will be interesting to read what Dr. Wu says, I’m leaning towards explanation no. 3 though the Republican in me forces me to point out that a cursory google search indicates the availability of IMRT machines is greater in the US profit based system than in European countries. Sorry, I couldn’t help it; I really am glad to hear about this option. Kudos to TLO.

  2. Jones, Susan L says:

    Hi Mike,
    I googled IU Health and IMRT and this is what I found. http://iuhealth.org/bloomington/cancer/#row-45001
    It seems they DO have it. There were a couple other therapies—IBRT and SGRT. I’ll be interested to see what Dr. Wu says and if he doesn’t plan to use it, why not? Good Luck! –Susan
    PS: I’m making the chicken soup this afternoon. Expect a delivery later today or tomorrow AM.

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