Happy birthday Dad. You look this awesome because of the happy, humorous and love filled-life you’ve been living. Yesterday morning I packed my three little cherubs into my minivan and headed over to Mimi and Bampie’s to bring Bamps some birthday hugs and a coffee. It was an awesome morning, not only because we got to wish my dad a happy birthday but because for the first time in months my dad is moving about, able to “run” around and play on the ground with my kiddos, and feeling so much better; in his words, a switch has flipped.
The last 2 weeks were a completely different story, and that’s why there hasn’t been much of an update since our return from Germany because we really didn’t know if this worked. Secretly we were all hoping that my dad would come skipping out of Zentralklinic, the hospital in Germany, but we got the opposite response. My dad was in so much more pain leaving Germany than when we got there.
Now this could be for a couple reasons, it could have been because of the incredibly uncomfortable beds shown here, it’s pretty safe to assume that this teeny twin mattress resting on metal bars didn’t compare to his cozy tempurpedic bed at home. Or maybe the pain hadn’t subsided because the treatment didn’t work—he was expected to see some pain relief shortly after the infusion and didn’t. And this has been our biggest fear, that it didn’t work. Or maybe, just maybe, this was a flare causing the pain to be worse before it gets better because the nuclear therapy is hard at work kick those damn cancers cells to the curb.
You can look at this therapy in two ways, either that 70% of patients respond to it, or that 30% of patients don’t. Both mean the same, but it’s a frame of mind. While my dad was meeting with various nurses and doctors in Germany, there was one particular nurse who has seen a number of patients embrace this therapy, and a huge part of the battle is believing that it will work. Well we all know my dad, and being as positive and hopeful regardless of the pain and prognosis, you better believe that he is manifesting that this is going to work.
And sure enough, the preliminary results showed that he did respond to the therapy; and we believe he’s in that 70%. It’s reported that there was significant uptake. Now what does that mean? I’m no doctor, so not entirely sure, but all that matters is that from the get-go he’s already one step ahead because something is responding. His oncologist said that his cancer is incredibly aggressive, coupled with the many many therapies he’s undergone which have beat up his blood and bones pretty badly, this didn’t deter the doctor from moving forward, in fact the he was so hopeful. Because my dad’s prostate cancer is metastatic and late stage, he has high levels of PSMA (Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen). This therapy specifically targets the PSMA, whereas other treatments are not so targeted. And unfortunately, many treatments are given as a standard of care, not ones that look at the individual patient. So, again, because this treatment is so targeted towards my dad’s specific antigens, it makes sense that the science here is going to work.
I’m not sure if you believe in signs or science or God, but while we were in Germany the Universe was screaming at us. So many things about this trip went right; I hope to whip up a fun blog on our whole trip, but that’s too much for this post. The biggest sign that we just couldn’t ignore was this: on May 25, the day before we left for Germany my dad was at Dana Farber undergoing his last of the immunotherapy infusions and posted this cartoon and post on FaceBook, “Mr. Whelan, we have yet another therapy we want you to try. It’s called “the wringer”.
The night that my dad was admitted to Zentralklinic we were sitting at a restaurant in Bad Berka (where Zantralklinic is located), and Laurie looks over and says, “Dad, is that a <insert expletive> wringer!?!?” A real life old school wringer was right next to our table (pictured above). Come on.
The day before we were sitting out on the dock at our happy little German home, and two swans and 7 babies swim right up to us; it’s hard to deny that’s not analogous to Mimi and Bampie and their 7 grandkids.
So as always we remain so hopeful. This is the first of three trips to Germany. While my dad was in treatment he met another patient David, from California who was undergoing the same treatment, but he was on his second round. David’s doctors in California told him there wasn’t much more they could do there, so he ventured to Germany, and a year later is responding quite well. At the end of July, Mimi, Bampie, Conor and I will head across the pond for round 2. Then in October he’s back for round 3. My dad’s oncologists here are on board with this treatment, in fact his oncologist from Dana Farber just so happened to be at the same nuclear medicine conference in Denver with his German oncologist this week. Coincidence, I don’t think so.
Dad, we’ll take all these signs as the universe saying you are on the right track. And at the very least your constant humor will get you and us through it. To say that the food in the hospital was under-par is quite the understatement. My dad said, if this treatment doesn’t kill the cancer, he thinks the food will.Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag und viel Glück und Erfolg im neuen Lebensjahr!