C Is For Cat, Not Cancer

Last week Jarrod and I spent our Friday at NIH. We were filling out paperwork and getting my blood drawn to see if I qualify for an immunotherapy trial that is actually including some sarcoma patients. It’s exciting, and futuristic, and scary, and hope-giving all at the same time.

Basically, the trial is for cancer patients with a particular type of genetic marker. It involves removing some of the patient’s white blood cells, modifying them to go after this marker on the tumors and growing a lot of these new cells in a lab, removing the rest of the patient’s white blood cells, then injecting the lab-grown cells into the patient. It would involve a one-month hospital stay. The science is really cool and the results from the first time they tried this were impressive — about 50% of the patients had their tumors shrink! That’s a really good percentage. This time around they’ve tweaked how they produce the new cells which they think will make them even more effective at shrinking tumors. While the idea of having my white blood cells removed and spending a month in the hospital is scary as heck, the hope that this treatment offers is huge. It could be my miracle if Keytruda isn’t (side note — the scan that will show if the Keytruda is doing anything is in roughly 6 weeks now if my math is correct).

I’ll find out in about two weeks if my blood showed the marker that is needed for the trial. If it does, I’ll be considered for the trial though it’s not a guarantee I’ll be chosen for it. However, regardless of whether or not I have the marker, my information and records will be shared with NIH in case they have any trials for which I’m suited. So, even if the Keytruda doesn’t work and I also don’t get chosen for this trial, there’s still hope that I might get some awesome new trial at some point. Besides, there are other treatment plans that my oncologist is holding in reserve.

I admit, I’m hoping I have the marker.

Despite my efforts to appear calm, I was anxious that day. However, walking into the exam room for my vitals made me laugh and feel okay.
Poster showing a calm cat above the words C is for Cat
It might sound silly, but seeing this poster made me remember that God is walking through this with me, helping make sure that there are good and kind people to help me keep taking the next right steps (thank you, Quinn!), plus occasional cats to make me smile. Sometimes we just need something small to remind us of our faith. My faith tells me that even when I struggle to be brave or calm, my God understands human pain and suffering and walks with me. I know that’s not everyone’s faith and I’m not trying to proselytize (I’m actually super opposed to forcing one’s religious beliefs on other people), but that’s my faith and it brings me comfort and helps me pretend to be brave.

I don’t know if the Keytruda will work, if I’ll get into the trial, or any of what’s coming for me cancer-wise. I do know even when I’m scared and anxious, I’m not alone, even sometimes I need a cat poster to remind me of that.

Also C is totally for “Cat” and not “Cancer” in the ABC book in my head.

3 thoughts on “C Is For Cat, Not Cancer

  1. Thanks Bethany. I needed this. I’m now dealing with bone marrow cancer after almost 5 years being cancer free from the uterine. First chemo went well but some kind of vascular disease landed me back in the hospital and now in rehab because I was laid up so long. Treatment is on hold till I can walk again – who knows how long. Having had a bad therapy day today, I keep thinking about the delay. I’m missing my kitties horribly. Thanks for reminding me that C is for cat!

    1. I’m so sorry that you’re again dealing with cancer. That’s awful and unfair. I hope that you have compassionate and skilled physical therapists helping you in rehab. You’ll be in my thoughts. Can someone take photos or videos, or even FaceTime with your cats for you while you’re in rehab?

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