We me with the AK oncologist last week and found that he had been able to talk with doctor we had selected at University of Penn...without ever meeting or seeing the facilities. Based on the biopsy results, still just Hodgkins but obviously an aggressive form. They were in agreement on the proscribed treatment and the fact that it needs to be started soon since it came back so fast. The working theory is that the ABVD chemo killed most of the cancer but there was some that was resistant to the ABVD and now that has come back strong, meaning that ABVD isn't an option going forward because this is obviously going to be resistant to it.
This time, the treatment will consist of roughly 5 stages:
- ICE chemo: Similar in side-effects to ABVD but perhaps a bit harsher. On the plus side, I only have to go three rounds and its every 3 weeks instead of every other. Comes with a pretty big downside though in that instead of 5-6 hours in the chemo chair, I've got to be in a hospital bed for 3-days straight because it's a continuous feed. Awesome. We will start this phase on 8/12 in Alaska.
- Stem Cell harvesting: Somehow the chemo causes the stem cells to leave the bone marrow and go into the blood stream at which point they are harvested and stored to later be transplanted back into me. This should kick off in early October.
- Super chemo: Not completely sure what this is except that it's an extremely high dose of chemo that kills everything, including what remains of my stem cells. 2-3 weeks after harvesting?
- Stem Cell transplant: I assume this occurs soon after the super chemo, quite necessarily
- Recovery: This is the longest stage. I think I'm in the hospital full-time for stages 2-4 and at least part of 5. I can't leave the hospital until my transplanted stem cells "graft" which means they start reproducing on their own. The time required for that can't be predicted with any accuracy, anywhere from a couple of weeks to...? Then there's a lot of time at home building everything back up.
My brother and sister are coming up to visit later this week so pretty excited about that. Other than that, we'll just be making the most of what's left of this awesome summer weather we've been having up here (no sarcasm this time) before we head back. I'll get a firmer schedule when I meet with the PA doctor but it sounds like best case scenario, I'm not sniffing Alaska again before February. At least I'll get to watch plenty of Flyers and Eagles games.