Saturday, February 16, 2019

Clinical Trial Lifestyle

I successfully passed all the tests and got accepted into the study! There is a weird sweet spot you have to hit in order to qualify for a clinical trial. If you don't have enough cancer in your body, you will not qualify because you do not have "measurable disease." If  you have too much, you will be too unwell to be considered as a candidate. I hit the goldilocks level of cancer! Yay for having measurable disease?!? What a strange thing to wish for.

I took the first dose on Thursday and now I just hope (and hope and hope) that it works.

I got to see both of the Wizards on my trip to Oz (my ruby slippers were a hit), and as usual they impressed me with their intelligence and compassion. They both have the remarkable ability to treat a patient as an equal partner in their care, something I have rarely found elsewhere. I love that they take the time to explain the science behind the treatments. I asked what I could do if this doesn’t work, and he explained that a chemo/immunotherapy combo (carboplatin, pemetrexed, and pembrolizumab) would be the next step. While most drugs need to physically reach the cancer (a challenge with brain mets), immunotherapy just has to stimulate the body. Well, here’s hoping I don’t have to find out for a while.

So now I set about trying to figure out the logistics of my new life, as an out of state clinical trial patient. With appointments once per week for the first two months, this is going to get complicated.

I have contacted several foundations to help shoulder the cost of all of this travel.

Here is a summary of what I have found (hopefully this will help someone else going through this). All of the folks I have spoken to in these organizations have been incredibly kind and helpful, even the ones that didn’t work out for me.

Air Charity Network
This is a collective of independent pilots who will fly patients for treatment.
They need at least 7 days to arrange the flight.
Challenge: small planes can only fly about 250 miles, making longer trips (like mine) impossible.

Lifeline Pilots
Independent pilots.
Challenge: same as above

Corporate Angels Network
This organization works with corporations to let patients fly along on their private planes for free.
Challenge: apparently no one is flying between Detroit and Denver for business.

Mercy Medical Angles
They work with commercial airlines to give unsold seats to patients traveling for healthcare. They will provide a maximum of 3 flights per year, with at most 1 flight per month.
Challenge: they require a ton of paperwork (of the “prove you are poor enough” variety), and need at least 21 days advance notice. I am in the process of completing this.

Lazarex Cancer Foundation
Their focus is on helping patients overcome the financial burdens involved in joining a clinical trial. Exciting that they say they even help with the other costs, like hotels and taxis to and from the appointments.
Challenge: not sure yet, still in the process of completing paperwork.

In the mean time, I have had a few wonderful people reach out to help with flights. Emily Bennett Taylor, stage IV lung cancer survivor, offered to buy me a plane ticket to Colorado. (If you have never read her story, you should. It is amazing. She said that a lot of people helped her during her treatments, and she wanted to pass along the kindness.

And then! The awesome person and excellent musician Zoe Keating gave me some of her miles to help with flights. Zoe and I became friends when her husband was going through treatment for stage IV lung cancer. He has since passed away. Cruel disease, this is.

I’ve met some of the most amazing people because of this horrible diagnosis. It’s the club no one wants to join, as they say.


Anonymous said...

I hope it's a miracle drug. Thank you for being so brave.

magzilla said...

You are amazing! I'm willing so hard for many many progression-free years out of this. Thank you for being a pioneer for all of us!

Asim Khan said...

A very inspiring story. Very nice article, Thank you for sharing these with us..