I’m still here, alive and kicking! I’m actually doing better than that and probably better than I should be. I’ve continued my immunotherapy (Keytruda) treatments through the summer on an every three week cycle and have my sixth infusion next week. After that infusion I’ll get a full body CT scan to determine the effectiveness of the treatment and should be getting those results back around September 12th. If the scans show that the cancer isn’t growing and its either staying the same size or shrinking I will stay on the Keytruda path. If we see any new cancer growth that would suggest Keytruda isn’t working we’ll look at other treatment options that might include trying some different chemotherapy agents (barf, figuratively and literally).
For the most part I feel good — really good compared to how I’ve felt at other times this year. I don’t feel any cancer symptoms. Any discomfort I have are the side effects of previous treatment — jaw pain from surgery, dry mouth from radiation, and no feeling in my feet from chemotherapy. I’m skinnier than I want to be at 155 pounds (compared to the 185 pounds I was at the end of last year). But the only practical complaint on that is that I had to buy a bunch of new clothes. Inject my body with poison and I stay pretty positive. Drag me to the mall to spend a bunch of money on clothes and I lose my freaking mind. Kudos to Camilla for dealing with my orneriness.
The build up to this September scan should feel pretty significant, but for whatever reason it hasn’t so far. I’m trying to not place too much emphasis on it in my mind even though in truth it is a pretty big deal. If the cancer has spread, it’s not over and I’ve got other paths to pursue. If the cancer has not spread, that is great news but it doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods. This is just another of the many milestones on what will be a lifelong fight with The Monster.
My oncology team has been clear with me that the goal of Keytruda isn’t to cure my cancer. They gave me the unenviable label of “incurable” back in May and Keytruda has no clinical evidence yet of fully curing people in my state. Rather, the goal of Keytruda is to give me as long as possible (hopefully several years!) with no cancer spread. By the time the Keytruda loses its effectiveness our hope is that new treatments will have been discovered and approved. But Keytruda treatment for squamous cell is so new and the treated patient base is still so small that it feels like the unexpected could still happen. Maybe I’ll be the one that has a miraculous response. You just never know.
What I do know is that Keytruda is an easy drug on my system. I’ve experienced essentially no side effects whatsoever. Where radiation and chemo jacked (and are still jacking) me up, Keytruda has been such a non-issue that I hopped on a plane for a work trip a few hours after my last infusion.
Here are a few pictures from the amazing summer we’ve had as a family. I can’t think of 3 month period of time when we’ve had more fun as a family or as a married couple.
The annual Millers / Hallows Newport Beach trip with a picture on the bench outside of Dad’s Banana Stand in Balboa with all of the knuckleheads.
Carlsbad / Encinitas with Spencer and Aly. Disclaimer: sand crabs were harmed in the making of this memory.
One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is go up American Fork canyon which is just 15 minutes from our home and roast marshmallows.
Team Jarem at the Huntsman 140 fundraiser was an unforgettable experience.
Devin (Camilla’s brother) and Brittney were married and all 14 Dickson grandchildren were there to see it.
Camilla and I spent a weekend in Chicago with some friends to support her favorite baseball team.
I love my job at TruHearing and the great people I get to work with. My team members live across the country and we all get together in person about twice a year. Here we are doing the zip line tour in Sundance.
Roman (aka “Chancho”, aka “Humpty”, aka “Bubs”) has made every day a mixture of laugh-out-loud moments and cleaning up some disaster that he created if you take your eyes off of him for 30 seconds. He was born two weeks before my initial diagnosis in 2015 and has been a light and source of happiness for our whole family. He turns two next month and can be heard quoting parts of Nacho Libre throughout the day (“I need to borrow some sweats!”).
My dad and brother and I spent a weekend in Chicago together. It was the first time we have ever done a trip with just the three of us, and it won’t be the last. I out ate both of these dudes!
More time up in the mountains with friends. I’m not sure you can beat a Utah summer!
Many nights after dinner we just enjoy time outside and watch the kids jump on the trampoline or ride scooters around the park. I’ve missed way too many family dinners and nights like this in the past because I stayed too late at the office. It used to give me anxiety to think about having to wrap up my work by 5 or 6 so that I could be home, and even when I was home I was thinking about work. Making that switch in my mind and being both home and present each night has made a world of difference.