I was handed a thick notebook. The cover was nothing but a picture of trees, save a winding, dirt path leading to a destination unknown.
There was only one word: "journey."
The nurse led me down a hallway. It wasn't quite a forest path, but I knew it was all a part of my journey. My eyes lit up when I saw the sign: "Investigational treatment." I had arrived. And so, this stage of my story begins.
I have been accepted into what is called Phase II Trial of ADI-PEG 20 in Comination with Gemcitabine and Docetaxel for the Treatment of Soft Tissue Sarcoma. My investigator is Dr. Brian Van Tine, who has written the clinical trial, and the setting is the Siteman Cancer Center associated with Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis.
Neither surgery, standard treatment nor even other experimental treatment has worked, and now, after two years of treatment, the tumors in my pelvic area are spreading into places where they are certainly not invited. My Kansas University oncologist willingly sent me to St. Louis for another look. Occasionally, all the stars align. At least that's how I felt when Dr. Van Tine introduced me to his trial and told me I would be No. 34.
The trial uses two forms of standard chemotherapy that have been around for quite some time. I received both of them in 2006, when this cancer made its first appearance. The new part of this is the ADI-PEG 20 drug.
Here's how I think of it in my head. The new drug is like the center on a football team and it clears the way so the other two drugs can tackle those tumors to the ground, either shrinking them or eliminating them all together. My youngest son Joe used to play center in both high school and college. I saw how he could sometimes knock the wind out of his opponent. That's what we're looking for now.
I've signed all the paperwork, which virtually assigns my permission for the researchers to use me to investigate the premise. The good news is that the trial started about a year ago and there have been some remarkable results.
And that is all I need right now. A glimpse of hope and a plan have had a wonderful effect on my mood. The opportunity to fight and maybe even make medical history has given me new purpose.
Dr. Van Tine was candid in that agreeing to the trial is a real commitment. I will journey to St. Louis once a week where I will sit in the investigational room (I really like the sound of that) for about three hours each visit. Each patient in this room gets their own nurse who disperses medicine and snacks. The treatment is not without its perks.
I will continue to be at work on the days I'm not in St. Louis. The newsroom is my second home, and the people at the Globe are my second family. I'm not doing quite as much of the heavy lifting here these days, but I'm fortunate to work with people who have stepped up so we can continue to serve our readers.
Many of you have sent me good thoughts and inspirations that I carry with me on this journey. The vibes feel like they might finally be in my favor. We'll know that answer to that in about seven weeks. That's when my first set of scans will be taken, and the doctor says there should definitely be some results by then.
In the meantime, I'm going to try to stay on the path and not let myself wander into the weeds.
Carol Stark is the editor for The Joplin Globe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.