This morning Ezra started his radiation therapy. The first of 20 early morning radiation sessions under anesthesia went alright – he puked up all his bottle the minute he finished it once we were home, but was able to hold down oatmeal. It’s going to be a long month…
We spoke with Dr. Wynn, one of our oncologists at St Joseph’s this morning about 3F8, the treatment option we’ve been mentioning throughout this adventure. If you’re interested in reading about it – you should check out this article: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/3215.cfm. Here’s some interesting info from that doc:
“A person’s immune system makes antibodies to attack germs such as bacteria or viruses, but it will not attack neuroblastoma because the tumor is part of our own bodies. An antibody that attaches to neuroblastoma can be made in a laboratory and then given intravenously to a patient. This antibody will circulate in the bloodstream until it finds and attaches to a neuroblastoma cell. And then the patient’s own immune system will attack and kill that neuroblastoma cell…
When 3F8 is injected into the bloodstream, it travels through the body until it attaches to the marker GD2 that is present on all neuroblastoma cells. The attachment of 3F8 to a neuroblastoma cell signals the patient’s own immune system (e.g. the white blood cells) to treat neuroblastoma cells as foreign. In other words, the 3F8 directs the patient’s immune system, which ordinarily acts only to control infections, to attack neuroblastoma cells and kill them. The treatment is effective even when a patient’s immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy treatments because chemotherapy does not affect the part of the immune system that responds to 3F8 antibodies. Over time, as the body’s immune system becomes stronger, 3F8 treatments may help the body learn to fight tumors on its own.
Pain is the main side effect. All patients have pain. The second most common side effect is rash (hives with itching), which is an allergic reaction. Pain can lead to a fast pulse (rapid heart rate) and sometimes causes high blood pressure for a short period. Less-common side effects include fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.”
The treatment is very hard on a kid. It’d be five separate 4-5 day inpatient (admitted to the hospital) sessions, the first of which would begin 10-14 days from today. We’re most likely going to do the treatment, but it is a hard decision. Patients who get 3F8 are 20% less likely to have their neuroblastoma recur, which is a very large number in the high-risk stage 4 cases like Ezra is. But 3F8 is also painful, dangerous, and has hard side effects which can occur (short term, not long). These include anaphylactic shock, extremely low blood pressure, and a few others. It’s a few days shorter than the transplant was, and spread out which is easier on a schedule, but it’s a harder treatment.
Basically – though we’re nearing a sunrise in the evening of this ordeal, the warmth is still only a promise, not a reality. We’re like Rocky – he has a strong belief tomorrow he’ll be the victor and able to relax with Adrian, but he also knows he’s going to get the crap beat out of him tonight. That’s how we feel.
We continue to find rest in our faith and know God will work all this together for good. We know He’s holding the situation secure and we know this will be a memory – and not a constant – sometime here in the future. We used the slight break we had when we came home from stem cell transplant to grab some much needed “normal life,” and it’s a little hard remembering now it’s not the norm yet – there’s still rough patches ahead.