A lifelong dream came true this week when I landed in New York's La Guardia Airport. I've always wanted to go see the sights, watch the people, taste the food, even sniff the smells for myself.
Of course, I have always thought that I would travel to NYC for fun. My reason for this particular trip was about as far from fun as I could get. In fact, I went to New York this week for a doctor appointment. A last-ditch, end-of-the-road, please-God-let-this-be-the-one doctor appointment. The third oncology specialist in a month.
I am sick to death of doctors offices. I am fed up with waiting rooms. I never want to hold another clipboard, record my surgical history, report my allergy to morphine, or provide my insurance card again. Ever. I despise thin white sheets, because they are NOT soft, warm, or sufficient coverings.
Nonetheless I found myself on Monday morning in a wing of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, not far from Times Square, anxiously holding a clipboard on my lap and coaxing my insurance card from its safe place in my wallet. I checked my phone one more time to get a glimpse of the sweet faces of my three little cowboys. It reminded me of how far I had come. Instead of bolting for the anonymity of the city streets, I stayed put and allowed myself to be led to an exam room.
My parents and my Seester had accompanied me, and their presence calmed me. The doctor was timely, and got right down to business. She had reviewed all of my records (and believe me, there was plenty to review). She repeated much of what we had already heard: The Monster is evil. It is aggressive. It is really hanging in there! Surgery is risky and not recommended at this point.
Then she said something different: "We have a new clinical trial that I think you would be eligible for."
*Disclaimer: Scientists are a different breed. I am not a scientist. What Dr. G tried to explain in our time together seriously made my head swirl. She made me think of my statistics professor in college, when all I wanted to do was pass the class--not even make a good grade, just pass--because listening to him talk was like trying to comprehend a second language. I am a mother. I understand snot and blood and poop and dirt. I do not understand cancer. Read on at your own risk.*
The clinical trial is a phase 3 trial, meaning that it is in the final phase of research before it can be presented for approval to the FDA. The goal of a phase 3 clinical trial is to see if an investigational drug works better (or has fewer side effects) than the standard treatment. This particular drug, known as MEK162, is an inhibitor. Instead of killing actual cancer cells, it targets the cell growth pathway that is specific to low-grade serous ovarian cancer. MEK162 is an oral medication that is taken twice a day. Likely side effects include skin irritations, stomach issues, fatigue, fluid retention, and increases in muscle enzymes. There are other side effects, but they are farther down on the "likely to happen" scale.
Now for the tricky part. This clinical trial is randomized. As is true with all scientific experiments, there must be a control group. All trial participants will be randomized by a computer system to receive either the MEK162 medication OR one of the standard first-line chemotherapies. 2/3 of participants will receive the MEK inhibitor; 1/3 will receive chemo.
What does that mean for me? Well, I've already done all of the chemotherapies that are on the list. All with no success. I'm not too eager to go back and do them again. Actually, if I got it in my head to try chemo again, I would just call up dear old Dr. F and say so. He would make it happen. It's absurd, and I digress. I have absolutely nothing to lose by taking part in this clinical trial. I am already facing the worst case scenario. What can a little phase 3 pill hurt?
I have already made the phone call to the site here in DFW that will administer the trial. These things are never simple, of course, and I anticipate frustrating days ahead with more clipboards and more paper-thin white sheets. God has been good, though, to answer my prayer for clear direction and to grant me peace in the middle of my life's biggest storm. I am thankful for this sliver of hope. I am thankful that I serve a big God. And I am thankful for the wide open spaces and the drive friendly laws in TEXAS!