(In our last episode of As the Cancer Patient Turns, our hero had been seemingly cast aside by the medical community to the scrap heap of failed clinical trials. While waiting to die, a treatment came out of nowhere that once again showed promise and gave our intrepid hero some hope for the future. Will it be a life saving procedure, or just another delay of the inevitable? Stay tuned for the latest adventures of Dan the Cancer Patient!)
If you look up BAMF in the urban dictionary, the result is something that probably has been said in every Samuel L. Jackson movie. “Bad ass motherf**ker.”
Now, as much as I would like that description to be about me and my ongoing struggle with the big C, most of the time I don’t feel like a badass. Most times, I just feel sick as I try to live my life as best I can. I don’t feel like a hero. I feel like a failure.
(Is failure too strong of a word? Probably. But watching my body turn into an overweight bag of milk and having to stop and take a break on a short walk feels like a failure to me. Zoey is actually getting used to my little respites, because she’s the goodest of girls.)
But the BAMF in my life right now isn’t about me being some sort of a righteous dude fighting the vicissitudes of an illness that is tying to kill me. No, it actually stands for Bold Advanced Medical Futures, and the facility is located in downtown Grand Rapids in the Doug Meijer Innovation Building. BAMF is where I’m currently being treated with LU-177, a radioactive isotope that targets prostate cancer cells. The brand name for the drug is Pluvicto.
If you read my last blog and are confused that my treatment has already started and it’s being administered in my home town instead of the on other side of the state of Michigan, let me catch you up.
Back in July, I had lunch with a friend of mine, Doug. As we caught up on stuff like how work was going and how’s the family, he asked about my cancer treatment. He had seen a story on the local news about a place that was doing pluvicto treatments in GR. He brought me some paperwork about the place that included a phone number.
(I almost spelled his name Dug. I know how to spell his name, but back in 2008, in an Iowa McDonalds, they asked for his name to put on his order, and on the receipt there it was. D-U-G! We spent the rest of the week riding our bikes across Iowa, yelling, “D-U-G!!” He’s a man with a great sense of humor, and can power a bike out of a river valley like nobody’s business.)
After the lunch, I called the number. I didn’t really hold out that much hope, but hey, it was worth a shot.
I talked to a very nice young lady named Cathy who politely told me that, yes, they were going to be starting Pluvicto treatments in the future, but alas, they were going to be for patients that were on Medicare, for which I’m not currently eligible. I gave her my number, and said that if that requirement changed in the future to give me a call.
(A quick aside here. I’m not great at phone calls. I’m kinda phone shy. I hate calling people up out of the blue. It always feels awkward to me. But desperate times sometimes demands desperate measures. Also, I wasn’t above sounding a bit overdramatic. Like, “I hope you guys can help me otherwise I’ll probably be dead by Christmas.” Which wasn’t true, but what the hell, I’m taking my shot. I also described symptoms that were plaguing me at the time like blood in the toilet and serious tumor pain. Which was true, but kinda gross. You do what you gotta do.)
A couple of weeks later I called again, and Cathy sounded a little more receptive to the possibility of BAMF accepting my health insurance. Well then, a crack in the door!
(Another quick aside for my fellow cancer survivors. Don’t be afraid to be your own patient advocate. Call who you need to call, write emails to docs, and ask for help in understanding treatments and insurance payments. And when you end up on a phone tree from hell, keep going until you talk to an actual human. And if that human lives in Malaysia and you can’t understand them, ask for someone else. Don’t take no for an answer until you get the info you seek.)
Eventually, BAMF came around to accepting my insurance, and I received my first Pluvicto treatment on September 6, after which I was so radioactive that I had to keep my distance from loved ones and small children for a few days. I consider it a small price to pay for a treatment that might save my life.
The treatment itself consisted of a syringe of the drug put into an IV of saline solution. The whole process took a couple of hours. The side effects for me has been tiredness and some pretty serious bone pain, which subsided after a couple of weeks.
Is it working? A little too early to tell. A PET scan on the day after the treatment showed the drug was going where it should, and a PSA test has shown a slight drop from 174 to 163, which is still WAY too high. Hopefully after a full compliment of 6 treatments my numbers will drop significantly.
My next trip on the Bad Ass Motherf**ker radioactive carousel is October 18. The day after that I will get another PET scan to see if my tumors have shrunk.
My cancer has spread to my pelvis and lower spine, so it’s done fucking around. I need this to work. And I just used a naughty word without the asterisks. Sorry.
Samuel L would be proud.
Thanks for reading.