My Fourth Cancerversary and the Phantom of CO-1686

What a difference four years can make! Think of it. In four years, a 14-year-old can become a high school senior, collect his diploma, get buzzed at a graduation party, and wake up to complain about feeling disenfranchised. The change is even bigger for younger children. My son told me that his son, my only grandchild, then five years old, couldn’t grasp the concept of rhymes. My son would ask his son, What rhymes with cat, and he’d proudly answer Dog! I was floored. I thought, This is not the genius I had envisioned. Clearly my DNA is not coursing through the kid’s veins. Four years later, he emailed me his desk-published book about the ramifications of sunsets complete with illustrations and a poem – a remarkable piece of creative work by a nine-year-old boy.  I did a “Yes!” and secretly apologized to the future Artiste Extraordinaire and thanked heavens I had witnessed my grandson’s metamorphosis. I can hardly wait for the budding intellectual to get his driver’s license and take his “Abi” Miss Daisy for a spin and bonding time.

Four years ago – 2012 – an oncologist diagnosed me with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, Stage 4.  In the span of four years, I experienced treatment with Tarceva for 20 months followed by rociletinib of CO-1686.

I reviewed my blog archives and saw no post in June 2013 about my first cancerversary. For one thing, the blog was not even a glint in my eyes that year. For another, my first Onc had given me a dire prognosis – only eight months to live without treatment, a year at the most with treatment.  The weight of the death sentence jarred my head and exiled all writing thoughts to another universe. Thus, on my first cancerversary it’s safe to guess that I was probably eating deep-fried oysters, pouring cold beer down my throat, sitting in a lotus position and waiting to keel over dead any moment. Mr Reality Check barged in, shook my head, and said, Tarceva whacked your lung cancer to remission seven months ago. What is your problem? Stunned, I must have stood up abruptly, spilled my beer, and staggered on with my life toward my second cancerversary.

I could not find any account of my second cancerversary either. I reviewed the blog archives and read all of  my June 2014  posts.  The posts glowed with CO-1686 initial promises and the awesome positivity with which my body was responding to it. The posts chronicled gung ho blow-by-blow accounts of my early days in the trial, about getting the stock market excited over my CO-1686,  about cancer diagnosis not a death sentence, yada, yada………My exhuberance was palpable!  What was I thinking? While I was at it, I could also have gushed about my second cancerversary. But no, not me. I was so intensely focused.  What cancerversary? It happens when multi-tasking talent eludes the blogger. For the same reason, my Physical Education teacher had tactfully excused me from a folk dancing group in grade school. I could not dance and listen to music at the same time.

In 2015, my third cancerversary blog post covered catharsis and ramblings about my shock upon receiving the cancer diagnosis.  It also made up for the missing accounts of the first two cancerversaries amidst a maze of convoluted wordy distractions.

Now June 2016, my fourth cancerversary, I look back in amazement at the advances made in the treatment of my type of lung cancer. When my cancer cart started rolling in 2012, outside of chemotherapy, the one-a-day pill Tarceva (erlotinib) was the only drug in US oncologists’ medicine cabinets.  Now Gilotrif (afatinib), and Tagrisso (osimertinib) keep Tarceva company. Poksceva (rociletinib) would have gladly joined them but since the trial sponsor decided to discontinue its pursuit of FDA approval, the brand name Poksceva now resides only in my head.

Love that brand name Poksceva! It has an exotic ring to it, a sense that one trial participant had an epiphany about it while trying to commune with her pole dancing inner goddess. Okay, I confess: a nosy reader came up with the moniker and the name-the-drug contest judge – that would be “moi” – adopted it.

The sponsor is phasing out the CO-1686 trial by attrition.  The result of my most recent CTscan showed STABLE. Hah! There’s no folding the trial for now.  I credit my durability to the notion that I once belonged to the family of Phantom, the comic strip hero, but I was banished from the jungle because thunder thighs didn’t look menacing in the family’s purple tights uniform.  As I spoke in Maryland last April imploring ODAC to recommend approval of rociletinib, I secretly wished for cousin THE Phantom to appear out of nowhere and save CO-1686, but it was not to be.

Meh! Things happen, but as long as the sponsor does not demand the return of the key to the silo holding the pills that keep on kicking my T790M, Dr Brevity, Poksceva, and I will soldier on.

I join in spirit anyone out there who is doing the happy dance to celebrate anything!