Day 352, Year 9: First Day of New Cancer Treatment
Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Warm and Windy, High in the 70’s F (in Boston)
Location: Quissett Harbor, Falmouth, Massachusetts

Today we went to Mass General in Boston for Mark’s first infusion of Panitumumab. This is how the medical world refers to it rather than the ‘brand’ name of Vectibix. This one sounds like the name of a cereal to me, so even though it is a mouthful, I prefer Panitumumab. This is a ‘biologic’ rather than a chemical. Biological products, or ‘biologics’, are medical products made from natural sources such as human, animal, or microorganism. Just like drugs, the biologics are intended to treat diseases and various medical conditions. Panitumumab works by binding to cells of the EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor). That’s what we are told and I’m not sure I fully understand it yet, but one doctor used a war analogy to explain it. In this analogy, chemo is like attacking enemy soldiers, whereas the biologic agent being used now is akin to disrupting the command structure. We thought a different biologic was going to be used, but it would have required weekly infusions. With Panitumumab, Mark can have infusions every two weeks and that gives us more wiggle room for a sailing travel schedule. The goal here is to deal with the cancer while still enjoying life. We are so thankful that Dr. Kwak adheres to this philosophy. Today we met with her nurse practitioner and she gave us a bit of a scare when she said she didn’t think Dr. Kwak understood that we were leaving on a sailboat on Saturday. The nurse practitioner was fearful of side effects that we might not be able to deal with at sea. But when she checked with the ‘boss’ she found out that indeed Dr. Kwak not only understands that we are leaving but that it was her idea. We had hoped to be able to sail three days and three nights directly to Norfolk, but the weather has changed that plan. We are now going to have to duck into the Delaware Bay after only two days and nights, so even if there was some sort of rare side effect, we would be back in cell range after only 48 hours. We were given prescriptions to deal with whatever might come up and told to call when we are within range. We’re fine with this, so now we just need to do the final preparations for the trip south. And by the way, the patient is doing great. No side effects so far.

The weather for a Saturday departure is just not what we would like it to be, but it is as good as it is going to get in the next week or so. And since we need to be in South Carolina in two weeks for a second cancer treatment, we are going for it. The problem is that after two days, the winds are going to come back from the south. So we are not going to be able to sail offshore all the way to Norfolk. Once again we will have to duck into the Delaware Bay and head on to the Chesapeake. We won’t have time for a leisurely trip with visits with friends. We will simply go as fast as we can to Norfolk and then on down the waterway. Mass General is arranging for Mark’s next treatment in South Carolina for October 28th, so that gives us a little extra time in case we have additional delays. We should actually arrive there by Thursday, October 23, but it is good that we have the additional days just in case. Monday, October 27th is our 40th wedding anniversary, so we will celebrate and get ready for treatment number two the next day.

One of the things that I originally wrote in last night’s log that I accidentally deleted was the story of our Ham radio “dysfunction.” We haven’t used the radio for months until we tried to tune into Southbound II last week and found that it was no longer on the air. Then yesterday Mark tried to talk to our friend Lee on Sea Turtle in the morning and again in the evening. We could hear him, but he could not hear us. We were puzzled. So Mark took the mattress off our aft cabin bed so he could get to the antenna. What he found was a bit upsetting. When we had the boat taken out of the water for the bottom to be painted in August, they loosened the backstay to which our antenna is attached. In doing so, they completed pulled the antenna wires out, so we had no connection. Mark reattached everything and tried to contact Lee this morning. That worked and he was able to send and receive emails as well. Thankfully Lee wanted us to contact him to test his radio. Otherwise we would have been underway and would have been unable to send emails. It was a lucky find.

And happy, happy birthday to our friend Jane Woodin. It was raining this morning so we weren’t able to do our Wednesday morning walk. But Jane, Olivia White, and I met in town for early morning coffee. I’m going to miss our Wednesday walks when we sail south, but hopefully I can start a new walking group in South Carolina. And I’ll be back next spring.

141008 Day 352 Cape Cod, USA–Happy Birthday, Jane Woodin