The day began with Travis and Carrie driving into the National Institute of Health. As they drove up a song came on the radio…I Need a Miracle by Third Day.
They were given official badges, their car was searched, they went through security. Needless to say…it took a lot to get in the building.
Ironic…since, after all…it took a lot to make it to that building.
Almost a year to be exact.
A year of heartache. A year of prayers. A year of hope. A year of lessons. A year of miracles.
And here they were.
When this journey started, Travis told us he wanted the crazy stuff. He wanted them to throw everything at it. Inject him with AIDS or whatever crazy trial was out there…he wanted it. He was willing to risk everything because he knew everything was at risk.
And here he was. A year later. At the place he did not even know about a year before and yet had hoped for.
The morning was filled with blood work, labs and XRays. It was pretty routine.
The doctor’s visits came after lunch.
The doctor walked in the room and the first question out of his mouth was, “how do they even know you have Cholangiocarcinoma?”
Not because he thought it was something else. Not because he had any scientific reason to think otherwise. Simply because…Cholangiocarcinoma just does not make sense.
To live a year with Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma, to grow 15 tumors on your liver, and to still be alive was pretty amazing.
But certainly not unheard of…
The unheard of part, dare I say miraculous part, is living a year with Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma…growing fifteen tumors…and not having a single symptom. To have perfect blood work, liver levels, and white blood cell counts, one year in leads a doctor to wonder…are they sure it is Cholangiocarcinoma?
The doctor moved on with a brief, yet impacting, statement…
You’re definitely in the trial…
Such a simple statement for a doctor to make, and yet, a statement that means so much to so many.
There are two studies Travis is eligible for.
The first, is the TIL trial. It is the trial they originally learned about and the one they prefer. The procedure is actually slightly different than what they originally thought. They would first go out for a week or less. During this time the doctors would perform the surgery which they referred to as a liver resection. The amount time spent would be determined by how soon Travis recovers from the surgery but anywhere from a few days to a week is normal. At that point, they would come home for three weeks. During this time they will grow the T-cells from his tumor cells. But there is no guarantee the T-cells will grow. For some they do and for others they don’t.
If they don’t grow…then he cannot be in the trial.
If they do grow, then after three weeks, they will head back. There will be a few days of tests and then Travis will be given chemo for ten days in the hospital. The purpose is to bring his immune system down to nothing so that it will not reject the new blood cells. Once his immune system is down then they will inject him with billions of healthy cells. He will also receive a daily treatment to assist the cells in fighting the cancer. The immune system slowly comes back up and, once it is at an acceptable level, he is able to go home. How long he stays is determined by how soon his immune system comes back. He will return monthly for a scan to ensure it is still working.
The second trial is called Mage. It is very similar to the first but there is no surgery. It is done through a large blood draw. There is a protein in Travis’ tumor called Mage. They reengineer the blood cells to attack the Mage protein thus killing the cancer cells. The downside to this trial is that it is in its infancy. It has only been done on four people. For whatever reason, unlike the previous trial, they cannot inject all of the cells. They are still figuring out dosages for this trial. Additionally, they only accept one person every other week and they are currently booked through May 8th.
Even with the best blood work…when you have Stage Four Cholangiocarcinoma….time is of the essence.
The hope and the prayer is that he will get into the first trial.
But what about the miracle? The miracle we all prayed for? The miracle the elders prayed for?
My grandmother has an old quote hanging on her refrigerator.
Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous…
It was no coincidence that “I Need a Miracle” came on the radio as they pulled into the NIH.
It was no coincidence that Travis found himself at the NIH almost a year after saying he wanted the craziest, riskiest, “throw the book at it” trial out there.
As it turns out, there was no CT Scan today. Only blood work and an Xray. Carrie asked about the X-ray results two separate times but the doctor only replied that they had reviewed his scans from Kaiser.
In Carrie’s words, We still don’t know for sure…
I certainly believe a miracle is possible. Even probable… It’s certainly what I want.
I want my God to have all the glory. I want those who don’t know Him to see Him and know Him.
But as a friend reminded me…God’s ways are not always my ways.
And so. As my grandmother would tell me…He could choose to remain anonymous.
And like all the other ones of the past year…He could choose to give us another…