Genetic Susceptibility and Biomarkers of Platinum-Related Toxicities Research Study

I finally took part in that Dana-Farber and University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) research study yesterday–evaluating the long-term health of men that have been treated for germ cell cancer with cisplatin chemotherapy. This visit was scheduled for December, but I mistakenly double-booked my calendar with one of Jess’ ultrasounds. Needless to say, the ultrasound was a tad more important. For those that haven’t seen Jess’ blog, the boy was 3lbs 7oz, and the girl was 3lbs 1oz. The c-section is scheduled for March 13!

The research appointment began at the Yawkey Center. After the pleasantries, the research assistant flipped through her paperwork and stated “we’re going to be taking a lot of blood from you today.” Oh my. I replied with a nervous laugh and a “…did I mention my dislike needles?”

Thankfully the phlebotomist was flawless in execution, and the researcher’s presence gave me reason to keep my jaw flapping and otherwise distracted from the tray of viles on my right.

The next step was to visit Brigham and Women’s for a hearing test. The room was small, maybe 8’x8′ with low ceilings and a door that resembled a walk-in fridge. I put on a pair of bulky headphones and was handed a wired, push button remote. The researcher and technician relocated to an adjacent room separated by a glass window. Press the button when you hear a beep. Left ear, right ear. Repeat the words spoken. All uneventful including the result. My hearing is normal.

I completed an at length survey regarding well being and habits. Two things, I’ll mention. First, the alcohol consumption question had incorrect/incomplete ranges for me to answer correctly. I brought this to the attention of the researcher. I believe the running joke is that you tell your primary care physician how many drinks you consume per week, and he knows you’re lying, and then doubles it in his records. However, for science, I wanted to answer truthfully. I either had to choose an answer of “drinks per day,” which would make me look like a raging alcoholic, or “drinks per week” with a range that was not right either. The second thing is regarding side effects, and the purpose of this study. The only thing I continue to have is the cold/tingling hands and feet, also known as Raynaud’s disease. This isn’t new, it started immediately after chemo. Hopefully the URMC and Dana-Farber researchers will discover new ways to reduce incidents of Raynaud’s for future patients. In the meantime, no big deal.

Annual Checkup

I had my fourth annual checkup and CT scan today. All results were healthy. I have one more CT scan in my foreseeable future next December 2014 which will then mark five years post diagnosis/treatment. Assuming the 2014 results are normal, I will only require an annual chest x-ray and blood draw for a biomarker check for 2015 and beyond.

I signed up for a Dana-Farber and University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) research study titled “Genetic Susceptibility and Biomarkers of Platinum-Related Toxicities” during my visit today. This study is evaluating the long-term health of men that have been treated for germ cell cancer with cisplatin chemotherapy. The researchers claim that small amounts of cisplatin remain in a patient’s body for years after treatment and this study is seeking to identify the side effects. Dana-Farber is contributing 275 patients to the study. I will be coming back to Dana-Farber next week for a blood draw, hearing test, and questionnaire for the study.

Full steam ahead on the twin babies front. Jess prefers the names Keano and Reeves after her favorite actor, but I’m on the fence.

Twins

Hi Folks. It has been a long time since I’ve updated you here. Big positive news on my end. My wife and I went through fertility treatment i.e., in vitro fertilization (IVF) over the last few months, and now have twins on the way! If you’re interested in learning more about the IVF process, take a look at Jess’ blog at: http://jessicastetson.blogspot.com

UltrasoundJack and Bruno

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

I had my annual check-up at Dana-Farber today. The CT scan and blood work came back normal. As always, I didn’t like the IV, but it went in easier than I expected. The only downside was sitting in the waiting area with it in my arm for over two hours. Although I made it to the appointment on time, some of the radiology staff got stuck in pretty bad traffic. You can’t do much about that. My next DFCI check-up will be a year away, December 10, 2012.

In the clear

I had another 3-month checkup at Dana-Farber on Monday. My CT scan and blood work came back normal. My oncologist believes that I’m in the clear now, meaning a recurrence is unlikely. My appointment frequency has been extended from quarterly to biannually, with the next one in December.

We spoke briefly about my Severe Oligospermia diagnosis. The oncologist believes that my body could naturally overcome it, but I shouldn’t wait and hope for that–in vitro is the starting point when ready for family planning.

CT or not to CT, ask your oncologist the question

Researchers at UC Davis published findings last week that linked CT scans with an increased risk of secondary cancers in men with stage one testicular cancer. While this may sound alarming, we need to pause for a moment and realize that CT scans play an important role in diagnosis and surveillance. That being said, this should be a topic of conversation with your oncologist, and it will be with mine in June.

Severe Oligospermia

I received news from my primary care physician regarding my fertility lab results. Not good, but somewhat expected. I’ve got severe oligospermia, which means having kids the good old-fashioned way isn’t going to happen. The normal counts are 20 million per milliliter. I’m at 700,000 per milliliter. Prior to chemo, the sperm bank stated that my counts were low, but I can’t recall what the numbers were. The good news is that there still is an option available, it is called Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). That means a test-tube baby (e.g., one sperm, one egg, fertilized outside the womb). Jess and I are going to find out more information about this. I imagine our insurance company will have an elaborate vetting process for such an expensive procedure.

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