After meeting with the radiation technicians and my medical oncologist today, here is our basic approach to my cancer treatment over the next number of months:
I was a little optimistic in thinking I would get started with radiation next week, because today and tomorrow are the last sets of diagnostic and planning tests, and the team (which grows all the time) needs a couple of weeks to plan it all out. But we will be even more aggressive than I expected, which is good. Let's go over the essentials.
Perhaps as early as tomorrow, Dr. Kennecke, my chemo guy, will determine whether I'm eligible for not one, not two, but three separate clinical trials that may enhance the drug treatments I'll get. If that happens (which is a pretty good chance), in a couple of weeks I will begin IV treatments of a genetically engineered antibody designed to help prevent cancer cells from building new capillaries to feed themselves.
Then, two weeks after that, we begin the "normal" treatment. I will start radiation every weekday for five weeks—I already have two tiny tattoo dots on my hips and one in the small of my back, drawn on today, so that I am accurately lined up for that. Each day, a couple of hours before my radiation treatment, I will take a chemotherapy pill.
In conjunction with that stuff, I will take more of the antibody as well as another chemotherapy treatment. As part of one of the research projects, I may also receive two PET/CT scans and give a couple of extra biopsies. And that's all before surgery. As my wife said, "You always wanted to donate your body to science, now you can do it while you're still alive."
So, summary: antibody for a couple of weeks; chemo and radiation for five weeks, with additional chemo, PET/CT scans, and biopsies; a waiting period for five to seven weeks; surgery to remove most of my rectum; a month of recovery; and then four months more chemo. Whether I'm on the research trials or not, it'll be the end of the year before I'm all done.