Back on Track

Bacterial cultures from the tips of two chest tubes that were recently removed revealed growth of a pseudomonas organism on one of them. These are fairly common pathogens involved in infections acquired in a hospital setting. Whether or not this was the source of my fevers, I was prescribed an antibiotic (levofloxacin, 500mg daily) since pseudomonas can lead to other nasty conditions.

I continued running fevers for a few days after starting the antibiotic, but was free of fever for the 48-hours leading up to my next scheduled chemotherapy round. Aside from the mystery fever, my blood counts have been good throughout the three weeks of chemotherapy that I received thus far. Accordingly, my medical oncologist (Dr. Pfister) supported resuming treatment.

Michael Becker receiving chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, Lorie and I took the early morning train to NY so I could receive an intravenous infusion of paclitaxel and then carboplatin as planned. I was quite anxious to resume treatment after a one week break – especially after seeing the decrease in tumor size from the recent CT scan.

I looked at my blood test results from that morning and noticed my magnesium level was again low. Knowing that this “could” have played a role in the recent cardiac event, and that my daily oral magnesium isn’t keeping up, I requested an additional intravenous course of magnesium just to be safe and the medical staff agreed.

Michael Becker asleep on the Amtrak train home. Although my blood counts are okay, Lorie is appropriately cautious and likes me to wear a mask when on the train or in other public spaces.

The chemotherapy infusions went well and we were able to take an afternoon Amtrak train back home. Benedryl® is one of the pre-medications they give me, so I slept a good portion of the trip home. Lorie was kind enough to capture me asleep with her phone.

After postponing their prior trip due to my hospitalization, my sister and her family are planning to visit us this weekend. Hopefully life is uneventful and we all get to spend some time together.

It was surreal that exactly one week after being in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), I felt good enough to participate in a scheduled radio interview conducted in Philadelphia on August 10, 2017. Just goes to show there are good days and there are bad days. NPR member radio station WHYY host Dave Heller knew an awful lot about my book “A Walk with Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur” and it was so great working with him during my first experience in a radio recording studio. Please take a moment to listen to a replay of this 20-minute segment and other events, along with reading newspaper and other media reprints, under the “In the News” menu tab at my memoir website by clicking here.

Michael Becker with WHYY’s Dave Heller. (WHYY photo)

Hopefully I continue to feel okay the next couple of days and look forward to seeing family while in town. It should take a week or so for the latest treatment effects to materialize. If not, however, I’m sure Humphrey will provide them with endless hours of amusement!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention in closing that the start of the new school season is a great time to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to talk about an important immunization that could prevent 6 cancers in boys/girls. You can learn more about this vaccine in an earlier blog post by clicking here. Had this vaccine been available when I was a child, it could have prevented the cancer that’s killing me. Start the discussion with your doctor – today! And help spread the word by using the #DiscussHPV hashtag in your social media posts.

5 thoughts on “Back on Track

  1. Parents, he’s not kidding. This HPV related Head and Neck Cancer hit my family too out of the blue. Had we known when we were kids that there was a vaccine, I guarantee you my parents would have gotten it for us. Don’t miss this chance to prevent this incredibly difficult cancer. It came out too late for my own son, so don’t play Russian Roulette with your kids. This is not what you want for their future, trust me. From a very health conscious family who was struck down by this scourge and now lives with its challenges, just like Michael Becker.

  2. Michael is your cancer CD-22 mediated?
    Mylotarg, previously developed for AML, has been reapproved and is now also approved for ALL as a CD-22 targeted drug, renamed Bedponsa. It showed an 81% response rate vs. 29% for chemotherapy.

    Not sure if this model would work for you but I’ve been thinking about off label uses for it. (I worked on Mylotarg when I was at Wyeth).

  3. Hi Michael – I heard your interview on WHYY. Thanks for sharing your story with us, your perspective and experience is so valuable! I am the Executive Director of the NCCN Foundation, an affiliated organization of NCCN, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. We are currently working on a patient friendly adaptation of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines that physicians use to guide cancer care for Head & Neck Cancers. I bet you’ve heard of the NCCN Guidelines – with your background. It would be great to talk with you at some point when you’re feeling up to it.

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