Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
July 6, 2020
I promised to update my Cancer Journey, which I started in September 2018. In March of this year, a new twist developed. When the shit hits the fan, “ya gotta do whatcha gotta do”. So, I was forced to revisit my mortality with some trepidation. Let me explain:
In the beginning of March, I had double vision. It happened all of a sudden. It was scary. This never happened to me before. For a moment, I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t able to stand without swaying back and forth. Yet, within 30 seconds, I was fine. And my vision was clear again. There were no lingering effects.
After that, I didn’t think about it much – until a month later.
In April, I had another bout with double vision. Again, it only lasted 30 seconds or so. But I became concerned. My change in vision started with a slight headache and a slight wave of nausea. Once my vision cleared, I had no lingering effects. When I visited my oncologist after this second experience, he felt that it was nothing to be concerned about.
However, being a research geek, I did a little investigation. I found out that multiple myeloma could affect the eyes and cause double vision. I didn’t want this to happen to me, but maybe it was. Sight is part of my most cherished qualities of life. Could it be that I might lose it?
In addition, I dug deeper into the medical papers on multiple myeloma. I learned that there have been several cases of multiple myeloma progressing to glioblastoma in patients treated with a chemotherapy drug called Revlimid. I never was on any chemotherapy cocktails. However, a friend of mine about my age had multiple myeloma. Although I never knew if he had chemotherapy, he developed glioblastoma and died within months of this brain cancer diagnosis. Could this multiple myeloma, which I have been fighting successfully for over 21 months, be progressing to glioblastoma? Was this brain cancer the cause my vision problems?
In the last few weeks, my double vision became more frequent, lasting almost a minute. I knew this was something I needed to figure out. My wife and I discussed it as I became more anxious. At my next appointment in late June, I brought this up again with my oncologist.
He believed my vision problem is more than likely a side effect from my immunotherapy, but he wasn’t sure. So, he ordered an MRI Brain Scan. I had the test on Thursday, June 26th. I began to panic.
If you’ve never had an MRI, it is an experience but nothing to be afraid of.
To examine my brain, I required an injection of a contrast dye (gadolinium). This is a rare earth metal that is injected into my body through an IV placed into a vein in my arm. Interestingly, some medical reports have discovered remnants of gadolinium remaining in the body, which might create future problems in several body tissues. In 2017, the FDA issued a special warning about this contrast dye. However, after weighing the risk of not doing a Brain MRI, I certainly agreed to have the test done.
At the start of my Brain MRI procedure, the technician placed an IV into my arm. The dye would be injected into this IV catheter halfway through the MRI scan. I had to lie down on a flat platform that moved my body into the MRI machine’s cylinder. The nurse gave me earplugs to soften the sounds I would be hearing.
As my body went into the MRI machine, my head entered a “helmet structure” that surrounded my skull. This “helmet” actually was very comfortable, but it looked like the contraption a gladiator would wear in days-gone-by to protect his head.
Once the MRI scan started, it produced magnetic waves that created loud, banging and buzzing sounds. They occurred intermittently with varying intensities. After 15 minutes of the first phase, the nurse came in to inject the dye into my vein. Then there were another 15 minutes of similar noises to conclude the second phase of the scan.
Surprisingly, I felt very relaxed during the entire episode. Actually, I could meditate easily even with all the noise.
Once the MRI session ended, I felt fine and went home. I had to wait for Friday before I knew the results.
Reminiscently, I remember the shock when I first met my oncologist on September 19, 2018. At that time, I learned of my diagnosis and prognosis. As I’ve said at the beginning of my cancer journey, I never was in denial, but I was devasted. There were so many thoughts going through my head at that appointment in 2018. Now, I felt the same way while waiting for my doctor to call me with the results of the Brain MRI.
He called Friday afternoon with the radiologist’s report.
The results showed no lesions in the brain tissues. That was a huge relief. But there were suspicious areas in the bone of the skull. So, I was scheduled on Monday, June 29th for a different type of MRI to look specifically at the bone of my skull. Now, I had to wait an entire weekend to test again. Very stressful!
So, Monday, June 29th came, and I had my second MRI – this time it was looking at my skull. Again, I had to have the injection of contrast dye. The entire process was similar to the MRI I had the previous Thursday. After 30 minutes or so in the machine, I was done. My wife picked me up from the hospital, and I began the waiting period to hear from my oncologist.
He didn’t call Monday evening. Another evening of wandering what the scan showed.
Second MRI Results
On Tuesday, I finally learned of the skull scan. What a relief!
The consensus of the radiologist and my oncologist was that there were no active skull nor brain lesions which were progressing to glioblastoma nor other aggressive forms of tumors. Most likely, my double vision was an uncommon side effect from XGEVA, the human-derived monoclonal antibody. I was taking this immunotherapy to help strengthen my fragile bone structure. However, the risks now outweighed the benefits going forward. The decision from my medical team is to stop XGEVA now. So, I will.
My only immunotherapy that I will continue is Darzalex. This is the human-derived monoclonal antibody that’s helping my immune system to kill the malignant plasma cells which still exist in my body. My most recent blood work continues to show these are not in remission yet. But I am encouraged that the future is bright for my continued success.
My oncologist tells me that he has no other patient who is progressing as well as I am while never being treated with chemotherapy. I owe it all to my unconventional cancer protocols which enhance my immune system and overall metabolism.
Oh yes, how could I forget? The most important elements to my success have been, and continue to be, the strength and astounding support of my wife.
Long live the stronger sex!