Nov 2011 Treatment Update

This update is late and a new post way overdue.

A lot has happened since my last post, including an extended vacation overseas and the RWC which eventually produced an ‘inspiring’ outcome.
About two weeks ago – within a day or so of the anniversary of my original diagnosis – I completed my second PET/CAT scan since commencing the Tarceva medication. I immediately reviewed it with Trevor Fitzjohn and subsequently with Richard Sullivan (my radiologist and oncologist respectively, who I regard as ‘partners’ on my journey and now good friends).

The scan revealed very similar results to my first scan – the cessation of tumour activity is persisting. The small differences are all positive. The primary tumor (in my lung) has shrunk further and bones (shoulder blades, arms) , which had previously shown a small amount of remaining ‘damage’ from earlier metastatic activity, appear to have entirely ‘mended’.

Tarceva side-effects can vary from mild to sufficiently serious to preclude ongoing medication. The intial mild side effects I experienced (light facial skin rash which became nastier when exposed to the European summer sun) have now disappeared. I continue to remain fit, well and currently free of side-effects.

I am hoping the combination of my (excellent) response to, and demonstrated tolerance (absence of side-effects) of Tarceva is an indication that I may be able to get on the “right-hand tail” of the treatment outcomes for this drug. That could mean a period of 4/5 years (or even better) of remission.(There is an outstanding case in USA where the drug was first administered t0 an advanced lung cancer ‘patient’ in 2002 and continues to remain effective.)

The significance of achieving a right-hand tail treatment outcome was demonstrated in a recent edition of the ‘Economist’ which highlighted the breakthroughs that are occurring generally in the cancer field and specifically with a discovery that has discovered the ‘pathway’ by which cancer eventually circumvents the effectiveness of drugs that are targetted at cellular mutations (see my earlier posts) such as in my case.This is now enabling the development of new drugs that appear to be able to indefinitely prolong the effectiveness of existing drugs such as Tarceva. I understand that a new drug of this type will commence trials in New Zealand next year.

And this is one of just a number of breakthroughs that are occurring with increasing frequency in the field of cancer research (related, at least in part, to the application of enormously increased computing power to DNA analysis).

So far my journey remains on track. But the last few weeks have provided a sobering demonstration of how varied and “individually unpredictable” (see my second post) cancer experiences can be. Two good friends and great New Zealanders have been affected. Lloyd Morrison has had to return to Seattle to resume specialised treatment. Roger Kerr passed away last Friday and a number of you will have attended his funeral on Thursday. And one of my colleagues and a great companion from the Gawler Foundation course last year died a little more than two months ago.

It is a reminder (as I stated to a friend in a recent email exchange) that “..ocassionally you need a bit of luck to fall your way..” on the cancer journey.

I know that has happened for me – and I am grateful.

But in the meantime I will keep up the discipline of doing all those things that I believe make a difference.

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32 Responses

  1. Nada Young says:

    Hi Rob

    Overjoyed to hear your positive news. An inspiration to all of us to never give up.

    Shall toast you and the family with a glass of wine from a hot dry climate tonight.


    Nada Young

  2. Lewis Evans says:

    Hi Rob

    I have been wondering what you are up to in recent weeks: and I see great good news: it is not all luck. We did enjoy Spain by the way

    All the best


  3. dave birt says:

    Good on you, Rob, keep up the Pinot treatment! cheers from kina beach.

  4. Grant Kemble says:

    good on you Rob. great to hear.

  5. Fiona & Ron Oliver says:

    Rob (and Maureen too) you are an inspiration to us all – may you continue on your amazing journey for many years to come!
    See you at Christmas!
    Your kina friends Fiona & Ron

  6. Dawa says:

    As always – great to hear your news Rob, and the digestible explanations of a complex ‘trickster’ disease are much appreciated. Have a wonderful summer. Best warm wishes to you, Maureen and the family.

  7. Been wondering my friend – sounds positive and great attitude. Thinking of you… stay strong.

  8. Alison Hewett says:

    This is fantastic news Rob and very inspirational. Thanks for updating us, I look forward to your next post.

  9. Marion Hulen says:

    So glad to hear the good news. You and Maureen are in our thoughts and prayers. Marion & Harry Hulen

  10. Rachel Brown says:

    wow Rob, you are inspiring and so good to see good results. This is quite simply amazing!

  11. Annabel says:

    Hi Rob

    Thanks for your updates and thank you for sharing your story. As a buddy of Dan and Emma’s, I left a comment when you first started this blog and now am re-reading everything in a slightly different light as my dad has just started a similar journey! He’s joined the Stage IV lung cancer club (also a non smoker) and is onto Round 3 of his chemo. Just had positive results for Erlotinib target drug so that’s our next stop too.

    Anyway we have taken great heart from this blog and Dad has been conducting business as usual as possible – and has spent all afternoon outside in his Wanaka garden and on his lawnmower. With best regards from one Rob to another – Roberts must be R for resilient!

  12. Matt Slatter says:

    Hey Rob – great to hear! Take it easy and all the best!

  13. Peter Hazledine says:


    Remarkable and wonderful progress. Kirsty and I are thrilled for you and Maureen. You suggest an element of luck but often luck takes a bit of effort and there is no shortage of that. So, keep up the good effort, luck will then fall into line.

    Peter and Kirsty

  14. Janette Okkerse says:

    Great news Rob. Keep it going. Positive thoughts being sent. Go well, wonderful man.
    J xx

  15. Penny says:

    How lucky am I to have such an inspirational uncle. I know the journey is hard, but your smile is endless and energy seemingly boundless. I enjoy being around you with such energy and spark. Great news.

  16. Gordon says:

    Great news Brother! Thanks for your positive and informative news about your journey and commiserations for your close friends. My Head of Department who is in remission with bowel cancer always asks after you and Lloyd. We are looking forward to catching up with you over Christmas. All our love to you and Maureen.

  17. Geof Shirtcliffe says:

    Great stuff, Rob. That’s excellent news.

  18. Lucie Barrett says:

    Robby you are amazing! We are so so grateful for all your hard work and the luck too xx L, R and G

  19. Ken Coveny says:

    Been a while since I visited the site Rob, but great news with your progress. All the very best and have a great summer down in Mot.

  20. Ron Pol says:

    Fabulous news.

  21. John Beattie says:

    Congratulations on the outcomes of the review.
    Your approach and discipline is an inspiration to others.
    No doubt Lloyd will take strength from your remission prospects.
    Best wishes
    John Beattie

  22. Jessy McCabe says:

    R is for remarkable, resilient and a really good dad
    O is for awesome, outstanding and obviously rad
    B is for brilliant and befriending with a bounty of brightness
    C is for charming, courageous and comical likeness
    A is for admirable and an academic in merchant banking
    M is for miraculous and master of all talents, be it karaoke or tennis he could probably beat Richie at flanking
    E is for energetic and entrepreneur, this has allowed for houses with pools
    R is for reliable and respectful but this man wont suffer fools
    O is for the open mindedness he has shown me and many others
    N is for nurturing and allowing me to feel like I belong to his family, gaining Maureen and Rob a sister and two brothers

    You are a true inspiration to us all Rob and I love you and your family very much.

  23. Lee Wilkinson says:

    Hi Rob and Maureen, Really really pleased that the news continues to be very positive. I accompanied the guys on their Saturday bike ride last weekend. It was very poignant to be with them following Roger’s funeral. We lingered over coffee in the sun at Maranui Cafe. The overwhelming sense I got was how precious time with old friends comes to be.

    So hang in there, you two precious old friends. xxxx

    • Lee,

      This is Dean Lewis (of Nan Lewis fame). Just saw your comments to Rob and am only just getting up to speed on all these developments, including Roger Kerr’s passing. I feel enormously out of touch.

      Are you and Bryce healthy, wealthy, and wise?

      Do let us know.

      Dean and Nan

  24. scott p says:

    Rob – terrific news. Keep well. Cheers Scott

  25. Dion Bennett says:

    Good on ya Rob… you are a truly inspirational man. My thoughts are with you.

  26. Sally Munro says:

    Rob and Maureen,

    This is fantastic news to hear. And we know you will be relishing every moment of the life you have.
    Sally and Pat

  27. Les Stone says:

    Hi Rob

    May not speak to you too often, but think of you a lot. Great progress

    Look forward to catching up at the annual HVHS reunion in early December

    Love to you and Maureen

  28. Grant and Jill Watt says:

    Hi Rob and Maureen,

    A long overdue visit to the site – but just great to read of your continued encouraging news. Think of you often and more so after last nights HVHS annual reunion. The band at the Empire was bashing out “your” numbers – we just needed your voice to add some embellishments!

    Keep up the wonderful progress and have a memorable Xmas and New Year

    Best wishes
    Jill and Grant

  29. Gary Drobnack says:

    You are providing a compelling story that will be useful to share with some other friends of mine who are currently undergoing similar health challenges. Thanks for taking the time to do this and providing so much good information.

  30. Great news Rob. Have a great Christmas.

  31. Paul & Sandra says:

    Just caught up with your update Rob. Excellent news and best wishes for continuing success. As you say, the progress in cancer treatments is very encouraging – prompting some to suggest most forms will be very treatable in the next few years, according to the Economist review.
    You are taking the analysis to a new level which is very educational and beneficial to others. It wasn’t so long ago that the ‘big C’ was an unmentionable mysterious kiss of death.
    Look forward to catching up soon.


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