Posts Tagged ‘Terry Hollenbeck’


For those of you who have followed my journey since being diagnosed with a bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma in September of 2013, I wanted to bring you up to date. Myeloma, as of now, is still considered incurable but treatable. So, I have been on continuous chemotherapy since my diagnosis.

The most recent chemotherapy had been working well, but a recent PET scan has shown some new myeloma activity in a few of my bones. This is not unexpected for many of us dealing with multiple myeloma since relapse is common after initial treatment. I have recently begun a new chemotherapy drug with the hope that this will keep the myeloma under control for as long as possible.

This new  drug that I am now receiving, is called Daratumumab or more commonly referred to as Darzalex. It is in a new class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, and was just approved for use this past year. It binds itself to a marker on the surface of the cancerous myeloma cell directly affecting the cell as well as enabling the body’s own  immune cells to kill the myeloma cells. As with most of the chemo drugs for myeloma, they usually only work for a period of time before losing effectiveness and then on to a new and different treatment.

In general, I feel well and am learning to live with the neuropathy of my feet as disabling as it has become. I try to push myself, by exercising as much as I am able to do, which I think is helping to make me feel better. I would recommend exercise, to the best of one’s ability, to anyone suffering a chronic disease as part of an overall treatment program.

There are, in development,  new treatments for cancer in general and for multiple myeloma in particular. One of the new and exciting directions in cancer treatment involves the use of our own immune systems to fight the disease such as the drug I am currently using. Also, the rapidly expanding field of genetics also will play a big role in diagnosing and treating cancer.

Of course those of us with cancer hope to survive long enough to benefit from the new treatments on the horizon. Hopefully, in the near future as we develop a better understanding of cancer, it will, in many cases, become a mostly preventable and curable disease.

Thank you again for your prayers and well wishes.

PS:  I would like to start a local support group for myeloma patients. If you, or someone you know would be interested in this, please contact me at valleydoctor@sbcglobal.net

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I am in remission of my multiple myeloma cancer. The three months of chemotherapy last fall and winter did a great job in knocking out most of those cancerous plasma cells which were taking over my body. The stem-cell transplant I was originally to have following chemotherapy has been canceled. I will have my blood tested regularly to monitor my remission. My thanks to Dr. Michael Wu and his wonderful caring staff at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation oncology department who did a superb job treating my disease.

I discovered that one doesn’t necessarily have to leave Santa Cruz for state-of-the-art cancer care that I found right here through my group at PAMF. I sure wasn’t used to being — nor particularly enjoyed — being on the patient side of the doctor/patient relationship. It was a humbling experience and has taught me more about patients and patience along my journey.

Unfortunately, I am suffering from a fairly severe neuropathy of my feet from the chemo drugs, and this is currently adversely affecting my ability to walk normally. I do, however, feel it’s a small price to pay for my successful cancer treatment. I’m told the neuropathy should improve with time. I’ll try to be patient, (not one of my virtues however).

Another little complication I had in the past month, most likely unrelated to my cancer or treatment, is a condition of my heart called constrictive pericarditis. This occurs when the sac of tissue surrounding the heart (the percardium) becomes inflamed and tightens in on the heart, causing the heart to pump less efficiently.

This threw me into mild heart failure with significant shortness of breath, swelling of lower extremities and general fatigue. Dr. Neil Sawheny, one of my cardiologist partners at PAMF, is treating me for this unexpected complication and I seem to be responding well and improving day by day.

In general , my overall well-being is improving significantly. I feel as though my life as I once knew it is being slowly restored. Once my neuropathy shows signs of improvement, I hope to return to work at least half-time.

I’ll give myself a break to work a bit less since I’ve now been practicing medicine for the past 40 years, 27 years in urgent care Scotts Valley. I love my staff, my patients, many of whom I’ve come to know quite well. Most of all, I love the satisfaction I receive in helping make people feel better and in maintaining their good health.

My thanks to all of you who have mailed get-well cards or sent email messages for my recovery. I am a strong believer in the power of prayer and I know your prayers for me have been heard.

My personal lesson from my cancer experience is this: If you have any health symptoms that seem unusual to you or are lasting longer than you think they should, see your doctor for a work up. If everything checks out OK and your symptoms soon improve, then be thankful.

If something serious like cancer is found, the sooner it’s treated the better the outcome. This a proven fact. Also, for those many of you who are healthy, give thanks every morning that you can begin a new day.

My best wishes to you for long healthy lives.

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There has been much hype about radiation danger since the recent tragic events in Japan. Right off the bat let me dispel several common fears.  As of this writing there is absolutely no need for anyone on the west coast to take potassium iodide pills to prevent thyroid cancer. There has been no significant increase in the local levels of radioactive iodine here on the West Coast, and unless conditions at the Fukushima plant radically change, it is unlikely that we will receive dangerous levels here.

Why are people talking about taking potassium iodide pills? Medical documentation of the health effects from exposure to atomic test fallout demonstrate that exposure to radioactive iodine played a key role in the development of thyroid cancer and some forms of leukemia as well.  Potassium iodide, if taken before exposure to fallout, helped to block the uptake and reduced the chance of developing cancer. However, ingestion of potassium iodide also has its own adverse health risks. So it only makes sense to take this preventative measure if advised, that is if we know for sure that dangerous levels of fallout are headed our way.

While winds do blow from Japan east to our shores, wind, rain, and time do take a toll on these toxic plumes, with only trace amounts reaching this coast. Given the current air quality, our locally grown food, especially milk, milk products, and fresh produce remain safe to consume. Again, radioactive levels on the coast have not changed significantly. Areas in northeast Japan are, so far, the only reported areas of concern.

And in the event that Japan’s nuclear disaster does further deteriorate, most authorities agree that the worst case scenario for California would be increasing levels of radioactive compounds, but at extremely small levels that would cause us no harm. We, as a society, had greater radioactive exposure during nuclear bomb testing in the 1950-70s than we have now or might possibly expect under Japan’s worst case scenario.

It is well demonstrated that too much radiation exposure can cause cancer many years later and that the young are at greatest risk. What is not known is how much or how long of an exposure to radiation is risky. Researchers can’t just count cancer cases after a disaster and draw any conclusions as to whether radiation was actually the cause. Cancer rates before and after a disastrous exposure must be compared to know if more cases occurred than would be expected, and even then conclusions are often controversial.

Truth be told, we as a society should worry more about the toxic effects to our bodies from exposure to tobacco products, alcohol and illicit drug use, than we should worry about health risks from current radiation exposure. So what’s my health advice in these times of stress? Take the time to be informed, eat healthy, be active, and be happy.

My next article will explain how radiation affects our health.

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