Mail Grab Bag


Sorry this installment is a little late… I couldn’t post last week because I was traumatized by an incident of national—nay, global—significance. My laptop was in the shop for repair.

But it’s fixed now, so all’s well with the w—what? Who won?

…well, at least I have my laptop back.

For this outing, we’ll be answering letters from fictitious readers to explain what else has been happening lately outside of politics. Remember, if you have a question for me or Cyril feel free to leave a comment or send an email!

First Letter

So, are you all radioactive yet?

—Concerned neighbor, inside a lead bunker

Not yet. Last week, the radioembolization (RE) team performed a mapping procedure in preparation for next week’s infusion of actual radioactive particles. They checked my blood vessels around the liver to ensure the particles would be delivered just to the tumors, and not other parts of the liver or even other nearby organs. They also injected some non-radioactive but trackable particles as a test.

The real process is Wednesday, November 23—the day before Thanksgiving! I’ll be ready to party hearty on Turkey Day.

Second Letter

I hate to needle you, but I did want to pin down your final decision on acupuncture. Hope it’s not a tacky question!

—AcuPUNcture fan, Needles CA

Now that Irinotecan has been removed from the chemo mix, my side effects are much better. After treatment two weeks ago, I didn’t have any hiccups Tuesday night. I had already scheduled an acupuncture session for Wednesday morning on the assumption that I probably would have hiccups. Turns out I didn’t that morning either… but I did shortly after it was over. And they kept coming back, on and off, for the next week.

I have not scheduled any further acupuncture sessions.

After yesterday’s treatment, I again had no hiccups last night. They have been trying to return a few times today, but so far nothing has lasted.

Third Letter

I want to hear more about the CyberKnife procedure. Is this a dagger which I see before you?

—Lady Macbeth, Inverness, Scotland

Decision here is to wait until after the RE procedure (and Thanksgiving). So sometime in early December.

Last Letter

Anything else up ahead for you?

—Nostradamus, the Afterlife

Yesterday was treatment #7 out of 12, which means chemo is scheduled to go through February. That will be the end of the first line of treatment.

Keeping in mind that metastatic pancreatic cancer doesn’t get cured, at some point a second line will start. At that time, I’ll be participating in a Phase II clinical trial that compares standard treatments with treatments based on molecular genetic analyses (“precision medicine”). The RE doctor will collect some biopsies during the procedure next Wednesday, and they’ll be sent off for testing. That typically takes a few months, so the results will be in hand when it’s time to begin the second line.

In the meantime, it’s been good to see Westat faces on those days when I’m back in the office for a few hours. And of course, the Social Bridge & Whatnot gatherings are a blast.

Happy holidays, all!



Thanks, Donna! The procedure

Thanks, Donna! The procedure went very well, and we had a great Thanksgiving with my parents and Anne's parents, Anne's brother and his oldest daughter, plus a friend of Anne's from work.

Hope your holiday was also filled with family and friends—all our love,


Donna Ramos


Well, here we are the day before Thanksgiving and you're having a procedure on your liver. I hope all went well – the technology is amazing. I want you to know that I will be remembering you in a special way tomorrow when I think about the people for whom I am grateful. I continue to be inspired by your honest sharing, by your openness to this process, and by your courage. Thank you. I think about you often and send love and support your way….Donna

Your loving mother-in-law, Eileen

Your blog

Elliot, Dearest,

Your blog is truly a link for bringing you closer to us than the miles allow as you describe your treatments and all that you are going through, now that this guest has moved in with you. Those of us in Anne's family who are visiting this coming week will be so glad to share yet another Thanksgiving with you and your dear ones. Please remember, if you write it, I will read it. So keep that computer out of the shop and don't stun the world again as you did last week! Each episode is very much appreciated. 

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