cancer rollercoastertext
Roller Coaster  - Cancer seems to enjoy subjecting its victims to ups and downs.  At times the news is hopeful, optimistic, promising...... At other times it is more full of despair and doom.
rollercaster
the Comet from Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park - St. Louis
up

Up on the roller coaster -A good report..August, 2010.  The doctor does full body CTscans every 2 months.  I am on maintenance chemo (lighter dose, less frequency) .  He is checking for signs of new cancer activity.  The best news one can get is no new cancer activity.  The scan suggests the maintenance chemo is doing its job ......for now.  A brain MRI suggests the Gamma Knife stopped the 5 small brain tumors discussed in previous update.
green check
Upbeat - I was walking on Bernal Hill just about every day (Bernal Hill is beautiful hill we live on in middle of the city with 360' views.) 

Teaching - starting this last fall I have returned to teaching.  I teach 2 courses each semester.  I really do enjoy it.  Students are marvelous in what they come up with.  One course is the Art 511  Art and Emerging Research.  Students identify areas of scientific or technological research that interests them.  Then they do research to understand how far researchers have gotten and what challenges remain.  Then they mock up an art event that incorporates that information and present it on the web.  For example for the first project this semester -enhancing people's synesthesia, an artificial intelligent sex doll, plastic model of a dream derived from its readings, a tsunami generating machine, a room with levitating magnetic balls via superconducting magnets, law enforcement's use of fmri to find people with criminal tendencies, and a dome for an algae powered amusement park. Here is the link to that course:  Art 511 Art and Emerging Tech

 A hopeful time.  For a while Cancer seems to be giving me a break....
student research
rollardown
Cancer never sleeps.  Cancer spends a lot of time deciding what system it should attack next. Even though a scan is clear, that doesn't mean that cancer has gone away.  The cancer cells are debating what system would be most fun to mess with.  Depending on your aesthetic you could think of it as Whack-a- Mole or the biblical story Job.
body iagram
Roller coaster down.  Funny symptoms begin to appear.  I need to urinate all the time.  The primary doc suggests the endocrinologist do a workup.  She orders hormone blood tests.  Vassopressin which controls urination is low, but so is thyroid, testosterone, and some others.  The pituitary gland is the master gland controlling these hormones.  She orders a pituitary MRI.  (The pituitary is so small - size of a pea -its details don't show up on a regular MRI).  The pituitary MRI shows strange cells.  UCSF's tumor board of experts decides it is cancer of the pituitary.  It is unusual for lung cancer to metastasize to the pituitary but I am famous for wanting to do things that are not standard. 
pituitarypituitary mri
The pea sized pituitary is a powerful gland. (You learn a lot of anatomy in this process.) Troubling symptoms -  low energy, lots of small pains, low levels of thyroid  and testosterone even after starting supplements. The endocrinologist has started hormone supplements but the effect has not been what is expected ... yet. Actually I feel worse than I felt during earlier stages of the cancer -- This is proably the worst shape I've been in. Metabolism is low, losing body weight, chills when everyone else is hot, loss of bone mass, muscle mass, mood, fatigue, body strength, hopefullness. You can see from my tricorder readings that there is strong negative effect on my general well being.My teaching suffers a bit - I am not my usual sparkly self. 

** Hint from Steve - protect your pituitary.

tricorder
rotating arrow

Roller coaster uncertain direction:  The doctor believes a process called fractionated external beam radiotherapy can help.  The pituitary is very small and vulnerable.  The optic chiasm which is crucial to seeing passes right by the pituitary.  Any cancer expansion can damage the pituitary and all its harmones and can damage vision via the optic chiasm.  Any misdirected radiation beam has the same risks.  The most accurate radiation treatments like the gamma knife use beams that are too powerful.  Instead a process of fractionation is used where the total dose is divided into 30 parts.  It is believed that low power beams do not damage normal tissue but do affect the cancer.  The treatment is given every day (except for weekends) for six weeks. A plastic mask is created to help aim the beams. 
beam
My last PET scan in October, 2010 again did not show any new cancer activity but the CEA tumor blood test took a big jump.  Something is going on but it is not quite clear what. Also, the hormone replacements are difficult to get to the right levels.  They keep trying different doses.  There are some signs that they are beginning to work but I still don't feel like those days when I walked on the Hill.  So the direction of the roller coaster is for now a mystery.....
medicine bottles



Life Goes On
Art Making.  I've recently been interested in an experimental technology called energy harvesting.  This extracts electrical energy from everyday activities (such as walking and carrying) and from biological processes such as heartbeats or sap flowing in the trees.  I won a competition for artists who wanted to work with researchers.  I put a group together of 8 teams of artists.  We had a show at UC Berkeley Art Department Gallery. My piece focused on the optimism people have about this technology powering up the third world.  Viewers could spin a big globe and it would bring villages in various countries from night time to day time to movies of ethnic dances to a live webcam.
Here is link to website about the show.
Link to visual summary of harvesting research

energy show
I've given lectures on art and science in over 50 world cities.  I grew up in St. Louis in an area called the University City loop. I would ride my bike over to the St. Louis Art Museum and Washington University.  They were the places I first learned about museums and universities.  I felt it was important to give a lecture in St. Louis just to complete the cycle. 

Also, we have a tight group of people who went to high school together who have kept in touch over the 48 years since we graduated. People who went to other high schools have no expereince with such a long lasting intimate connection.   I've tried to explain to these friends over the years what I do but they were mostly still mystified. Friends flew in from out of town. They made me promise to give a lecture that would explain the art even to regular people.   It was a great reunion.

The museum and art shool teamed up to sponsor the talk.  The audience was part old friends and part students and st. louis art community interested in these new art developments.  St. Louis Jewish Light community newspaper article on lecture.  It was probably one of the strangest audiences I've ever given this lecture to.
st. louis
Sophia and UCDavis.  My daughter just started as a freshman.  Since they are on quarters, she started late September.  Her mother and she had a lot of fun outfitting the dorm room.  Now she seems to be taking advantage of her new independence.  No letters, few telephone calls, an occeasional text message with her mother.  We don't really know what she is thinking about her courses, what activities she is involved with, what kind of friends she has made, etc.  ???????? People tell us this is somewhat normal.
sophia
My wife Cathy has been an amazing solid, affectionate partner in all this.
chagall


Previous Cancer Updates

Update6 - steve cancer saga
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancer6/cancerupdate6.html 

Update 5- steve cancer saga
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancer5/cancerupdate5.html 

Update 4- steve cancer saga
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancer4/cancerupdate4.html

Update 3 - steve cancer saga
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancer3/cancer3v4.html

Update 2 - steve cancer saga
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancerupdate2.html

Update 1 - original page
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/stevecancer/cancer.html

Steve home page  (art works, books, teaching)
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/