The Star-News

Trial of a lifetime

Sat, Feb 16 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

I'm getting ready to start my trial. Not a criminal or civil trial, but a clinical one. It has been four years, to the week, that my wife and I received that gut-shot pronouncement from the gastroenterologist: “Tom has cancer.”

Those of you who read me regularly know what has happened since then. I’ve had chemotherapy, 48 radiation sessions, three surgeries, a colostomy, a bunch more chemo sessions, and a targeted cancer drug infusion that made my face look like a Halloween mask and the rest of my body resemble a modern-day leper.

The colorectal cancer mestasticised into my lungs and that’s what I’m messing with now. I don’t have lung cancer. I have colorectal cancer that has migrated to the lungs. Fortunately, it skipped the other major organs usually associated with cancer. Unfortunately, the treatment they gave me was successful for a while, but the cancer cells figured out a way to outsmart the treatment, or build up a resistance to it, making the treatment ineffective.

All is not lost, however. I did qualify for a clinical trials program at the Moores Cancer Center, affiliated with the University of California at San Diego. My second opinion doctor, Tony Reid, is heading up the study.
When I initially sought the second opinion at the Moores Cancer Center I was beside myself with doubt and remorse.

My original oncologist is Dr. Marilyn S. Norton and I can’t say enough good things about her. I reluctantly and apologetically told her I would like to get a second opinion, but I felt guilty about doing it.

Dr. Norton swatted me on the arm with the back of her hand and said, “We love second opinions. Don’t feel bad.”

Although Dr. Reid at Moores sees a few patients, he does mostly research. Along with his M.D. he has a Ph.D. too.

He’s no second-stringer.

Back then, Dr. Reid agreed with Dr. Norton’s treatment plan so I resumed going back to her after meeting a few times with Dr. Reid. (It’s much easier to drive to Sharp Chula Vista hospital than it is to go to La Jolla.) So, when the treatment I just had failed and the lung lesions started to grow again, I went back to Dr. Reid who is heading up the clinical trials study.

For those of you who don’t know, a clinical trial offers medicines that are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Science research professionals who think they are onto something begin by experimenting their findings on animals (Sorry PETA folks. If you don’t like animals being used, please go down to the research center and offer up your own bodies).

As for me, I’d like to live long enough to enjoy a few craft beers and the companionship of my wife and sons and their families.

The people who run the clinical trials monitor the patients closely for changes in their bodies and the effect of the drug on their illness. If bad side effects begin to surface, they take you off the program. If everyone experiences bad side effects, the drug is withdrawn. If you don’t experience bad side effects, but the drug isn’t effective against the illness, they take you off the program.

So far the drug I will be receiving has been in the mix for a year with mostly favorable results. The drug doesn’t work on everyone so we will see how I am affected.


The Chula Vista Police Historical Foundation is working rapidly to make their museum a reality.
The foundation will, for a year, soon take over the space presently occupied by the Japanese exhibit at Third Avenue and Park Way.

Among other things they are seeking is a red cloth sweater worn by the school safety patrol kids in the ’70s.

Contact me at The Star-News if you have an old one in the attic.

Basinski is a retired police officer and Chula Vista resident.

© 2009 The Star-News