Andrew's name came to our attention in March 2010, in a conversion with one of the specialist nurses following a hospital appointment when we had tried, but failed, to make much headway discussing with one of the registrars drug trials which might be open to Steve if his "stable" condition deteriorated.
I googled the name, found a link in a newspaper article which lead me to an e-mail address, and I made contact. To my surprise and delight, Andrew replied the same day, giving me his thoughts about clinical trials, surgery and novel treatments and a whole lot of contacts, links and a paper about a drug which showed some promise based on research in mice (Zometa).
At that time, he was just over three years post-diagnosis, had had standard and other chemo, taken part in an intra pleural gene therapy drug trial in Philadelphia, was taking biphosonates (Zometa) and Celocoxib as a pain killer for an unrelated shoulder injury (Celocoxib is a NSAID which may have some anti-tumour activity). By then, he had less tumour than when originally diagnosed and had cycled across Cambodia for a week. We were impressed!
He also drew our attention to "The median isn't the message" by Stephen J Gould. If you haven't read it, please take a look by clicking this live link. If nothing else, it will help you put those awful mesothelioma survival statistics into perspective.
Our next contact was in September 2010, after I read Andrew's article in Oncology Times Reflections from a Nightmare Patient. Amongst other things, the article tells of his fight to be treated with Zometa and Celocoxib. The arguments in the article reflect the discussion currently going on in relation to the Saatchi Bill about the need for innovative treatment. At that time, Andrew was about to have a pleurectomy, in order to get on a trial of a stem cell based immunotherapy vaccine.
In December 2010, Andrew told me that he had survived the surgery, albeit with some persisting pain, and was taking part in the drug trail as planned. After the operation, he had three sets of radiotherapy to treat the solitary metastasis, but it hadn't stopped him enjoying life, including "some" cycling, as he described it (from Bankok to to Phuket!) and skiing, as wells academic things.
In April 2013, he told me he was doing very well, albeit bothered by the pain from radiotherapy. He was continuing to take Zometa every two months, and also taking part in the WT-1 vaccine trial. That trial is still recruiting in the USA. You can read about it by clicking here.
Our last exchange of e-mails was in December 2013, when I had sounded Andrew out about the options open to Steve, now we knew his meso was on the move again.
At that time, Andrew was on chemo again after a recurrence. But he was almost at 7 years post-diagnosis, 3.5 years pre-surgery and coming up to 3.5 years post surgery. He described himself as "disabled to some extent" although he had cycled Tuscany that summer! Near the end of the e-mail he said "recently, I'm dealing with some post treatment issues, but hey, only one child left at school and I'll live to see her fly the nest!"
With such an upbeat attitude, I expected Andrew Lawson to carry on cycling and being active in the mesothelioma community for a long time to come. It was therefore a deep shock to hear yesterday that he had died last week and with much sadness that I dedicate today's blog to Andrew Lawson, doctor, academic, writer, cyclist, meso warrior, husband and father (and probably a lot of other wonderful things too...) It was a privilege to know him, if only in the cyber world. Thank you Andrew for your words of wisdom and support.
Andrew was on the Steering group of the Mesothelioma Priority Setting Partnership (PSP). If you or your loved one has mesothelioma and you do nothing else this week, please complete the PSP survey and help carry on the good work he has started, along with others in the partnership.
Please click here to compete the survey online or download a PDF copy to print and send in by post. Thank you.