October 6, 2012
After a wonderful, chemo-free summer, I’ve learned I’ll be undergoing scans of some sort (PET or CT) about every three months. The results are in from my 9/25 PET scan. The good news: no new areas of avidity (glowing from intake of radioactive glucose injected before scan; one sign of cancer). The news I took as “uh oh!”: the area around the primary tumor is glowing a bit more; a ‘minimal’ SUV (Standardized Uptake Value) of 2.9 in March has increased to a ‘moderate’ 3.7. Mostly, the results are good; the evidence is that the cancer hasn’t spread. But perhaps the tumor I’d hoped was dead is merely dormant. Should I worry about this? Probably not. If worrying cured cancer, it would have been eradicated millennia ago.
Other than the “Should I be worried about this?” note I have in to my pulmonologist, my intention is to focus on enjoying my favorite season. Joan and I will be joined by friends at Santa Anita today where we’ll bet on long shots and enjoy gorgeous views and cooler Fall sunshine. Tomorrow we’ll put up the Halloween decorations and Monday will be the start of another challenging work week.
In other words, I’ll put one foot in front of the other and enjoy my metaphorical walk through these ever-changing woods.
October 15, 2011
I’ve been a little blue over the past month. The atypical glumness came with the deaths, in rapid succession, of several people I cared for. Despite their passion, humor and tenacity, they didn’t manage to hang on to the life they loved so fiercely. Perhaps I believed deep down that, somehow, fighters will prevail; against disease, against the ups and downs of life. How true my former belief is not saddened me for weeks. It all seemed overwhelmingly unfair.
Then this week arrived, and my scalp started sprouting baby-fine peach fuzz. I was initially elated, then depressed thinking that it’ll soon fall out once chemo begins again. Baldness isn’t the end of the world, but I really do miss my hair. Today brought some good news: Wednesday’s CT scan showed normal sized lymph nodes, and a minuscule reduction to the primary tumor. My oncologist will have tissue from January’s biopsy sent for ALK mutation testing to see whether I’d be a candidate for that new wonder drug, Crizotinib. I’ll begin a new regimen of prednisone to reduce lung inflammation, undergo another PET scan in two months. Oh yes, AND for now we’re holding off on more chemo. I may have hair by Thanksgiving!
So, I get to spend the next few months buzzing around like the Engergizer Bunny (side effect of prednisone). This means that all my clothes will soon be mended and ironed, we’ll have an extremely clean house for the holidays, and maybe we won’t have to cancel our Christmas party, after all.
Nothing has really changed: Those who recently died are still dead, I still have cancer and we haven’t hit the super lotto just yet. What I do have more of this week: hope and a little peach fuzz.
April 30, 2011
Joan and I spent the better part of yesterday, 7 hours, at Kaiser. We arrived early to get the necessary chemo blood work done. Woo hoo; I passed! Had a pleasant late breakfast in their cafeteria. Hey, any cafeteria serving up freshly made biscuits and gravy along with the oatmeal, yogurt and tofu is alright with me! Then, up to the 8th floor for the first of two second line chemo treatments. In a little after 10am, out around 3:30pm. Nurse Yvonne took care of me with her usual calm, down-to-earth efficiency, and the session went well with nary a hint of scary side effects beyond usual benadryl-induced spaciness. Even got some work projects wrapped up via iPad…AFTER benadryl wore off.
Joan and I were “treated” to listening to the neighboring patient’s choice of entertainment: Jerry Springer and his circus of PWT dysfunctionals. This episode featured a daughter, in her 20s, and her not quite middle-aged mother, who were fighting over the same creepy man (daughter had 3 kids by him from teenaged affair). As planned, mom and daughter engaged in obligatory name-calling, escalating to a hairpulling, bitch-slap fest. All this backed by a chorus of “JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!” from the audience, who seemed to be hoping for a bloodbath.
At that point, Nurse Yvonne came to our rescue and got neighbors to turn down their tv volume. Whew!
My take-away: maybe my relationship with my mom isn’t so difficult after all. My mother, for all her quirks, never once stole one of my boyfriends…or girlfriends. And, while I’m capable of swearing like a merchant marine, I would never use those terms against my mother. In 57 years, I’ve heard my mother say, “damn” once…and it was directed at my father, who deserved that and more. And, the only slapping between mom and me was a few rare whacks to my seat…all administered long before I ventured near puberty.
So, thank you, Jerry Springer! You’ve made me grateful for three things:
- I never have to listen to Jerry Springer again (will bring ear buds to next chemo session…just in case).
- My wife will probably never dump me for my mother.
- Feeling morally superior, however briefly, to Jerry’s guests…and audience. It distracted me from worrying…and that’s worth something.
My next chemo session is scheduled for May 20. Then, we wait a month for another scan to see if all that extra carboplatin and taxol worked. The concurrent radiation and chemo therapies I underwent in February and March seem to have obliterated the tumor that had completely blocked one of my airways. There was a modest shrinkage to the other tumor and cancerous lymph nodes. I’m rooting for this heavier chemo to bitch-slap the remaining cancer right out of my body; even if it rips the rest of my hair out in the process.
(JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!)