The Great Cancer Adventure

November 13, 2017

- 3 min read

My last chemo was Wednesday, at least for this round, and my last radiation is scheduled for tomorrow, and apparently no matter what’s next, radiation has run its course, which is OK with me.

The Infusion Center at Mercy has this bell we’re encouraged to ring, once chemo is completed, and I rang it then. All the nurses came around and gave us, Betty and me, a round of applause, which was a nice gesture not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of those in chairs, wondering what the future had in store for them. I thought about not doing this, because it’s loud, and many of the other cancer patients were sleeping, but my nurse encouraged me to ring the bell. I was back there today and am scheduled for tomorrow as well for a blood cell booster shot, but was told today I didn’t cheat, because chemo is indeed over.

Couple of curious things….

One, at each of the six chemo sessions in the Infusion Lab I saw patients wrapped in blankets, some of whom were women with shaven heads, who, leaning against the pale walls, seemed about to be absorbed by them. I’m clearly not that sick, at least not now, but this could be my future, too, I know.**
And also, this past Tuesday evening, I received a telephone call from the office of the GI Doc, sayingmy biopsy results had come back negative. For a second, I had a Twilight Zone moment, but then realized this was a courtesy call, coming a bit late perhaps, to let me knowthe colonoscopy results, and not the endoscopy results, were negative, something I’d already known, but appreciated the call nevertheless. Still, a little weird.)

Of the people to whom I’m most closely related by blood (two parents, four grandparents, four siblings), I wouldn’t have said cancer runs in my family. This isn’t to discount my maternal grandmother, who developed breast cancer late in life, nor one of my sisters who’s had three brushes with cancer, but instead to note, by way of contrast, what really runs in my family is heart disease. My maternal grandfather succumbed to heart disease, as did my father among many other ailments. My mother has heart disease of one sort or another, and so does one of my brothers, and I have high blood pressure, which fortunately is under control through diet, exercise and medication. All of which is to say, when asked “does cancer run in your family?” I answered no, with the provisos noted above. My children, however, will have a different response. This is not what I’d most intended to pass along to them as my legacy, but there it is.

I look forward to my appetite and energy level returning which cannot come too soon for me. My mouth and throat seems lined with dust, a common sensation I’m told from the radiation, and very little is appetizing. Boost isn’t only something I can tolerate, it’s actually palatable. Almost. A friend brought us dinner last night (Bison burgers, mashed potatoes and some home-made healthy salad), none of which was on my plate for long, so there does seem to be a light at the end of this tunnel. I also hope to return to the gym in a week or so, something I’ve missed as well, and that’s not like me either. I am coming back, though, as I seem to feel my strength returning. All of which leads me to wonder if indeed I didn’t have some sort of bug just when treatment began, as I am in the very toughest stretch, but actually feel better, for minutes and sometimes hours at a time, than I have for some good while. Or maybe it’s really nothing more than seeing the finish line, for this particular race anyway.

Next steps, after tomorrow, are 1.) Labs and Oncology Doc to see if an additional blood cell booster is indicated and also to schedule testing in two months to ascertain the effectiveness of the treatment to date, and 2.) Radiation Oncology Doc follow up on Wednesday the 22nd, to make certain I’m swallowing OK, just in case. Both radiation and chemo are still working after treatment ends, which means side effects are still possible for a while yet, too. Oh goodie!

This has been a difficult journey to date, and it’s not over yet, as there may need to be a second round of something, but we’ll know more in a couple of months, after testing. In the meantime, I apparently need to make arrangements to have my port flushed every four-six weeks, to make certain it works since the plan’s to keep that in my chest and neck for at least two years. Coming full circle, the Oncology Doc said, if I make the two-year mark, prognosis is good for five or more, which is the short-term goal for now. Two years. Better than the alternative, which again is 6-12 months. This uncertainty might change some retirement plans, such as travel with Betty and the kids, but I think I can adjust. Priorities change.