Friday, August 23, 2013

numbers

hey!  one more chemo round done.  three more to go.  at five treatments, i suppose that means i have officially turned the corner toward the chemo finish line (which is still a ways off. assuming things go as planned i will be done with chemo toward the end of october).  i'm on a new med for these last four rounds.  i guess, following the law of diminishing returns, chemo meds (or at least the ones i'm getting) begin to lose their potency on the tumor after about six rounds (though the crummy side-effects only increase), so rather than keep me on the meds i was on for the first four rounds, they give me a new start essentially, with a new med, though the cumulative effect (side-effect-wise) of chemo doesn't go away with a new med, so i could very well continue to be more and more worn out with each round.  however, this med isn't supposed to produce much in the way of nausea, which was one of the least pleasant (though rather mild given the good anti-nausea meds they have these days) side-effect from the last drugs.  this new med however, will give me lots of good joint and bone and muscle pain, though the silver lining in that is that if i make the good choice, i'll be able to attribute that feeling to the chemo and keep my paranoia in check that the cancer's metastasized to my bones.  there is something of a safety-net feeling while you're on treatment.  i start to get a little nervous toward the end of my three-week period that the cancer's revving back up again.  as much as i hate the feeling chemo gives me, as much as it's not good for me in some unknown number of long-term ways, it's a relief to know it's in there and presumably killing some huge number of cancer cells.   

and the news from my oncology appointment yesterday was encouraging.  when the doctor felt the tumor (as accurate as that might be) he said he thought it was at about 3 cm (by 2 cm by ??cm).  this down from it's highest point at 11 cm (based on the mri, which may have overestimated) or the first oncologist's measurements of 8 cm.  and there we can already see the diminishing returns, given that after two rounds it had decreased by about half.  so thank you, thank you epirubicin and cyclophosphamide for doing your job, and may you go on your way helping others and i will go on my way and we will not look back and i'll visit with taxotere for awhile and i will take my bone marrow booster and my flucanozole and my steroids to try to stave off the count drop and the swelling and the yeast infections it has no choice but to want to give me.  and i will be happy doing this.  i'm happy, because yesterday the doctor used the word 'marvelous' to describe how well he thought the tumor was responding to treatment, and he gave me his own, tailored-to-my-case, in his own opinion, off the top of his head, no data included, five-year survival statistic of in the 70's to 80's percent, which sounded quite alright to me.  he didn't throw it out unprompted mind you. he didn't say mine was the most amazing case he'd ever seen and that he should retire right then and there on the highest of high points in his career (he is only in his 40's, but how cool would that have been?!).  no, no-- after i made it clear to him with my begging to give me a number, any number, higher than zero please, and, if at all possible, something over fifty, he gave a long talk about how the numbers don't really reflect a real person, how they're already outdated, how they don't fit my specific and somewhat unique (in that I'm young, in that I have (so far) had a good response to the chemo, and in the fact that I'm getting chemo before, rather than after surgery) circumstances, and how the numbers only say whether a person lived or died at the five year mark and not whether they died of cancer or old age or from being hit by the phantom bus.  he did that tiptoeing around until i convinced him that i really did still want a number to stick into my head.  that it would make a difference in my outlook-- that to know i have a fighting chance and that not all stage 3's eventually, whether it's tomorrow or 20 years down the road, turn into stage 4's, to know that I might never have to go through chemotherapy again or have somebody tell me I have cancer, again... just to know there's a chance that this really could be one year out of my life and never again and that i might, just might live to be 91... 

after that, he threw out the numbers, and i took them.  

and i need to remember that i didn't just walk out into the street one day (not yet at least) and get hit by that phantom bus.  i walked into a doctor's office in a country with excellent health care and was told i would get the most up-to-date treatment for a curable cancer.  i absolutely cannot complain about any of it.  

5 comments:

Kendee said...

Wonderful news, Reggie Baby! I think you should write a book after this. Your writing is fabulous :)! Way to fight! Love ya sweetie!

nina said...

So did you go out and have a celebratory goat cheese salad? :)

Congrats for these stellar results. Numbers too, but mainly for shrinking the bad stuff right out of your system!

Judy said...

We met just a year ago but this news makes me have tears of happiness, seriously!

Phyllis Noble said...

It's that business about the cumulative nasties ... We'll be keeping you especially close in our hearts during the next two months. You've taken such excellent care of yourself, have kept your body and mind so strong and healthy. Thanks for taking care of US with your writing.

greg|regan said...

Thanks Kendee!

No, no, Nina! Though I've had goat cheese a couple times since that first round, it may never be on the list of celebratory salads again.

Judy-- we really need to hang out again before you leave. Perhaps lunch on Tuesday after my class?? Will you see this message before that?

Phyllis-- a day after the taxotere and I'm feeling like I've had no chemo at all. Might be the higher dose of steroids they have me on... maybe... but I have to say, I'm liking this one a lot more than the other two so far. Even spent a day walking around Copenhagen!