11/9/2017

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 has this bell that we’re encouraged to ring once Chemo is completed, and I rang it then. All the nurses came around and gave me a round of applause, which was a nice gesture not only for my 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 that I did not cheat, because Chemo is indeed over. 

This past Tuesday evening, I received a telephone call from the office of the GI Surgeon, saying that my biopsy results came back negative. For a second, I had a Twilight Zone moment, but then realized that this was a courtesy call, coming a bit late perhaps, to let me know that the colonoscopy results were negative, something I had already known, but appreciated the call nevertheless. Still, a little weird. 

Of the people to whom I am most closely related by blood (two parents, four grandparents, four siblings), I would not have said that cancer runs in my family. This is not 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, that what really runs in my family is heart disease. My maternal grandfather succumbed to that, 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, that 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 had most intended to pass along to them, 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 is not only something I can tolerate, it actually tastes good. 

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 Oncologist on Friday the 17th, to see if an additional Blood Cell Booster is indicated and also to schedule testing in two months and 2.) Radiation Oncologist follow up on Wednesday the 22nd, to make certain I am swallowing OK, just in case; both Radiation and Chemo are still working after treatment ends, which means that 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 that testing. In the meantime, I apparently need to make arrangements to have my port flushed ever four-six weeks, to make certain it works since the plan is to keep that in my chest and neck for two years. Coming full circle, the Oncologist said that if I make the two-year mark, prognosis is good for five or more, and that’s the intermediate 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.