Monday, 28 November 2011
AND THE ANSWER IS....WHAT?
At 7:00 a.m., I’m rolling up my sleeve for the blood technician. I’ve spent the night tossing and turning, and manage under two hours of solid sleep – and now I have a two hour wait to see the oncologist. Wendy and Heather show up in the waiting room at 8:45 and Terry, the oncology nurse herds us into a small examining room.
The usual questions are asked and answered. Any numbness or tingling in my fingers or toes? Problems with nausea? Ringing or buzzing in my ear? Nausea? Any repeat of feeling light-headed and faint?
Dr. MacNeil arrives and checks the results of the blood work. Once again, my immune system is not good enough for chemo, which means that on Wednesday, I have to go in two hours before my scheduled chemo for another blood test. If that one is okay, round three begins.
She shows us the X-rays of my lungs. The tumour is getting smaller. Not a lot smaller, I think – but Wendy says there’s a big difference and the Doctor tells me it could have grown, in spite of the treatment – so she’s happy with results so far. As far as my crappy reaction to the last round of chemo and steroids, she tells me I’m in the 1% group of patients who react that badly. Tough luck. Down some Ativan and suck it up. She doesn’t say that. She explains that I will be hideously sick if I don’t take the meds. There’s a reason that nurses used to call Cisplaten, “Cisflatten.” It’s a vicious drug.
The radiation oncologist, Dr. Bowes, calls me in the afternoon. Radiation will not begin until the fourth round on December 21. And then it will run for fifteen days, with the exceptions of holidays and weekends. Meanwhile, a cast of my back will be constructed and my chest will be tattooed so that I can lay in the cast in the exact same position for each session. The tattoo will allow them to direct the laser to the precise spot. And by the way, I’ll need another cat scan.
I mention that often radiation is used in palliative care and I ask, “The chemo kills the DNA of the cells, right? So exactly what is the radiation supposed to do.? He agrees about the palliative care but explains that radiation also stops the cells from spreading. What? I mean isn’t the idea that chemo kills the tumour?
Apparently they hope so but there are no guarantees. Dr. Bowes explains that with neuroendocrine cancer, there is the possibility it’s already spread to other areas than the brain – but is not detectable on scans. That is why, he says, they are treating it as aggressively as possible – and why they will be following up with X-rays and scans on a regular basis.
On the up side, he isn’t expecting I’ll have terrible side effects from the radiation on my chest. Fatigue, maybe a rash, trouble swallowing. “But we can address some of that if it happens,” he adds. He reminds me that after a break of a few weeks, I need to have another two weeks of radiation on my brain – just to make sure nothing of the tumour remains, lurking out of sight of the scanning equipment.
So, to sum up: Christmas Day, I will be still be on steroids. However (Merry Christmas)…it will be the very last day I have to take them. I should be finished treatment, sometime in February.
That is, I will be finished until the next X-ray, the next scan and the next and the next.
What the hell, how much fun is life if don’t have to constantly wonder whether you’ll have one?
If this doesn’t teach me the fine art of staying firmly in the present, nothing will!