Chemo … my chemical romance with the future

My oncology doctor called and asked me to come in. She wants to discuss my future treatment.

Due to the characteristics of my cancer, my treatment plan has often see-sawed between: do this, cancel that, try this, let’s do next … just a week ago they told me that I could possibly skip the 12 weeks of chemo planned for January-March 2014. Today they say that is still the plan but they recommend continuing with my current chemo past December 13th and continue it into early January.

>>> The GOOD NEWS: Am doing well in all of my checkups. Just last week my internist raved how they ran every body fluid test imaginable and that I passed with flying colors. Some test results even improved from good to better. Not a single test result yielded concern.

Yet I must tell you that I feel like a shell of myself from just a few weeks ago. Yes, that is me just whining. I know that I am going to live and to have a good life to come … but … this has been a very tough week. Doing both daily radiation and chemo has taken its toll on me after six weeks. I am ‘alive’ and that is as good as I feel right now.

Docs says that I am doing ‘great’ … as expected … =^) … but they also want to extend my chemo past December 13th because of the theory: comeback could be a bitch. Since there is no intent of a ‘cure’, just the ability to overwhelm  the cancer now and to manage the cancer in the future, then let’s try to do this right the first time.

I can do the extra treatment … but I barely feel human at this point. Chemo makes the world taste, smell and feel like your body is full of ashes 24/7.

Please excuse my whining. I am an Optimist and  am doing my best to live up to that moniker … but …

UPDATE 8/27: Chemo for life … a lifelong battle begins

Yesterday was a long day. Met with doctors from the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed Hospital.They presented me with the Cancer Board’s findings and recommendations.

It was good news and bad news, but overall not new news. BSCC cancer always comes back.

Back in 2011 they felt positive that they had removed all of my cancer. There was no treatment other than surgery. This time around I am advised that I will need to take chemotherapy for life in what will be a lifelong battle for my life. Murtha doctors recommended that I replace the word ‘cure’ with ‘fun’ — as in I should focus on enjoying life and being with family.

So what will chemo for life get me? They do not know. It is a gamble. Two or 20 or 30 years are possible.

The ugly chemo will last about 12 weeks, starting in early September. There are major side effects, or as noted in my counseling: there are some less common but possible side effects. Just under ten percent of chemo patients taking this cocktail have heart attacks and experience strokes.

What comes next will then be a new form of chemo that has relatively mild side effects — and since I am otherwise in very good health then that is when I should be able to resume life. The stipulation is that we must assume that there is no defeating this cancer. My treatment plan will focus on constantly seeking out cancer cells and trying to keep them under control either through majority eradication or slowing their growth.

If all goes well … life is what it is. I am an optimist. I am giving myself no other choice.


UPDATE 8/24: Cancer, Coffee and Cookies

Life is good.

I find it bothersome that I cannot drive when I want. It makes me feel like a 15 year old teen: life is awaiting me if only there was a ride to where life is.

On the other hand, riding in cars currently unhinges me. The left side of my chest and left shoulder blade remain scratched up from the surgery. Basic healing of that should take another few weeks. So far I have left home twice, once to go to church at the Reverend Al’s place and once to the movies … and to go to the doctor’s office for followup health checks.

This coming week starts consultation with the hematology-oncology folks. Will start chemo in September. There is no known effective chemo therapy for BSCC cancer — but since the cancer has shown that it will return, and is mobile in where it returns, then chemo will be one approach to battling or slowing my next battle with it.

Perhaps the more significant fight against cancer’s return will be to eat a some strict anti-cancer diet. I started such a diet in mid-2011 but admit to having strayed. I did eat all the things that I should … but I also ate (often after the first year of recovery) many of the things that I should not: beef, dairy, bread and simple carbs — all of the blessed tasty stuff in life. There will be the occasional chili dog and beer in my life but only on holidays; have considered moving to Germany where they have 22 official holidays annually.

Life is good. I have no complaints. With diligence and proactive advocation for appropriate health care with the doctors then I expect to have decades of good quality life ahead.

Stay curious. Ask questions. Not all answers to your questions are correct. Be your own advocate. Eat chili dogs if the chance presents itself … just not too often.