So, tomorrow I go in for labs and a CT scan, as followup to my recent round of chemo. Wednesday is my followup visit with Dr. Leal. I expect the usual mixed bag of good and indifferent results, as that seems to be the usual pattern. The scan will probably show some improvement in some of my tumors, but probably not as great as the docs would like to see. For whatever reason, and despite their repeated statements that small-cell lung cancer is “very responsive” to chemo, mine doesn’t seem to want to react to it much, at least not as much as it did to radiation last Fall.
As I have mentioned a few times in the past few months, I can tell from how I feel overall that this round has, in fact helped me to feel better, and has ameliorated or altogether gotten rid of the symptoms I was having back in December. I also know that, for whatever reason, the effects of chemo continue to manifest over the months following treatment, so there’s the strong possibility that any scan a couple of months down the road may show further improvement, as happened after the radiation. Glass half-full, and all that. However, that’s pie-in-the-sky right now.
They are also discussing giving me a blood transfusion in order to help compensate for low red-cell and hemoglobin counts. Since these elements are extremely important in transporting oxygen in the bloodstream, such a boost would help me feel more energetic and vital, and would be felt immediately. At first, I heard the term “blood transfusion” and was a bit taken aback, picturing being hooked up to a huge bag of someone else’s blood at one end, and a siphon hose or something at the other! Not true – it’s really just an infusion of hemoglobin derived from donated blood (thank you, anonymous!) to boost my low levels until my body has recovered sufficiently from chemo to be able to manufacture its own supply better.
After talking to some knowledgeable people, I feel more confident in it, and will be ready to give the go-ahead. And I’ll look forward to the boost, as my fatigue has been somewhat bothersome the last couple of months.
That’s the big news today – will report on the actual meeting Wednesday or so, when everything is more concrete.
I’m sure by now that everyone has seen or heard about the big cancer breakthrough reported on 60 Minutes last week. Researchers at Duke University have had amazing success with a terrible form of brain cancer, called glioblastoma, by injecting a modified form of the Polio virus directly into brain tumors. Apparently, the virus triggers the body’s immune system to start attacking the tumor, and only the tumor. After several months, patients were found to have almost no tumor remaining, which is near-miraculous for a cancer that usually kills in a matter of months. Of course, there were setbacks, and other patients did not respond well to the treatment, but the greater result is quite hopeful.
As I watched the clip, I felt two things at once: first was gratitude for being here, in this time and place, to see, and possibly benefit, from such an incredible breakthrough. I am glad for the study patients who have been given a second chance by this therapy, and I really hope it all pans out and becomes a truly new and effective treatment for a sneaky and pernicious disease.
The second was a big shock of caution. This, too, is pie-in-the-sky at this point. It’s totally legit, unlike all the snake-oil “cures” well-meaning friends have cornered me about over the months. But it’s very early days, and it will be many months or years before it becomes widely available, if it even does at all. But I felt that rush of “maybe I can do that” for a moment before I stopped myself.
I can now, truly, understand the lure of snake-oil. I have watched my dear wife deal with this kind of thing for years. I have understood it intellectually, and brought all my natural skepticism to such fantasies. But it was never truly personal for me as it is now. She is incredibly strong and has taught me so very much about maintaining hope and love of life in the face of being dealt a really bad hand. And she has felt the lure, and has been stung by disappointment, and has had to get up and continue on despite it all. I can only hope to emulate that strength, and I am, most of all, grateful for her example.
In the end, I’m reminded that my main job is to hang around long enough that something like this might come along and change things for me. But until then, my most valuable asset is confidence. Confidence in my doctors and nurses, in my treatment; in the people into whose hands I’ve literally placed my life. That confidence allows me to stay positive, and thus to enjoy my life right now, which is all I really have. It was good for me to see this clip, and even to have the mixed feelings I had about it. I felt rather uncomfortable and a bit disturbed by it for a couple of days, but it helped me to clarify what’s important. I can’t waste energy waiting around for a miracle-cure, and I can’t waste time looking for a magic pill. Living now is what I need to do. If and when such a thing becomes real, that will be a great day. But until then, it’s Spring, the world is bright with sunshine, and I’m heading out into it.