Had my third cycle of chemo yesterday.
Met with Dr. Leal to go over blood work numbers and my CT scan results from Tuesday. My blood work numbers were generally OK, with a few somewhat-below good but acceptable results, so she OK’ed this cycle. I lost a little bit more weight which concerned her (and me) but the upshot is: EAT MORE FOOD. That will be my mission, and a fun mission at that! It’s kinda nice to have essentially carte-blanche from my doc to stuff myself with high-calorie, high-value food whenever I want.
The CT scan showed no appreciable shrinkage of my tumors, and no appreciable growth of same. This also concerned her, as she was hoping for a bigger bang out of this round than has been seen so far. The type of cancer I have is usually more responsive to chemo, but for whatever reason, mine is a stubborn little bastard. On that basis, she will stop me at the 4th cycle with another final followup scan. I had to process this for awhile, but my attitude remains the same: I count it as a good that there has been no growth of my tumors. And based on how I feel day-to-day, I still believe all this treatment has been very worthwhile, and has benefitted me immensely. I have seen a number of unpleasant symptoms almost completely disappear, and I am able to lead an almost completely normal life, with very few and very limited concessions to this disease.
I know it’s her duty to bring up planning for the future with an eye toward dealing with the consequences of progression of this disease, and I told her I hear that, and am seriously contemplating it, which is my only responsible course of action. Remember, the care I am getting is not aimed at a cure, but at life-extension and quality-of-life maintenance. This is the heart of my reality. But, nothing is written in stone, and I still aim to live every day completely, and to keep my focus on doing that.
I spoke for quite awhile with the Palliative Care doc, Karen. She was absolutely great to talk to, very much a straight-shooter, and really helped my to refocus my thoughts about the future and what Jeanette and I might expect to have to deal with in the event I become too sick to care for her. I realized we are so very lucky to have a virtual army of loving friends and family who have been so very generous in offering their time and talents in that capacity already. So far, I have been well enough not to need that kind of help, although, believe me, I feel honored to have so many of you-all offer it to us! Karen was very glad to hear that, and encouraged us to think along the lines of how best to avail ourselves of that help when the time comes that we need it, the goal being to stay in our house as long as possible.
Then there is the issue of, do I want to be considered “full-code” – full resuscitation – or otherwise, and how I would want a red-lights type medical crisis like that to be handled. I told her that this prospect is so abstract and far-off because I feel so good and normal now, that it’s hard to think about it in any useful way. She said, yes, of course it is, but that now is the time to think about it and make rational decisions, rather than wait for the sirens to blare and make such decisions in haste and under the worst-possible circumstances. Or, worse, to dump them on Jeanette or my family. Indeed. I suppose, all of us getting older, it’s something to consider. It’s just a bit more, er, present for me now.
The chemo treatment itself was surprisingly quick, as I had hoped, and the staff were all great, as usual. I have to say, I have been extremely pleased with everyone I have dealt with at UW Health and especially at the Carbone Center. We are lucky to have this place and these people here in Madison.
This is some of the stuff they infuse me with. I like the big, loud orange warning stickers. Rather impressive, yes? Not shown: the full-on protective garb the nurses wear as they administer it. The red substance in the syringes is the “A” in my CAV regimen, Adriamycin. It comes out that color as well.
This is the highly-advanced remedy for the side effect of mouth irritation caused by the Adriamycin. Administered orally during injection.
My big reward for being there all day was to play a super-fun Steely Dane gig afterward, down in beautiful Lake Geneva, WI. If you aren’t aware, Steely Dane is a rotating collective of Madison musician all-stars (which for some odd reason seems to include yours-truly) and we had a private, corporate party gig that night. So it was out the door ASAP, into the cold, cold car and off an hour and a half south to Lake Geneva.
One of the nicer side benefits of this type of gig is that the band is usually fed before hitting the stage. I was treated to a mighty fine steak with a topping of crunchies and sauteed mushrooms and a tasty demiglasse, lovely asparagus and mashed potatoes on the side, a nice salad, some kind of wrapped chicken appetizer, and a dessert of puff pastry filled with molten chocolate. I ate every last tidbit. Body FED.
The gig was super-fun, as always, and I was home by 12:30. Didn’t sleep too well, and had some stomach issues due to the vast amount of nasty medicines flowing inside me, but that is an unfortunate but expected side effect in the immediate aftermath. I napped a bit today, and am on a special anti-nausea med with the weird side effect of causing hiccups. HIC. Well, I only take it through Saturday, so I will put up with it as best I can. HIC.
I am happy to say that I have somewhat mastered that taste/smell effect of the chemo, in that, when I have a bout of it now, I simply eat right through it, not letting it ruin the joy of food for me as it sort of did last summer. Hot sauce helps quite a bit, hence my late obsession with tacos! However, I am less-than-happy to report a new and rather annoying side-effect: a persistent nasal drip. It’s like having a runny nose all the time, and has led to some rather embarrassing moments in the last week or so, not to mention a rubbed-raw nose from constant wiping. Vasoline is a great remedy for this irritation. I assume this will persist until after my current course is completed, so if you see me with a kleenex in hand, you’ll know why.
I will be travelling again to the hospital next week for more immune-boosting shots to ward off neutropenia, because of the vagaries of insurance. I can’t believe that two CTs and an MRI, not to mention all my time with docs and the chemo clinic, haven’t put me WAY over the out-of-pocket cutoff yet. ‘Tis a mystery.
That’s about all for now. Will post with anything relevant or amusing as it occurs. Will I be lucky enough to see the Return of Cooter? Who knows?!