Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Light at the End of a Long Tunnel

Howdy everyone! I thought I would update you on my progress and go-forward plan, as of yesterday…

My laparascopic surgery on Friday went about as well as can be expected. I went in, they knocked me out, and then they looked inside of me. When I woke up, I spent about 2 hours recovering and then went home. By Monday, I was off the pain medication and I feel fine. My surgeon was the same guy that found the cancer in me in May and so he was the perfect person to look again. According to him, my cancer is 99.5% gone.

That is mixed news. 99.5% is a lot of cancer to kill, but any cancer is still cancer. We have to do something about the last 0.5%. So I went to my clinical doctor yesterday to talk about options. These are my options.
  • Option 1: Continue with the treatments that I have been getting (biochemotherapy). Obviously something is working, why stop now? The disadvantage is that this treatment has some bad permanent side effects that have already started appearing in me. Loss of hearing and loss of feeling in my feet (neuropathy). This treatment also wreaks havoc on my bone marrow, a potentially dangerous side effect.

  • Option 2: Switch to a new treatment, High-Dose Interkeukin-2. I have already been getting Interleukin (IL-2, Proleukin) in my biochemotherapy. This treatment would only give me this drug, but would increase the dose to about 10 times what I have been receiving. The advantage of this treatment is that its effects (the good ones) can be permanent. The doctor likened it to the polio vaccine I had when I was a baby. I still haven’t gotten polio, even though I got the vaccine 31 years ago. The disadvantage of this treatment is that it is very rough. I have to be in the ICU and there is a real risk of heart attack. However, once the drugs are gone out of my system, all the side effects go away. No permanent side effects.

So, we decided on option 2. I go back into the hospital on Monday, and will probably be there 10 days or so. I have to get a new PICC line, so I will be back to “real cancer patient” for a while. The really bad news is that the doctor wants to do at least 4 cycles of this new treatment. That will last at least until the end of January. That takes school next semester off the table. I have to admit, I am really bummed about that.

So, what do I think about this? I felt like I was losing my steam during the last two treatments, and I was looking forward to being done (understatement). I didn’t think I would still be doing therapy in January. I feel reenergized from the good report (great report, actually), but I worry that I don’t have the stamina for 3.5 – 4 months of treatment. It really doesn’t matter anyway, not doing the therapy is not an option, and neither is failing. My job for the last 6 months has been “Cancer Warrior”.

I guess it is time to get back to work.