OK. I was scheduled to get my 11th (and last) treatment last Thursday. At the previous monthly appointment with my doctor, we had talked about the endgame for my chemo-therapy, and had agreed that the "final" (12th) treatment could be avoided. (Given that my family has had a special vacation planned for December to celebrate the end of chemo, I had decided that I did not want to spend any vacation time feeling chemo-crummy.) So, #11 on November 29 would be the last one... if my blood work was OK. On the 28th I had a blood test to see if the trip to Portland was even needed (this after a reduced dosage of both oxaliplatin and fluorouracil during treatment #10 AND five injections of neupogen to encourage the growth of white cells and neutrophils). The results were mixed (WBC was too low - 2.7 when I need at least 3.0 - while the ANC was a protocol-minimum 1.5), so we decided that it was worth the trip on the 29th.
No go. The blood work up at the clinic in Portland was significantly different from the previous day's test results. WBC was a 2.1 and ANC was 1.3, both far too low to withstand the impact of chemo-therapy. No treatment #11 (unless I want to, ummm, come back a week later for another roll of the bloodwork dice). No thank you, really. I did not get treatment #11, and #12 is off the calendar completely. I need to enjoy this vacation, and I want my family to be able to enjoy it even more. Being tired, and cranky-stinky - well, that doesn't sound like a fun guy to be (or be with) on a vacation. So, the chemo-therapy part of this colon cancer thing is over! But, what about the implications for my "cure" probability?
I am not qualified in any medical sense to speak authoritatively on that question. But, ten solid treatments are under my proverbial belt, though there have been three increasingly difficult delays. Peripheral neuropathy on the rise, even with decreasing dosages. I trust that my body has been hammered pretty hard by this treatment regimen, and that it is telling me that it has had enough. And everyone is different - on so many levels - that the prescribed length and dosage of treatment must be a variable that is flexible. The toxicity of the chemicals used to treat cancer is intentional, in order to wipe out those hypothetically "fast-growing" cancer cells. My body has been surprisingly strong in dealing with the bi-weekly introduction of liquid poison. My fingertips and feet tingle all the time, and I am very sensitive to cold and heat. My insides are producing gases that should not EVER be released in an enclosed space. And the high fatigue right after treatment had extended from 4 days to about 6 days... and now all of that is only going to improve!
Every day is a day closer to a new normalcy, without the added mental weight of anticipating negative blood counts or the infusion of toxic chemistry. I can work on strength recovery, and look forward to daily walks to work. And the vacation is just around the corner.
Now that's a silver lining.
(PS - the next step is a CT scan on December 27th to check the status of my insides (basically looking for anything unusual) followed by a post-chemo appointment with my oncologist in early January and a colonoscopy later in the spring.)