The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Big Pharma...

OK - in keeping with the moving things along theme, there are two physical residuals from the second lost year. The first is my power port. It is still implanted in my upper left chest wall, ready to deliver any kind of wonderful drug therapy directly into my heart. My oncologist said that I could have it removed any time I wanted, but that if there was another recurrence I would need to get another one put it. And it is still useful for the CT scans. And it does not hurt or bother me in any physical sense. But it is a constant emotional reminder of severe yuckiness... and I am of mixed thoughts on the value of its presence. Let's just say that the jury is out on whether it is staying or going, and that I will revisit this thinking after my next CT scan in April.

The second residual is this pharmacopeia that remains from my dance with the chemicals... pain relief, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, insomnia, mucle-relaxants, steroids, anti-fungals, mouth sore rinse, anti-heartburn, stool softeners, and even body wash that does not require water. It is amazing what kind of chemical flotsam remains after the chemotherapy ship sails into another port. And I am truly unsure what the proper disposal mechanism should be... any ideas?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Moving on versus moving along

It's February of 2012. I am not sure where all the time goes, but it is sure gone. A little over a month ago we were sharing the sunshine in Hawaii with some dear friends, claiming a little recompense for a trying year. I think we were successful - I know that the warm ocean, the bicycle riding with the Hawaii Bicycle Club, and the luau were a welcome distraction from both the cancer-related knowledge that we gained and the anxious anticipations that characterized 2011. It was a hard journey.

Now I am training my body for healthy, physical challenges in the coming months. I have a number of bicycle rides planned (including my fourth Reach the Beach, and my first Tour des Chutes and Crater Lake Century). I am creating strength in my upper body that I have not felt for 25 years, to match the power and endurance of my legs. I am moving on, and moving along, in physical terms. And I am still monitoring the health of my organic systems too. We had a follow-up appointment with my oncologist, and she is very happy with the state of my bodily affairs. My CEA level - the blood test that singularly signalled the metastases to my liver - is back down to the barely detectable amounts that are characteristic of "normal" for me. I was holding my proverbial breath over the Jan. 21-22 weekend while that test was being carried out, and the phone call from my oncologist's assistant on Jan. 24th was indeed a welcome one.

I am just returned from a cancer survivor visit at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. In 2007, I went to them becuase they were leading an effort in the Pacific Northwest that was meant to ensure that cancer survivors had an integrated and managed follow-up care system. It is surprising to me to know that sometimes cancer patients do not have any kind of coordinated, post-treatment health management plan. So I was (and am) determined to not allow that ball to be dropped in my case. I spoke to a Physician's Assistant for the better part of an hour, describing my general sense of being at peace with where things are (to her repeated amazement, I might add). She wanted to hear about the pains and trials of cetuximab, and a liver resection, and all of the healing that had to happen to get to the place I am at today. She pronounced me mentally well, she laughed with me about the future, she helped me to see that I continue to do the right things, and she asked me a couple of hard questions about my understanding of the next few years. I am still mulling those questions - fodder for future blogging, no doubt. But my mental condition is also good (despite all jokes and friendly observations to the contrary).

I am moving on from another hard chapter. I am glad to be through it, though the lessons will certainly remain with me a while. And I am moving along the journey of living too. There is no obvious ending to declare, there is only patient reflection on what can only be described as an interesting life.