|I might be the first person in history to be happy to migrate from South Korea to North Korea.|
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma on July 30. When I hung up the phone after speaking to my doctor, I didn't know what to think. I couldn't think, really. I didn't know what anything meant, didn't know one type of lymphoma from any other, didn't really know what chemotherapy was. All I knew was that I had cancer, and cancer can be fatal. And to go from where I was just over a week earlier to "you have a potentially fatal disease,"...I'm not even sure how you deal with that. I'm not sure how I did.
But there have been two points during this whole ordeal that have completely shifted my thinking. The first was my first meeting with Dr. Anderson, when I found out that I probably wasn't going to die anytime soon. That was five days after my diagnosis, and those five days were probably the most difficult five days of my life. With cancer, uncertainty is hell, and I knew nothing. Although my family was with me, I met with Dr. Anderson alone. I didn't know what the prognosis would be, but I wanted to know first. The prognosis wasn't terrible, and after that point, I was finally able to spread the news. But the closest I have come to "breaking down" during this whole thing was during that meeting.
The second major moment: today when Dr. Anderson walked in the room and said, "the PET Scan looks good."
That was all I needed to hear, but in the interest of detail, I'll elaborate. The cancer has responded well (well for me, poorly for the cancer) to treatment. There have been significant reductions in size and intensity. The phrase "95% destroyed" was mentioned at some point, although I'm not sure if that's a scientific percentage or a crude way of saying "it's almost gone." My lymph nodes are greatly reduced in size, and the second area of activity - the "pectoral node" - is completely gone. In terms of "staging," I'm probably stage 1-A. We're not exactly on the deck of the USS Missouri at this point. But the cancer has definitely been Hiroshima'd. It can stagger around for a bit if it wants, perhaps wait around for its Nagasaki (which it metaphorically will receive, more on that later). But it doesn't have much longer.
Since I know many of you dislike words, here are some helpful pictures:
Dr. Anderson explaining things to mother while I sit back and take pictures. Don't mind me. This doesn't concern me.
Images from my early-August PET Scan. The black and white images on the left are images from the CT Scan (part of the PET Scan) and will show the size of structures. I don't think you need the help of my yellow circle to figure out that something is not right with my left armpit. The color images are from the PET Scan with the radioactive tracer. In this scan, cancer cells light up. If it wasn't apparent before that my left armpit needed medical attention, it is now.
And a slightly blurry picture of my PET Scan from Tuesday. I'm not really sure how to interpret these things, except 1) my left armpit is not the size of Rhode Island and 2) it's not on fire. It helps when you look at the two images side by side:
Scan on the right is from early August. Scan on left is from Tuesday. It's good to know the hair loss was worth it.
We also discussed the 4-cycle vs. 6-cycle thing, and I am leaning heavily toward 6 cycles. I'll probably elaborate more on this in a separate post, but it really just comes down to a "why not?" sort of thing. The chances of relapse will be reduced if I go through 6 cycles, and I'm tolerating each cycle pretty well. And right now, my priorities line up like this:
- NOT HAVING TO DEAL WITH THIS SHIT AGAIN
- Everything else
And really, after today, it doesn't matter. I know that the treatment we selected was the right course of treatment (there was some consideration given to a more intense form of chemo, and that would have been even less fun, and probably unnecessary). I know that the treatment is working. And if a treatment works, it works. So let's give this thing a couple more R-CHOPs, microwave it, and get on with life.
I know things are slightly more complicated than that. And trust me, I know things can happen. But for the first time, I actually feel that there is an end in sight. And that's a good feeling.