Long time, no blog. In large part because the people who CTC have required my services, and they pay me to write. So as much as I’d love to sit here and blog about cancer all day, daddy’s gotta put food on the table.
However, I am pleased to report what seems to be the first bit of Friday news (news from Friday, posted today) that hasn’t figuratively done this to me:
I was up at Hopkins on Friday for my…oh I don’t know…I guess we’re calling it a 6 month checkup? Things looked good at the 3 month checkup (aside from a very serious attempt to murder me), but my left axillary lymph nodes were still a little large. Dr. Ambinder described the situation as “on the verge of being nothing.” I didn’t really know what that meant, but his recommendation was to, again, wait for another scan and then see what was up. If the nodes were shrinking or staying stable, we were fine. But if they were growing, we would have issues.
Of course, in my attempt to minimize the impact of my medical hoo-ha on my work life, I have clustered all my appointments and whatnot on Fridays. Which is great for the career, and medically terrifying if you are familiar with my history of Friday news.
But I am happy to report that my streak of soul-crushing Friday news seems to have ended*, and my left axillary lymph nodes are retreating from the battlefield. Here’s the part where I flout privacy laws and post my medical records on the internet:
I’ll let the medical folk deal with the medical-ese; in laymen’s terms, things are looking good. The conclusion:
This is good news for those in favor of cancer taking its ball and going home.
Anyway, Dr. Ambinder seemed noticeably encouraged by the results, even going so far as to bump my checkup intervals to every six months. He also used the phrase, “I’m not going to guarantee anything, but…” which totally means a guarantee. Except not at all. But still. The phrase was followed by “all signs are pointing in the right direction,” which, again, is about all you can ask for when you’re in my situation.
The only negative bit of news out of Friday’s checkup concenrfs my white blood cell counts. It is not terribly uncommon for individuals who receive high doses of Rituxan to display late-onset neutropenia, or a drop in neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. The result, as anybody who has taken 10th grade biology can guess, is a greater susceptibility to infection. While my WBC count isn’t quite in the danger zone yet, my counts are below normal. So I’m re-instituting some of my precautionary measures: people are no longer allowed to sneeze on me, no sushi, and I shall refrain from licking the handrails on Metro escalators for the foreseeable future. I’ll probably get blood drawn at more frequent intervals over the next few months to keep an eye on this issue.
But neutropenia ain’t no thang compared to the bigger villan here, which remains vanquished, and hopefully will stay vanquished. In this longer-running-than-I-would-like saga filled with so many steps sideways, this was a significant step forward. This is quite literally the first time I have even been able to think about moving forward with confidence since July of last year. It has a good chance of leading to the first moment since May 2010 where I haven’t had something weighing on my mind all day every day. All because of one centimeter of shrinkage.
So you know what I did to celebrate? Well I worked all day every day of the long weekend. But I wasn’t even that pissed about it. I don’t think I’m the first guy to be sitting in the office at 7pm on a Sunday of a holiday weekend thinking, “Well…at least I’m not dead.” But I’m one of the few who, with reason, thinks, “BOY THIS IS A HELL OF A LOT BETTER THAN BEING DEAD. OR THAT THREE WEEK VACATION I TOOK IN MARCH.” It’s a close call sometimes, but I’m still gonna choose office chair over chemo chair.
Also, I’m really glad my hair came back for the DC summer. Or else I’d be freezing.
*(Gotta say this: I know they tried to kill me and all, but props to the folks at Johns Hopkins for reading my CT scan and getting a report out in under an hour. The period of time between getting a test and hearing the results – particularly the checkup scans – is excruciating for a cancer patient. I was prepared to have to wait over the long weekend before hearing my results, and even then, you have to deal with doctor’s phone call to discuss. And who wants to hear any sort of news over the phone? I got bloodwork done around 9, the CT at 9:50 (appointment time – the actual scan was around 10:30), and met with Dr. Ambinder at 11. Just after 11, Dr. Ambinder walked into the room holding the results and gave me the good news. That spared me a significant amount of anguish, so my thanks to the good people who turned things around so quickly).