Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Chemo Diaries: 10 Months

Let me just start by saying I feel great. I just had another CT scan about a week ago and it is showing clearer edges to the main tumor, some puckering in the middle and overall indicates good progress. Yesterday I had my infusion of Alimta and for a nice change of pace I have cut my steroid use in half — which so far is going quite well for me. I am not a fan of steroids and this was one of my top objectives. The result has been a clearer head so far, a bit more sleep and less swelling of my feet, which translates to a nice win in my playbook. All in all, I am quite pleased with my week.

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The only downsides are things that probably won’t be issues for a while, possibly a long while. One of the effects of infusions is that slowly but surely veins collapse. I always had marvelous veins for drawing blood but they have taken a heap of abuse over the past year and a half. The labs approved by my HMO tend to use the biggest needles possible for the fastest draw and while that never bothered me before, the chemo had made it so that I bruised easily and had to rotate veins every few weeks just to avoid issues with leaking. It wasn’t until about eight months in to my treatment that a nurse in the infusion clinic asked me why I didn’t just request butterfly needles… The veins are much less prone to bruising now. Who knew?

Still, the veins are a bit of an issue. I still have plenty to experiment with, but we had to move from the arm down to the hand for this last round. My hand veins, possibly due to my normally low blood pressure, stay fairly plump most of the time, making them good targets. But it got the nurse talking to me about putting in a port one day, just to make things easier. Such a port would be under the skin just over my heart, kind of a permanent plastic plug right into my largest vein. Supposedly that would be good for a few years of constant use. Still, it isn’t something I am in a rush to do.

But a few years or more is certainly what I am looking at right now. While no one will put a timeline on anything regarding treatment, my oncologist did say that he expected I would remain on this current regimen for a fairly long time. That is pretty good news in its own special way. Of course, the main reason for switching off it would be the commercial availability of PD1 therapies. We are eager to try those, but not so eager to qualify for clinical trials, which would require progression of the cancer after the failure of my current chemo. For now, that wait is a good one.

Perspective: One of the Greatest Gifts of a Cancer Diagnosis

I was skulking¬†around the house last week, ruminating on just how bad I smelled. My wife was getting annoyed with me, insisting that I did not smell any differently; it was a hot, stagnant summer day and I was sweating (I felt) profusely. My chemo treatment was beginning to purge from my system and it seemed to me that as I would walk around a corner or even just turn my head, I would get a wiff of something nasty, putrid, sour. And I couldn’t shake it — that smell was just plain bad.

But it couldn’t be identified, or even located. And I was the only one smelling it.

Then I started to take stock of all my symptoms, which I do now and then as both a way of monitoring my body and keeping a sense of humor about the process. Because it can be pretty gross. Let’s face it, no one likes to think of themselves covered in puss-filled sores, hobbling about on swollen feet and wafting fetid breezes from God knows where throughout the room. Continue reading Perspective: One of the Greatest Gifts of a Cancer Diagnosis