First the good news…

Me and Susan splitting a gut

Splitting a gut with Susan in England last summer

Chemo is over! I met with my doctor yesterday, and he has cancelled my last 3 chemotherapy infusion appointments. We’re done. I couldn’t be happier about that. The accumulation of drugs in my system had caught up with me, and the fatigue was pretty powerful. I’d expected the next few weeks to be even more debilitating since, why wouldn’t they be? So instead I get to continue returning to normal. I gave myself my last injection today.

But that’s not why we stopped therapy. The treatment had done what it could—a few very small nodules and enlarged lymph nodes that had shown up on my baseline CT scan had shrunk or disappeared entirely in this month’s scan. Just what those little things were, we can’t be sure of, but it’s nice that they’re gone. But they were not as important as a larger mass that was detected, and which is growing, meaning the chemo I’d been taking was not working on that particular thing. We don’t know what it is exactly, but chances are very good it is something like the tumor I had removed in December (though much smaller, thankfully). I expect another surgery might be in my near future, to take care of it, but that it will be nowhere near the seriousness of the last operation.

The exact course of action is not decided yet, and in any case, it is in the future, so I am doing what I seem to do so well and focusing on the good news (always first the good news), which is taking place in the present. I am feeling stronger and more energetic these last few days, and I expect that trend will continue—maybe not in a straight line, but generally in the right direction. I can make plans with a little more confidence that my body will allow me to follow through. I know the saga continues—as it may for life—but right now I am entering a good part of it. Thanks for being with me on the ride!

Me at Blue LagoonBonus: For those who like freaky coincidences, check out this, my very last (and I do mean last, maybe forever) shirtless selfie, taken at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland last summer. The weird smear across my abdomen, caused by blowing rain on the camera lens, is in the exact spot my tumor was growing at the time. Make what you will of it. :)

I forgot

John_Travolta_Bubble_BoyAs you might have figured out even before I did, this ride ain’t over. The funny thing about it is, I always knew there was a chance—a good chance, even—I’d have to do some chemo, but I had really and truly almost forgotten. I was so fixated on healing from the surgery, and so excited to be putting my life back together and feeling good and weighing 140 pounds, I just forgot. I really did.

So, it’s not a setback or a disappointment (though to be told I would be fine without any chemo would have been fabulous), it’s just the next step in my recovery saga, a step I had temporarily forgotten about. I’d like to think that shows the power of my mind and not its feebleness. As I’m fond of saying, we get to choose our beliefs; so, I’ll go with “powerful mind.”

The routine comprises IV infusions of 2 drugs—one the first Tuesday, then both drugs the following Tuesday, then a week off. Each 3-week cycle constitutes a “round,” and I’m to do 4 to 6 rounds (probably all 6 if I’m tolerating things okay). This is mostly preventative, to wipe out any small traces that might have been left behind after surgery (even though all the margins tested clean post-surgery, you never know) and to ward off an emerging recurrence. Better safe than sorry.

These drugs are known for all the side effects you’d associate with chemo, and will leave me with a depressed immune system, so I need to be careful to avoid sick people and old food and germs, kind of like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, if you’re old enough to get that reference. (Wasn’t that John Travolta’s first big film?)

Another part of my ongoing treatment will be periodic CT scans. I had my baseline scan last week, and it did seem to show some suspicious fragments, which just goes to show the doctor knows of what he speaks. I’m fortunate to have one of the country’s (if not the world’s) leading sarcoma specialists caring for me. My initial visit with him lasted 2 hours, which felt like a luxury. Great guy. I got a copy of the post-visit report he sent to my regular physician, and in it he called me a “delightful man.” Well, well. I feel delightful, but I don’t think I’ve ever been called it.

Deee-LiteIt’s not clear yet how this will affect my life for the next 4 months. I may be able to work on a reduced (more reduced than I already work, that is) schedule, or work from home, or maybe not work at all. I expect I’ll do pretty okay. I’m hoping to keep teaching at the meditation center on Mondays. My energy level is likely to drop, but I expect I’ll still be up for lots of visits and maybe out-of-house socializing as well. Lucky for me, I love lazing around on the couch reading and napping and welcoming visitors.

So, the adventure continues. I’m approaching it with a sense of curiosity and hope, not dread and doom (kind of like my approach to the presidential primaries, come to think of it). It’s what I’ve got to do.