Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Life Changes IX: The Road Ahead

Whenever I bring you an update on my medical story, I always try to be upbeat and to inject a sense of humor.  I’ll be honest and say that I’m having to reach to do so in this one, although I can share this:  The other night the wife and I broke out the Saran Wrap and had a grand old time.  No, it’s not what you think.  Before I can take a bath these days, I have to cover my PIC line—which is a form of IV—with waterproof material.  Saran Wrap actually is the recommended cover, and I can’t do it myself due to the positioning of the line in my arm.  Hence the Saran party.

Do you recall the story you probably studied in grade school called The Lady and the Tiger, about a guy who had to choose one of two doors?  A couple of months back I faced a choice like that and you may remember me telling you I had some hesitation about whether to throw myself into the maw of the medical machine.   But I did.  As it turns out, the tiger came out.  Trouble is, there would have been a tiger at the other door, too, because cancer isn’t going to cure itself, barring miracles.  But in this case the radiation and chemotherapy not only did not do much good against the cancerous masses growing within me, a new one has popped up behind my spleen.  Bottom line is I’m fairly eaten up with it at this point.   The radiation did at least make headway in opening my intestinal blockage, although no one can really tell me how long those benefits will last. 

But in the process the procedures damned near killed me, as I pointed out in my last report.  I think I’m being a pretty good sport about it, given that I’m still reeling from the effects.  An energetic kitten could whip my butt right now, and I’m still going through home antibiotic infusion every few hours through about Saturday.  Once that is complete, if the infection does not rear its head again, then I am “cured” of that little problem, which leaves me as someone who is slowly dying of cancer rather than dying quickly. 

One of the cruel ironies of what happened is that even though I lost ten pounds, I can’t get my jeans on.  This is due to swelling, I guess, plus the fact that, shame to admit it, I tend to wear my jeans a little tight and I’m out of training, having worn stretchy pants (or no pants at all while I was in the hospital) for two weeks.   Loss of weight indicates loss of ground in a fight against cancer.  The reason I’m losing weight is that my appetite has disappeared.  This is due to the cancer but also due to the antibiotics.  Hopefully that situation will improve soon once the antibiotic regimen is complete.

I met with my oncologist and here is what I learned.  Two possible roads now lie ahead.  One, I can submit myself to traditional chemotherapy and all that implies.  The outcome of such treatment is fairly well known, and the long term prospects are not good although the treatment may—repeat, may—add time to my life.

The other option is experimental immunotherapy.  Two trials are underway right now in Tucson and Phoenix.  My doctor is going to try to get me into one of those.   This technology is showing great promise.  The down side to it is that it is incredibly, breathtakingly expensive if they find the right combination to fight the cancer.

That’s about it.  In the short term I’m focusing on continuing my recovery from the sepsis that nearly claimed my life last week.

I continue to hear from folks and I really appreciate that.  I’ve started to get fan mail about my latest novel—you don’t know how much that brightens my day.  And I’m happy to report it is selling, although not at levels that would impress the New York Times just yet.  If you haven’t already done so I urge you to check it out.

Watch this space for more updates.  I should know more about those trials within three weeks.


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