Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

My hair will stay. (More later on why that's important to me.)

The results are back and it's good news. There is no presence of cancer in my bone marrow; and the pathology from the needle biopsy confirm that this is indeed follicular lymphoma (stage 1-2) and not a faster growing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

And that means that the treatment plan will be rituxan and benzamustine (not CHOP)... which is less often (every 28 days instead of every 21), has less side effects, and shouldn't involve my hair falling out. Which is good.

In case it's not obvious, I don't really care about my hair falling out. It'd be at least a little interesting to see what I look like bald. No, it's what my hair falling out would symbolize that troubled me, which is probably why I was more nervous for this appointment than others. And why I love how Dr. LaCasce just came in, said "Hi" and before she could sit down had already said, "It's good news." I know other oncologists follow a similar "get-the-results-out-quick" protocol and whoever taught them that is a genius. But I digress.

For the last year, I've considered myself more unlike than like other cancer patients. Although there are many patients my age, if you go into a cancer center, you'll find that a young 40-something, healthy, relatively fit male is more the exception than the rule. And unlike many patients, although I was diagnosed, I wasn't being  treated.

By undergoing treatment, I'm already edging closer into the category of every other cancer patient; losing my hair would have put me firmly in that group. More to the point, it would have announced my diagnosis to everyone I work with, to all my friends, to all my acquaintances... to anyone who knew of my diagnosis. On the surface that may not seem a big deal to someone who blogs publicly about having cancer. But when I blog, I decide what to say in my posts. I decide what I reveal and how; I provide the context and the timing. I'm in control of the conversation. If I show up at work on one Monday; at a softball game some Wednesday night; at a conference and I'm suddenly bald, I lose control of the conversation.

So hidden in the good news of less disease progression than we might have seen, of less frequent chemo, of less toxic chemo is the chance to maintain just a little control.

And that's good news.