Monday, November 26, 2012
The Cancer Forest
I've been at a bit of a loss for blog posts this past week but if I look back over the last three months, I find even that is a familiar pattern as I cycle through the "good" weeks -- about as predictable as lingering nausea and fatigue.
When I was first diagnosed and in watch-and-wait mode, the goal was to progress from days in which cancer was part of every waking thought, to a point at which a day would go by and the thought of cancer hadn't even drifted into my view. We were making our way to that goal.
Now as I enter good week #2, I'm in a decidedly weird place. While I'm thinking about the logistics of the treatment-- what time do I need to leave? Do I have all my scrips? Have I moved all my meetings off those days? etc. -- I'm not thinking about the treatment itself. I'm focused on the narrow path that lies immediately ahead, but not focusing on the larger cancer forest, or jungle, perhaps.
Occasionally, I find my hand making its way to the right side of my neck where I first noticed a swollen lymph node nearly two years ago -- ground zero, if you will. I feel around, all but unconsciously confirming what I've felt since after the first chemo round; that the swollen lymph node has receded, beaten back by three months of chemo and Rituxan. And less subtly, cancer makes itself know occasionally even in good weeks when a mild bit of nausea will show up at my door, an unwanted visitor who lingers for a few minutes -- enough to remind me, but not enough to make a lasting impression.
on 12/6, which means I'm three cycles and just about 2 months to the end of treatment. It will come as no surprise that making it beyond the halfway mark is psychologically critical for me -- like being beyond mile 13 in a marathon. I know now not only that I've less left than what's come before, but I also know what effort the remainder of the course requires.
This next round begins for the first time with imaging. For the first time, we'll take a look to see what all this effort is doing to the various bits of lymphoma growing inside me -- a somewhat more scientific gauge than my two fingers checking my neck. I'm not really sure what to expect from the CT scans (well, I know what to expect from the scans themselves -- they're painless and easy. The hardest part is being hungry and waiting my turn.) Should I expect all the affected nodes to have shrunk down to normal size? Should I expect the favorite phrase: No Evidence of Disease? Or should I have more modest expectations? And what is the course of action depending on what we find out?
This leaves me with a small dilemma. Should I ask Dr. L what the range of expectations are ahead of time or wait until we see the results and calibrate my expectations accordingly?
I think I know what I'll do.