Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Working

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from today. Three cycles of chemo and I could feel the effects in ways pleasant and not so pleasant (nausea, fatigue, fuzziness) . But were the physical manifestations of the drugs merely unwelcome side effects or evidence of effectiveness.  In other words, was the chemo working?

After CT scans -- my first since beginning treatment -- and regular bloodwork this morning, I'm happy to report that the answer is yes. It's working.

The swollen lymph nodes in my neck are no longer palpable. The larger ones in my abdomen have shown "marked improvement." A few new, "subcentimeter" nodes were evident but other areas were "unremarkable." 

Or in non-radiology speak, the scans look "great" according to Dr. L -- and in Dr. L we trust. I don't say that lightly. Trusting your oncologist -- your entire care team -- is an important part of care. The cancer journey can be one full of serpentine roads, forks in the path, even the metaphorical red light. And as we motor along that journey, at times we're just the passenger in a vehicle driven by oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses, and other cancer professionals who travel this road regularly. 

It's like traveling along in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. You see the road signs and the words look somewhat familiar, but you're not sure if the left turn ahead will take you to a restaurant or a rest room. So you ride along, putting the trust in your navigator that when they say, I'm going to take a left up here to take you a restaurant, ok?  You have confidence not only that the road will take you there, but also that the restaurant is where you want to go. You trust their decision, which is really your decision.

Last week, I wrote that I wasn't sure if I'd preset my expectations before the scans. I didn't. I decided to calibrate my expectations based on what I learned,  even though that's a little bit like answering a Jeopardy clue after you find out the right answer. The illogical part of me thought that maybe all the lymph nodes would miraculously melt away. But if that were the case, then we'd only be doing three rounds of chemo, not six. 

So here we sit in the infusion chair, beginning round 4 with the knowledge that halfway through the treatment, the drugs are working.

Not a bad day-after birthday present.

--michael