Monday, February 25, 2013

Turn the Calendar, Hold the Chemo please.

I'm looking forward to Thursday.

Mostly because Thursday will mark the first time in more than half a year when four weeks will pass without heading into the comfy confines of Yawkey 8 Infusion. It will be more than four weeks since I had a needle gently coaxed into my vein and taped in place; more than four weeks since I've taken my steroidal, anti-nausea, anti-allergy cocktail; more than four weeks since watching drugs drip into my vein while I surfed around on my iPad; more than four weeks since I've braced for, and managed  through the side effects.

The fact that Thursday is the last day of February only adds to the celebration.

Of course, the following week I'll have a needle jabbed into me again as I go in for blood work and scans. But that's fine. I remain cautiously optimistic about the scans, and about some of the recent data coming out in relation to follicular lymphoma, like a study a fellow follicular lymphoma blogger writes about. The short summary is that a study of B-R (that's Bendamustine and Rituxan) effectiveness in previously untreated follicular patients showed a median progression free survival of 69.5 months.  That's an average of nearly seven years. And I like to think of myself as above average.

But we know follicular lymphoma always returns, which is why stories about Rituxan's success on treating relapse is encouraging. So too is news about a new drug, called ibrutinib that Lympho Bob also writes about.  This goes onto my list of questions to ask Dr. L, and for things to look for at the Lymphoma conference I'll be attending in late March.

I'm looking forward to the conference; I missed it last year because of kids' commitments -- or at least that's the reason on record. The reality is, I wasn't ready for it last year. I didn't know that then, but I do now. It's part of my cancer evolution, and it continues to surprise me.

When I was first diagnosed, I did a couple of things in quick succession: I started to blog and I left Dana-Farber. The blog was only for my friends and family - to help them as much as it was to help me, by allowing them to check in on me without having to intrude. I didn't expect to make the blog public; nor did I expect to return to Dana-Farber, except for my quarterly visits.

Five months later and I was back at Dana-Farber full time. Shortly thereafter I opened the blog up.  And over the past year or so, I think I've opened up myself -- finding that balance of letting my cancer become part of who I am without taking over my life. Cancer patient now joins a growing list of defining characteristics. I'm still a husband. A father. A son. A brother. A soccer coach. A runner. An editor. A writer. And many other things.

I've gone from letting cancer subsume my identity, to avoiding cancer wherever I could, to my more balanced existence today. The pendulum swings; the evolution continues.

These past few weeks, it feels like I'm moving into another phase, not just because of the end of treatment, but also through my new connections to other bloggers and fl survivors. I feel an odd but deeper sense of belonging, which may explain why I'm looking forward to the lymphoma conference.

Almost as much as I'm looking forward to Thursday.