Friday, December 8, 2017

Post Treatment Scans: The Results are In

Massage, ahhh. Photo courtesy of Dana-Farber. Note: that is not my foot. 
Scans. A mini-milestone birthday. An oncology massage. It’s been a busy week. 

Let’s start with the scans. As Dr. L said (immediately as she walked into the room), “Scans look good.” After four weeks of a clinical trial involving Rituxan and Imprime back in August and September, it was 10 weeks of waiting until until CT scans would tell us see if the Rituxan did the trick. Short answer it did. The usual trifecta of Neck, Abdomen/Pelvis, and Chest scans all came back good. The highlights:

From the Chest pics: 
No enlarged lymph nodes. 

From the Abdomen/Pelvis pics:
Interval decrease in size of multistation lymphadenopathy
No new lymphadenopathy 

From the Neck pics:
The multiple previously enlarged lymph nodes in the neck have
markedly decreased in size, with no current lymphadenopathy

That's my emphasis, of course. But add that to the very normal blood results and it makes  for a very nice 55th birthday present, thank you very much... except for the not eating for four hours or so. And the drinking the usual cocktail of Omnipaque and Lemonade. Bleh. But I’ll take that any day for results like this. 

What's more, it’s possible that the Rituxan will continue to work beyond what it's already done. We’ll see when we return to the scanning table in six months. But for now, the biggest issue I have is tight calf muscles and even those are doing a lot better. 

Like many things, I blame my calf muscles on cancer. My theory goes that either the disease or the chemo has changed something in my muscles or my tissue that has caused my calf muscles to be tight, even tighter than they usually are. At times, I've been able to run through it. Other times, I've been able to stop and stretch it out and continue on a run. But there have been times when I had to stop my run, midway through and limp my way home. There were even a few weeks where I had to stop running altogether. And if you know how important running is to me, you know that's a bad thing. 

Of course, there's the possibility that I'm just getting older and the wear and tear is getting to my legs. 

Possible. I've been running off an on for probably 45 years. But like anything going wrong in my body these last six plus years, I prefer to blame it on the cancer. There's certainly anecdotal evidence to support the theory from other lymphoma patients and survivors -- but then, dig around the Internet enough and you'll find evidence to support just about any theory. For instance, one myth surfacing in social media groups is that massages are bad for lymphoma patients because in massaging the muscles, you stimulate the lymphatic system and move the cancer cells around the body. Sounds crazy, right? Cause it is.

Fortunately, Dana-Farber has a full integrative services and wellness center which offers, among other things, oncology massage and acupuncture. So part out of desperation, and part out of convenience (I can walk from my office to the center), I went in for an integrative therapy consult and then signed up for three sessions of acupuncture and a couple of massages. Interesting and relaxing as it was, the acupuncture didn't seem to do much (I'm told that acupuncture is most effective in treating treatment-related fatigue and nausea). However, the massages? Great. After the first one, I was able to have a three-run week at my regular speed and distance. Yesterday, after my second one, I tried out the myth of "massage is dangerous to lymphoma patients" on my masseuse. Her reaction "If that were true, your doctor would tell you to stop walking because that stimulates your blood, too." 

My oncologist's reaction was an emphatic roll of the eyes, as well as the suggestion of magnesium supplement. (My masseuse might have rolled her eyes, too. Hard to tell when you're face down on a massage table.) 

So that's where we are. After about a week of Magnesium supplements and my second massage today, my calf muscles feel about as good as new. Or about as good as a 55-year-old can expect. Looking forward to a couple of runs this weekend. It's not only been a busy week, but a pretty good one too.