It’s 11:45pm, Monday night. I have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow at 3pm. I had my PET scan last Tuesday and I’ll get the results tomorrow. This week has been an exercise in anxiety. My day at work ended today with a headache. Things started out okay, but a couple of issues at the end of my day just went right to my head. Normally things at work roll off my back pretty easily. This week I’ve been a little on edge.
It’s not like there is anything I can do at this point. I’ve done all I can for the past three months to reduce my risk of cancer returning. I continue to take the medication the doctor has prescribed for me. I’ve also been actively losing weight to be more healthful. One of the best things I can do to battle cancer while in remission is to lose the weight I’ve been carrying around for the last 20 years, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
Aside from that I’ve been keeping myself occupied. After work, Danielle and I went out for sushi and then the bookstore. Now I’m writing this, listening to Brian Setzer, building a virtual machine on my computer, re-rendering some video and holding the cat (she insists). The rest of the week I’ve been building programs, reading, diving into work, anything to really keep my mind going.
I usually think too much when I’m trying to sleep. I’ve been tending to stay up longer this past week so that when I hit the pillow I’m out pretty quick. It was not something I was consciously doing, but these are the little mind games we play on ourselves.
So I’m not sure what I’ll hear tomorrow, but I’m optimistic. There is that little bit of doubt that just can’t help but creep into my psyche that just likes to push glass half empty, doomsday scenarios. I do my best to keep it at bay. At this point It’s out of my hands. I know I’ve done all I can do to remain cancer free.
The time has finally come. Remnants and reminders of my battle with cancer are all over the house. The time has come to purge these items from the house. There is so much stuff laying around! Pills, syringes, creams, wipes, plumbing. The list goes on and on.
Some of the stuff hasn’t been used for a year, others as recently as February. Only the things that are going away are on the table. There are still medications and supplies I currently use that aren’t shown here. I’m also missing a lot of medicine that I actually finished. These are the remnants of pills that were ineffective or I eventually no longer needed.
It is a good reminder to me of how good I have it now. Free from pain and down to two medications daily and one weekly, it is a vast improvement over the cocktail of pills I was taking before.
The epsom salts were used to relieve the incredible pain pre and post surgery when the pain medication wasn’t effective. The three types of nausea medication I had was to keep things in check during chemo. The chux were placed under my bed sheet to protect the mattress from the drain that was sticking out of my body after the surgery. The creams for before surgery to try and ease the pain and battle the side effects of radiation. The bag of needles and tubes, the syringes of saline, the heparin and alcohol wipes were on hand so a home healthcare nurse could access my port for the massive antibiotics I took after contracting an e coli infection.
Now I don’t need any of it! The pain is gone. The nausea is gone. The drain is gone. The port is gone. All that’s left are the scars, my new post surgery normal and the antibiotic resistant bacteria my body now contains.
All in all I came out in very good shape and I’m not complaining. Getting rid of these reminders is another step on my journey. They are remnants of the war I fought. Hopefully I won’t have to do battle again and getting rid of these things is an optimistic gesture. A statement that cancer no longer lives here and will never be welcome again!
The PET scan. My least favorite of the scans I’ve had to undergo. I have one scheduled this month. It is to make sure the cancer has not come back and metastasized elsewhere. As you can imagine, the moment I got the call to schedule it my mind has become anxious. With a PET scan you are taken to a radiation secure room where a nurse enters with a metal box containing a syringe encased in a tungsten cylinder to contain the radioactive contrast dye, usually glucose. They inject the radioactive sugar into you and make you wait for 45 minutes to let the contrast circulate through your body and find any cancer they may be there.
The way it works is that any cancer in your body will metabolize the sugar faster than the rest of your body. The trick is to remain relatively still for the 45 minutes it takes to circulate. If you move around too much, your muscles will consume some of the sugar in the contrast and cloud up the image. The actual scan then takes about a half hour to complete. You should probably stay away from small children for the rest of the day since you are radioactive for a while after the scan.
This scan will mark the 6 month anniversary of being declared cancer free. It’s hard to feel cancer free as you head into one of these tests. The reason for them is the real threat that the cancer may come back. You try not to think about it too much because there is not a whole lot you can do until you hear the results, but it sits in the back of your mind, festering.
It seems like I’ve picked up a lot of new anniversary dates since I was diagnosed with cancer. The first being when I was diagnosed with cancer. There’s the start of Radiation therapy and the end of radiation therapy. My surgery date. The start of chemo. Finally there is the diagnoses of being cancer free. That would be October 17th, 2011. Also my last day of chemo.
My PET scan will be April 17th, exactly six months later. I won’t know my results until a week after that. Hopefully it will be a day to celebrate!
I feel sick today. It’s really the first time since my chemo ended that I’ve felt this way. It is certainly not a feeling I miss. It started with a slight feeling of things not being right in my stomach. And gradually got worse and worse.
It started last night for me as I was going to bed. I’m not really sure what is causing it. It could be the large doses of antibiotics I’m taking for this abscessed tooth I’m fighting right now. It could be something I ate at work yesterday, it could be a combination of things.
Some take home chemo for me
I woke up this morning instantly feeling like I was back on chemo. Back to feeling lousy on a regular basis. It took me back to the very first week I started my FOLFOX regimen. Those first days it hit me really hard and I had the worst stomach cramping in my life. I had planned to go back to work shortly after starting chemo shortening my leave of absence by a month. The chemo changed all that. I ended up being out for another month before I could really tolerate the effects.
I think tolerate is the right word. The way I feel right now is pretty much the same as I remember feeling for the six months I was on chemo. It never went away and your body just decides that this is normal and you can carry on. In the end my desire to get back to working and being productive was greater than the discomfort that was in my belly. It wasn’t until a month or so after my last treatment that I really started for well again. It was a gradual change unlike when I started chemo and the illness hit me right away.
Now that it’s back for a day, I remember how uncomfortable it all was. I remember laying in bed all day during that first month because to move around invited nausea. I did not vomit much, but the feeling of nausea was fairly constant. I had several medication to keep it at bay, even one that dissolved in my mouth so that I didn’t have to take it with water and possibly vomit it back up.
Today I’m taking a more holistic approach. I still have some of the nausea medicine available to me but I’m not taking it. Just a little soup to eat and a lot of taking it easy. Time for my digestive system to figure out and deal with whatever the issue is.
I suppose that is different too. Not knowing the reason. Before when I was sick I just accepted it and pushed through it because I knew the cause and I knew it wasn’t going to get much better. Today I don’t know, but have my suspicions and can take actions that would make it feel better tomorrow. In some ways that’s a victory considering how much I was not in control during my treatment.
So I’ll take today as a reminder of how things were not long ago and how thankful I am that I
feel well on a regular basis. It is something I should never, ever take for granted.