Y1D4 – Six Months More

My name is Rick and my cancer status is unknown…

Today I visited the oncologist.  She told me after the examination to return in six months.  Six months!  That feels like pretty good news.  Since I tend not to make such a big deal about these things, she took the ball and went with it.  She looked genuinely happy about the situation.  Happy for me and probably a little happy with herself as well.  I am genuinely glad to be doing well for me, family, friends and also for the doctor.  Let’s keep thinking positive thoughts for the trend to continue.

As usual, she put me through a pretty significant exam.  We started with the interview; the interview is the part of the office visit that all of my cancer docs do to some extent.  They all ask how I am feeling and then really probe in specific areas.  Today was the well worn path of feeling tired or lethargic.  She is convinced that my pituitary gland is an issue and feels that prednisone will help.  She did not push of course.  My attitude is that as long as I can handle it, I can handle it.  If things go sideways — more tired, headaches, diarrhea — she will be the first to know.  I promised her that.  Otherwise, I am going to work super hard every day as I have been.  She was really really really impressed again, saying how fast a recovery I have made given the severity of the actions they took and how I work to get beyond the symptoms.  Running and rock climbing got her attention.

The next step was a physical exam.  One thing that really bothers me about some appointments is the gap between the interview and the physical exam.  Most of my docs talk to me then hand me a gown to get (un)dressed.  Then they leave the room… for a LONG time.  Today she was gone for about 15 minutes, clearly she was tending to other matters.  Since I am not shy and want to be efficient, just give me the darn gown and keep interviewing.  I will change and then let’s get on with it., no need for gap time!  My dermatologist and I have an understanding… she let’s me get undressed and then dressed again without her leaving the room.  Cuts the appointment time in half for both of us.

The doc paid a lot of attention to my surgical / radiation areas.  The internal damage from all that “work” according to her is mostly gone.  She was again fascinated by this, having a hard time believing how far along I am.  I showed her the “scar” on my thigh where my graft was taken.  She got wide eyed there too.  You cannot tell unless you know what you are looking for.  The dermatologist has also looked at it with intrigue.

The blood tests from last week provided no indicators that the cancer was returning.  While there is no actual blood test for cancer, certain levels will elevate if the disease is on the upswing apparently.  They took blood from me again today due to a mistake on the part of the nurse.  Oh well… when you are a cancer patient, getting stuck is routine.  A thought struck me… will I ever be able to give blood again?  Probably not as who would want someone with metastatic cancer.  Will there ever be a time when I can donate blood?

She inquired about the quarter I wear around my neck.  I told her the story of seeing it face up in the parking lot after visiting my father-in-law at the hospital and having just received the worst possible cancer news about me.  For reference, this news/coin incident was almost 1 year ago — 31 July 2012 to be exact.  Check out “Day Five – News Day 2” for the post on that day.  I picked up the quarter as a motivator to not receive any more bad news.  I first kept it in my wallet and then started wearing it around my neck a few months after NOT as a good luck charm but rather an affirmation that things are going to turn out well.  Since it is a Nebraska quarter, there is a picture of Chimney Rock on the back.  I plan on traveling there at some point but want to wait until…. when? I don’t know.  The doctor got choked up by the story and asked if I would be willing to share it publicly.  Of course.

She also didn’t know the serenity prayer…. I told her about it and she liked that too.  She related it back to me about fighting the lethargy…. I think she really wants me to go on prednisone.  I am really conflicted on this one.  It feels like the right decision to let my body have all the t-cells it wants to produce… assuming that doesn’t have a negative health impact.  So many important decisions, no clear answers.  On the one hand, I have tried to live a chemical free life and now have metastatic melanoma (chemical free).  On the other hand, the most recent indicators show no more signs of the disease (chemicals did this?).  Do I pursue the chemical route or the chemical free route?