Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Treatment #13, The One That Wasn't

It was Wednesday of a "recovery" week, and Patrick and I were at the clinic for the fourth time since the previous treatment.  I was there to receive a hydration infusion that was, we hoped, going to help my liver to recover from the previous chemo treatment. 

I sat while a nurse took my blood pressure, and the oncologist came by with my chart.  She held Friday's lab report, and showed me where it indicated that one liver enzyme was twice-normal, and another was 2.5 times normal.  She wanted to run the same test again that day, to check whether hydration and time were having any beneficial effect on my liver.  She planned for treatment thirteen to be given on the following Monday, but as always, only if my liver and my blood could handle it.

When the hydration infusion was over, the doctor followed us from the treatment area to the empty waiting room.  She mentioned that we now had six months of steadily dropping CEA levels  (CEA is a tumor-marker for colon cancer), and no evidence of disease on the PET scan from September. 

We three stood there alone by the exit when the oncologist remarked that she was "very impressed" with my case.  She asked if I had been asking for prayers.  I informed her that I ask everyone to pray for me.

The doc nodded, and smiled, and then she offered, "I think you might be cured!"  She made a few more comments, and we parted ways.  Patrick and I fairly floated out of the office.

Excerpts from a joyous update:

Sent:  March 12, 2014  6:12 p.m.

Greetings, Prayer Warriors!

I had more blood drawn, and then the doctor told me...are you ready?...She told me she thinks I'm CURED!

If I could feel my feet, I'd be jumping for joy : )

So!  One more treatment, next Monday.  [My oncologist] is a stickler for following protocol.  I'm mentally preparing for a rough post-chemo week, but then DONE.  Done.Done.AllTheWayDONEwithchemo.  The doc even said I won't need maintenance drugs.  What a great surprise that was!  AM I DREAMING?!?!

Going forward there will be monthly blood draws to check my CEA level, and scans...I don't know how frequently, probably whatever insurance allows.  [The doc] plans to "watch very closely".  She said, "You kicked it!"

I knew that to be considered medically cured, I'd need clear scans over the next eight years.  We understood that the doctor's statement was not a clean bill of health, or even the promise of one to come, but it encouraged us tremendously.

The disappointment of enduring a thirteenth treatment when only twelve were expected vanished.  It was replaced with glee.  My spirit bounced through the rest of the week, across the weekend, and on into the clinic for number thirteen on Monday.  Once inside the infusion room, I tried to curb my exuberance out of respect for the patients who probably weren't feeling as great as I did just then.

On that morning--it was St. Patrick's Day--the harpoon was once again jammed into the port, facilitating the route that led straight to my heart.  The pre-chemo anti-nausea meds dripped from an I.V. bag that hung above me as I tried to settle myself in the recliner.  This would be the last chemo infusion.  I could hardly believe it.

Unexpectedly, my oncologist walked over to where I sat to deliver the news that my liver enzymes were higher than they'd ever been before.  One was almost four-times normal.  Another was over five-times normal.  "There can be no doubt," she observed, "that this is due to liver toxicity."  She cancelled the treatment.  My contaminated liver and I were sent home.  No chemotherapy would occur that day, or any day.  It was over!

Here's an excerpt from that day's blast-o-gram:

Cancelled!  Wooo!  The harpoon came out, a band-aid was slapped on, and they sent us on our merry way.  I'm not going back to the clinic until MONDAYYYYYYY...and it won't be for a treatment!

No thirteenth treatment?  I was overjoyed.  I would not be visiting the clinic that week for injections, hydration, iron, or anything.  I could stay at home and get on with the business of recovery.

Next step is for the insurance company to agree to a PET scan, which is what the doctor wants, vs. a CT scan, which is what insurance is likely to authorize instead.

LET THE RECOVERY BEGIN!  To God Be the Glory!!!!!!!!!!!  Now and Forever.

MUCH LOVE, and lots of happy shouting...

Soon after, we took a celebratory trip to Washington, D.C.  Why the nation's capitol?  Blame it on homeschooling.  I wanted the kids to see the monuments and museums.

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