Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Follow-Up #7

No real news this time, for once!  It's been ten months since I received TIL therapy.  I was back at the hospital for follow-up number seven last week.

First thing on Monday, as usual, I went directly to phlebotomy for a blood draw (only six vials this time).  Later in the day, I had a CT scan.

On Tuesday, I had apheresis. To my immense relief (understatement!) the procedure turned out to be the shorter one. Even better, my research fellow spent some time with me, talking about his work in the lab. The conversation helped to get my mind off of the blood circulating out of and back (gack) and I was very thankful for that.

When the requisite amount of white cells had been collected, my husband and I bolted over to Medical Records to pick up the disk of CT images from the previous day's scan.  I set up the laptop at one of the teensy tables in the atrium.  I was taken aback at how different the scan looks now that I have one fewer lung lobes! I wasn't able to study the images for very long; it was almost time to go to "OP3", where my follow-up would happen.

Even though I expected to hear good news, I had dreaded this appointment for weeks.  It was the last one I would have with my current immunotherapy fellow. It makes me sad to think of someone else as my doctor, but I'm happy that he had (what I hope was!) an interesting and fulfilling year on the service. I consider myself most fortunate to have been in his care over the past year, and I am confident that his future patients will feel the same way.

We stepped into the hallway to review the scans, and I stood there thinking how bizarre they look now.  My right lung lobes have sneaked their way over to where the now-missing left lower lobe had been. My heart is literally in a new place! "Mother Nature will not tolerate empty space," is what I was told. It's so strange-looking to me. Regarding cancer, my fellow saw nothing of concern.  Thank God!

The next morning I met with the thoracic surgeon for follow-up.  He wanted to see how the incisions were healing, first thing.  Little did I know that he would find something that needed attention.  He said that my body was "spitting out a couple of stitches" (gack! again!), and so he removed them.  Actually, his assistant removed them but Ow! OW! QUIT IT!!! After that unpleasantness, he had only good things to tell me, so we left the NIH on a high note.

My follow-ups will get stretched out from now on. I'll go back quarterly for a time, and after that, even less-frequently if all continues to go well.  I am praying that it will!

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