Tuesday, October 29, 2013

...and the Other Shoe Drops

This is quite the emotional roller-coaster. We got the result of the PET scan Friday and while the tumors that had responded to the chemo are gone and the tumor(s) that were resistant is still there, there is yet another new spot of cancer that seems to be starting up, this time under the left armpit. This is getting to feel like f'in whack-a-mole. They say this doesn't affect the treatment plan/duration, just another spot to include in the radiation, but it sure as shit is frustrating.

In addition to getting the PET scan results, we also met with the radiation oncologist to discuss radiation treatment "options". Basically there aren't options, just one course of treatment and it's not the short one. 18 freaking days of radiation which consists of 2 hours of driving for 10 minutes of treatment. For 3.5 weeks. Awesome.  This pushes my transplant back until the week of Thanksgiving (more awesomeness) with the possibility that I'd be in there for Christmas too (nacho supreme awesome).

On a positive note, no more chemo for the next month and the radiation is touted as "relatively" side-effect free. Maybe I'll actually be able to get some visiting in.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Finally, Some Positive News

This week they harvested my stem cells. They set a target for number of cells they need to collect and then you go in for harvesting until they hit that target.  This can take anywhere from one (unusual) to four days so they schedule for four and hope that you're done sooner. The collection is done through my new catheter with a machine/process very similar to dialysis.
My Fancy New, Surgically-Implanted Flare
My target was 4 million and I hit 5.1 on day one so only one day of harvesting for me. It seems that my blood counts (along with my cancer..boo) recover fairly quickly from chemo.

Thursday is my next PET scan which will tell us how the cancer has responded to this final dose of ICE chemo and will help dictate the course of radiation treatment which we'll discuss on Friday. Hopefully we can move right into radiation on Monday but we still don't know what the recommended treatment is going to be or for how long.  The radiation treatment will be overseen by yet another doctor at yet another location, Doylestown, which is convenient to...nothing.  Hopefully it will only be a few days of highly focused treatment but we'll have to wait to see what they say.

After radiation, it's on to the dreaded transplant portion of the show. Still looking like either the 4th or 11th of November to kick that off.

Also, I got some sweet new shoes...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Update...Long Overdue

Sorry for not updating sooner, it's been a very busy/hectic couple of months. Rather than inundate you with the all the lovely details, I'll just bullet point it:
  • For a host of reasons that I may go into in another post, in-patient chemotherapy was an absolute disaster at Penn and I've now transitioned to a new doctor and treatment facility at Temple. Penn = great reputation, poor execution. They're just too big.
  • I completed the 2nd and 3rd cycles of ICE chemo therapy (one at Penn, one at Temple) with no major incidents
  • We're now prepping for the stem-cell harvest which should take place next week
  • The cancer has only partially responded to this latest chemotherapy so now we're going to have to integrate radiation into the treatment before the transplant
  • Radiation should start the 28th and is out-patient with "minimal" (we'll see) side effects. We won't know what kind of radiation or for how long until next week's PET scan.
  • Transplant will start either 11/4 or 11/11, depending on the radiation schedule
  • The transplant will be done at Temple's Fox Chase Cancer Center location near Jenkintown and will take about a month to complete.
To my east coast friends, I'm sorry that I haven't gotten to see very many of you even though I've been back almost 2 months. Between all the pre-transplant testing and visits, transitioning between doctors/treatment centers in mid-stream, and concerns about my lowered immune system (especially around kids), it just hasn't been feasible. I'd like to say it will happen soon but I can't promise it. There might be some time in about 2 weeks when I'm recovered from this last chemo and starting radiation but the schedule is still so fluid. Once I complete transplant, I'm not supposed to leave the house for at least 2 months so it's not looking great for getting out to visit over the holidays either. It's been extremely frustrating being back here with such great weather and not being able to enjoy it or hang out with friends. That was supposed to be the silver lining to all this but that's been taken away too.

There have been questions about coming to visit me while I'm in the hospital for the transplant. While I appreciate the thought, at this time, I don't think I want to have any visitors while I'm going through that. I'm pretty miserable with just the "regular" chemo while I'm in there, never mind the high dose stuff I'll be getting during the transplant. That may change after a few weeks in there but for now, check with Julie if you're thinking about visiting. I figure I'll be more up for visitors when I'm at home recovering but stuck in lockdown for 2 months.

I probably won't have another update until we do the next PET scan and decide on the course of radiation treatment at the end of next week.