So far, four bi-weekly immunotherapy-infusions into my initial non-chemotherapy experience, per the encouraging results from my CT scan in mid March, I remain optimistic but cautiously neutral as I prepare to infuse three more times before my next scan in mid May.
However I feel, and however I've felt, ultimately the CT scan – and to a lesser degree – my lab results, will do the talking, so to speak. What it will say will be interpreted by my oncologist, who in turn will explain/summarize it to us in person a week or so after the scan.
That's when I'll know how I'm doing.
And how I'm doing of course means how much longer I'll be living. A more stressful appointment you can't imagine.
What I'm sure you can imagine is how high my blood pressure will be as we sit in the examining room waiting for my oncologist to knock on the door asking if it's OK to come in.
And when he comes in, he usually smiles and shakes our hands and then immediately sits behind the computer where he proceeds to ask the standard health- and fitness-type questions. Then he might even examine me (not all the time – as he has said, the scan tells him most of what he needs to know) before he addresses the elephant in the room (metaphorically speaking, although I have gained a few pounds).
Dina and I don't exactly hold hands, but we are holding our collective breath as we prepare to hang on his every syllable. This exchange of pleasantries happens every eight weeks or so. In the interim, I am encouraged to email my oncologist with any questions or concerns, particularly if new symptoms develop and persist for two to three weeks.
Well, I did have something happening to me the other Saturday, the day after my last immunotherapy infusion which, treatment-to-date, had not happened.
When I awoke that morning, I was unable to summon up the strength/energy to get out of bed. It felt similar to my early days of heavy-duty chemotherapy, when due to the destruction of your red blood cells (and white cells, too), you can barely move. There was no pain, but neither was there any energy.
Simply put: the tank was empty.
I could barely roll over in bed, let alone get up, walk downstairs and feed the cats. This kind of extreme post-immunotherapy fatigue was a first. All previous post-immunotherapy Saturdays were not the least bit similar or different than any other day.
I did not, nor have I since, emailed my oncologist with any of these details. At this juncture, I consider it an aberration and not worthy of an overreaction.
For all I know, to invoke an old punchline, my underwear was too tight.
As such, I will wait until my next infusions and see if the following morning follows an old or new pattern. If it's new, I will email my oncologist.
It's ironic that this situation occurred a few days after last week's column "It's Not As If My Life Depends On It" published. The content of which was my anxiety concerning emailing my oncologist about new symptoms/side effects for fear that in so doing, my oncologist would be for stopping my treatment. And in stopping my treatment, there is then nothing stopping the cancer.
This is some of what I've heard over the years; it's not so much the cancer that gets you as it is the side effects which cause the treatment to have to stop, which then enables the cancer to then do what it most horrifyingly does (you'll note I didn't say inevitably).
But I'm not an alarmist, nor an "overreactionist," (to make up a word as I so often do). I've survived 10+ years by being neither.
I try to go about my cancer business as any other and live life as normally – for me – as possible. I am not gloom and doom, and for me, the glass is always half full. And even though I'm in the middle of a big negative, I'm still positive.
After all, I'm a member of Red Sox Nation; hope forever springs eternal.