This column will be the definition of premature.
After subjecting you regular readers to multiple columns discussing my anxiety – and fear – about the potential/presumptive and possibly debilitating and life-changing/life-ending side effects of immunotherapy, I am here to say that after my first pair of bi-weekly infusions – occurring over the past three weeks – I am no worse for the experience.
I'm feeling better than I felt while undergoing chemotherapy: No eating issues, less fatigue, less shortness of breath and more energy. The only caveat to this emptor is whether the infusions are actually shrinking my Adam's Apple tumor, which was the primary reason for making the medicine change we did.
Now whether the side effects are still coming, I certainly don't know; but should they still be on the way, I can't help but wonder: Will they change the quality of my life – for the worse? Because, for the bi-weekly moment, I am less impacted by my treatment than I have been for years.
I can't say with any degree of certainty, however, or recall what my oncologist might have said concerning the likely onset of the "over 30 percent report some side effects," as the reprint from "chemocare.com" indicated. Generally speaking, my oncologist would rather not discuss future scenarios: What happens when? What do we do if? When do we do what? And so I don't ask nearly as many questions as I used to.
It's not that I'm less curious, it's that I'm more experienced. And I have learned through my experience, that part of being a cancer patient is, unfortunately, waiting and seeing – and of course, hoping. Talking/anticipating/being told what to expect is helpful – up to a point.
The point which is most helpful is when something actually happens. Knowing what to expect is less important than knowing what to do/how to manage expectations should they manifest. It may be something or it may be nothing. Trying not to make matters worse is the key.
Being a cancer patient/survivor is a series of challenges – both emotional and physical. Finding a stride in which you can take the ups and downs and all-arounds will help you live life in the cancer lane. And just because the road is bumpy, doesn't preclude you from smoothing it out.
Actions and reactions, plan "A" and plan "B" are par for the course. So be grateful for today, because tomorrow the course may play much more difficult. Being positive about the negative offers the path of least resistance.
Today, I am not experiencing any side effects, thankfully.
"Tomorrow" however, as Scarlett O'Hara said at the end of "Gone With The Wind," "is another day." Worrying, as I had been admitting to in previous columns, about something which as yet had not happened, is especially unhelpful and wastes precious time.
As a cancer patient, there's plenty of actual bad news, generally, so there's no benefit in rushing it along. Let it happen naturally, or not at all; and occasionally, you might be pleasantly surprised, as three weeks into my new immunotherapy regimen, I am, as what side effects I anticipated/feared have not affected.
I realize I'm probably early in assessing the likely side effects of my treatment, but for the time being, I can find some peace and quiet; and when you're a cancer patient diagnosed originally as "terminal," “peace and quiet” is never to be taken for granted.