The hardest part of this entire thing is all the waiting. I dutifully take my chemotherapy every second Tuesday but I never really know if it's working. I just have to trust that the science is good and that I respond properly.
On March 30th I made my regular trip to the Cross to get my blood taken to ensure I had sufficient neutrophils to take another round of chemo. These neutrophils indicate your body's ability to fight off infection and if they're too low you get delayed so they don't open you up too badly to infection. I had this experience a couple of rounds ago and I was extremely upset for a couple of reasons. The first is that I took any delay to mean that somehow I was losing, not getting my chemo on schedule seemed like the disease was winning. The other was that it threw my entire life schedule off. I had booked trips to Toronto and Hawaii around my chemo schedule and when I got delayed it meant I was now supposed to get chemo while I was on these trips. I was able to reschedule without any trouble and so the trips are back on but I was worried for a bit.
Fortunately, I'm part of an amazing group of colon cancer survivors online and they had all experienced delays in their chemo treatments and reassured me that it was nothing to be uspset about. Just a fact of treatment.
I was thrilled to find out that my neutrophils were extremely good, typically I've been around 1.4 which is the absolute bottom level that they'll allow you to get treatment. This time I was at 3.2 and doing very well. The VERY exciting part was that my CT results showed that my cancer was SHRINKING! One of the two tumors in my liver had shrunk while the other remained the same. Additionally, my lymph nodes were shrinking, with one cited at going from 1.4cm down to 0.9cm for a nearly 30% reduction. The doctor just couldn't let me have that; he went on to explain that he had gotten the results of my tumor's genetic testing and that it had an "odd mutation." I asked what this meant and he sort of explained that because it was responding to chemo it didn't really mean anything but he was going to ask me to sign a permission form to be considered for a phase 1 trial in the future just to have it "in his back pocket."
This was alarming to me as I know phase 1 trials to be the last chance for people who have not had success with the tried and tested chemotherapy. It turns out I'm right but Kim went online and chatted with some online friends and they assured us that this means our doctor is a super hero. Rather than doing the minimum, he was getting ahead of the game so that if I did have an issue with my current treatment plan there was an option already available instead of scrambling.
I was further calmed the next day when the research nurse came to visit me and get my permission to send my tumor off for further testing to see if I was a fit for the trial. The first words out of her mouth were, "Dr. Sawyer wanted me to reassure you this is just for the future, nothing to be worried about." I think he's getting to know that despite my tough outer shell I'm an emotional train wreck when it comes to how I'm doing.
I know this is going to be a recurring cycle. Get my results, go a few months of treatment and then go for another CT and anxiously await my results. It's taxing and exhausting but the joy of getting good results is a feeling like no other. I'm back into my training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene and although I'm not where I have been in the past I feel confident in my ability to finish.
Animo my friends!