Been a lot of developments since last we spoke. Where to begin?
The month of August was very difficult for me mentally. I heard it from other cancer patients and from those going through the long process of Hodgkin’s treatment. You start out all fired up – a kind of ‘honeymoon period’ where you have the physical and mental strength to fight this thing with everything you’ve got. But somewhere along the way, it starts to grind you down. For me, it started to happen during my 6th chemo treatment. And from there, the process wore me down more and more.
I’ve figured out why there are so many cancer support groups. My friend referred to cancer as ‘A thinking man’s disease’ because you’ve got so much time to let things roll around your head. And, even though I’ve got ‘the curable cancer’, the game is the same and the chemo treatments, doctor’s visits and rollercoaster ride of being a full time patient eventually takes its toll. I always knew that I was going to make it through this process, but it took me awhile to realize that I was going to need a little help along the way.
So, I’ve been trying out some meditation classes and any other tools I can use to keep my mind sharp and focused on getting healthy. The support I’ve received has been overwhelming, to say the least. Friends and family, acquaintances and co-workers, fellow cancer patients, doctors and social workers – everyone stepped up to help me through a very difficult time. Going through the treatments, waiting for scan results, feeling worn down, living in a ‘cancer bubble’ – I’m learning to take it one day at a time.
Another good quote from my friend (actually, from Deepak Chopra) – “Our cells are constantly eavesdropping on our thoughts and being changed by them.”
I learned the hard way, this isn’t just a physical fight, but a mental one, too.
With that in mind, I started acupuncture with the amazing Dr. Mao in Santa Monica and it made a difference right away. The Tao of Wellness was recommended to me by EVERYONE I spoke to regarding acupuncture for cancer patients. And now I can vouch for them myself.
I had almost no nausea all weekend and my energy levels were way up. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself since I was so used to crashing out during a chemo weekend. I’m not sure if its more of a mental pick-me-up or if those little needles really do make a difference. But I have another appointment scheduled this Friday – the day after treatment – and I’m looking forward to it.
I actually get treated by Jason Moskowitz – who is, I’m sure, the only Jewish acupuncturist in Southern California. But he also seems to get the job done.
I had a great visit with my brother, Dad and my step-mom over the weekend. It was not only great to see everybody and put their minds at ease about my condition, but it was very rewarding to have the distraction and feel like a ‘normal’ person for a few days. Going to an Angel’s baseball game, taking a drive up Malibu and just hanging out and watching a movie with the family made for a very enjoyable time and a great pick-me-up. I wish they could have stayed longer.
But really, who wants to hang out in Los Angeles when its on fire and over 100 degrees?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I got the results back from my PET scan. There was some confusion early on about the results. A PET scan works by having irradiated sugar cells travel to places in the body that have high metabolic activity – which are places like the brain, muscle damage and cancer cells. With my condition of restricted blood flow, there was some mixed results with ‘blood pooling’ – so it was difficult to tell if they were cancer sites or just areas of high concentration of the sugar cells.
Of course, it couldn’t have been straightforward results. That would have been just too easy.
So, with a little more analysis, my oncologist told me that I am in complete remission. That means – no more cancer cells in my chest or neck. I still have one heck of a tumor in there (about 13 cm), but the chemo is working and I can be considered cancer free.
It took me a few days to let that sink in. You’d think I’d get online and blog about it right away but it has taken a little time for me to come to terms with the fact that I’m moving from one stage of my treatment to another. I’ve spent 4 months looking forward to these test results and now that they are here, it is a little difficult to believe.
My next step is talking to the radiologist about how/when to begin my radiation treatment. He may suggest that I cut my chemo treatments back from 12 to 10. However, I was told to never cut my chemo treatments short, especially with a ‘bulky tumor’ of my size. So, even though my oncologist was giving me good news, I still laid into him about the possibility of changing my treatment schedule. Determining my next steps is a work in progress.
Next up – treatment #10 on Thursday followed by meeting with radiologist on Friday followed by 2nd opinions about everything next week. Slip in an acupuncture appointment and some meditation time and I think my September is off to a good start.
I’m looking forward to moving on to the next steps in my treatment. But not without being sure that I’ve done everything I can to kill the cancer and make sure I never have to go through this again.
One day at a time. I’ll be talking to you soon.