Monday, March 15, 2010

Stage 3A - Damn, crap, argh...

Talked to my oncologist yesterday. (And how's that for cool - a doctor that calls you on a Sunday afternoon because he knows  you're anxious about test results.) Looks like the PET scan shows that I have a couple of nodes below my diaphragm (in addition to the nodes in my neck and thorax) that are not happy. This qualifies me as Stage 3A, which means I'll get 6 months of chemo, not 4.

Shit. I was really hoping for a Stage 2A diagnosis. That would mean four months of chemo instead of six and would indicate that the creeping crud that's in my immune system hadn't spread as far. Statistically the survival rates for Stage 2 vs. early Stage 3 aren't much different so at some level this doesn't really mean much. But...

I felt like I failed the staging test. And I hate failing tests! So I was down for a bit yesterday afternoon. Had some private man tears and then got back on the "we'll get through this fine" horse and am ready to attack the week.

So now the good news. Bone marrow came back clean which is a sign that the disease hasn't progressed into my bone marrow. This is good in terms of how far the disease has progressed and also a good sign in terms of how I'll tolerate chemo. The chemo blasts your white blood cells and your bone marrow makes WBCs so having health bone marrow will make the chemo a lot more bearable. The biggest single reason that chemo gets interrupted is that a person's WBC count is too low so they can't dose you with the chemo for fear that you'll get sick from some opportunistic infection.Another good news item is that the tumors in my chest are small enough that they don't qualify for radiation after the chemo. So one treatment avoided!

The oncologist was pretty upbeat saying that this was all pretty good news. Heart is ok, lungs are ok, bone marrow is clear. Tomorrow I'll go in and look at the scans in more detail.


  1. Well, that really, really sucks. So glad that the treatment starts soon so you can get to the end of that journey as fast as possible. Stay strong and know that we are thinking about you each and every day.

  2. Having thought about it for a few days, I'm thinking (ever the eternal optimist!) that the 6 cycle approach is for the best. My oncologist is saying that the big issue for me is not so much immediate recovery but long term recovery. Once the nodes cross the diaphragm they get concerned that there may be other, "occult" nodes affected (nodes that don't show up on the PET/CT scan and aren't physically visible). So 4 cycles might not be enough to get the outliers. My doc is predicting that after 2 cycles I should be clean on my PET scan, so the last 4 cycles are targeting outlying malignancies that don't show up on the PET scan. I'm not looking forward to six months of this but if those two extra months translate to another 30 years of living that seems like a great trade off imo.