Thursday, November 4, 2010

all clear at two month post-chemo check-up

Just got back from  my two month post chemo checkup. The GREAT news is that everything seems to be going really well. Yeah, me! Yeah, my body! Man, it's a sunny fall day here in Colorado and I am just diggin' being alive and (relatively) healthy.

A few more details as I continue my habit of sharing all the minutiae of my illness with you, my faithful blog follower. You'll remember that I had some funkiness going on in my back - what looked like a compression fracture in my T7 vertebrae. You can see from the MRI picture below (click the image to get a larger view) that the vertebrae is slightly trapezoidal in shape (should be square) and it's a bit discolored (indicating some healing going on in the bone).

And let's talk for a second about the MRI machine to get this kind of picture of your thoracic region. If you're claustrophic, you wouldn't like it! The top of the tube is about 4 inches from your face. I kind of thought it was cool - like being inserted into a torpedo tube. But if close quarters aren't your thing, you might want to get some pre-medication to calm the nerves. And talk about loud - wow! Kind of like a crazy, techno beat that you can hear and feel through your whole body as the magnets in the MRI clank back and forth. In my case, for 45 minutes. Even with earplugs I came out of it with my ears ringing and feeling pretty spacey.

Anyway, I went to my neuro-surgeon last week to evaluate the MRI and he thought my back didn't require any treatment. My core is stable, I'm in no pain, etc. So, no situps for another 6 weeks or so and avoid any heavy lifting over my head and I should be good to go.

The other medical issue I've been dealing with is some inflammation in my left arm from some veinous blood clotting. My care team decided to start me on some blood thinners and they have definitely reduced the swelling in my arm. It doesn't hurt which is nice, but no free style swimming until the symptoms go away. It's a slow process - I've been on the blood thinners for a couple of weeks and there's been some progress but the symptoms are not completely gone yet. So irritating but not life threatening so we'll work through it ok.

Today I saw my oncologist and everything looks ok from a lymph node perspective. I've felt some weird tingles in my neck which had me pretty freaked out but the word is that this is being caused by the fact that I'm starting to get sensation back in my neck from the incision done when I had the biopsy in March. So those tingles are in fact a good sign and have nothing to do with tumor growth. Yeah!!!

On the conditioning front, I'm definitely making slow but steady progress. My weight has been pretty stable but I'm trading the jelly roll around my middle for some muscle mass in my legs. I now have a 1-pack on my stomach. Getting to a six pack may not ever happen but will definitely be slowed down by the fact that I can't do any situps for another six weeks to give my back time to heal. On my bike rides, I'm seeing definite improvements in times and how I'm doing relative to other riders. A month ago I would start with folks but basically do a solo ride at a slower pace than everyone. Now I'm almost, sort of keeping up with some of the folks. Of course, my goal is to crush them like a nut athletically but so far I'm not there. But spring 2011? Starting to look like that might be possible - heh, heh, heh. I did a fun (and hard for me) mountain bike ride last Saturday (track info here) and a hard climb up a local road (Flagstaff) on my road bike on Tuesday (here). Both good, hard rides that I probably couldn't have done last month.

On the mental health front, I'm doing pretty well. I continue to have some fears of a cancer recurrence. My oncologist says that given how I've responded to treatment that a relapse would be highly unlikely but not impossible. Last Sunday I had a day of just mild depression - moping around the house, not really feeling like doing anything and just feeling worried about my health. As the months go by and I continue to regain my health I suspect that these days will occur more and more rarely. Just another wicket to go through on the croquet course of cancer/chemo recovery!

So that's it for now. And just a gentle reminder - I know that ALL of you are getting your yearly checkups of all your hardware, yes? You all promised me that you would do this when I posted on this topic earlier this year and I haven't forgotten. So make sure you're staying on top of your health exams, get to the doctor if you're experiencing any weirdness that persists longer than a couple of weeks and let's all be around for a long time to drink beer and ride bikes!

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