Thursday, November 14, 2013

another good doctor's visit! A healthy fall with lots to be thankful for

Howdy, all! Today I had another six month check with my oncologist and everything is still going well. So - yeah! I've been meaning to post for a while but thought I would wait to get through this visit and summarize how things are going for me. Here's the latest stream of consciousness on my health. If you know me personally and are just checking up or you found this through a web search, I hope this is interesting. If not - well, close that browser tab and go out for a bike ride! Ok, in no particular order, here we go:

  • Lots of things are still getting better slowly:
    • Lung function. Definitely better. Over the last few months I've basically stopped thinking about my lungs. They just feel normal. I haven't had a PFT in quite a while so I don't have quantitative data, but qualitatively, things are better. Less coughing in the morning, less tightness in my chest when I get up to higher elevations, no wheezing. It's been over 3 years since I had the interstitial pneumonitis (brought on by Bleomycin toxicity) and it seems like the lungs are still healing.
    • Peripheral neuropathy in my feet is less noticeable. Still there but less obvious than in months past. I'd like to start ice skating and playing hockey again and see how my feet do. Maybe this winter and next spring respectively for those two events.
    • Left arm is working better. I can now swim 800 yards and use my arm pretty regularly. By the end of 800 yards of freestyle my hand has a definite purplish tint so I have still have some problems with delayed blood flow, but again, seems to be better. As the days get shorter and colder, I think I will start swimming more. The only negative is that in the dry Colorado winter air, being in a chlorine pool a lot definitely is hard on your skin so I'll have to be better about applying lotion than I have been. The side effect is dry, itchy skin and since itchy skin can be a Hodgkin's B symptom, I definitely don't want to do anything to cause that symptom, less I get my hypochondria dialed up and start stressing about a relapse.
  • Things not getting better:
    • Blood chemistry. Hemoglobin is getting a little better (13.1 today) but hematocrit is still about where it was last May (~38). That sucks. I love riding my bike hard and running hard and both are pretty painful when you're anemic. I'm participating in a double-blind study for the use of Brentuximab vedotin in relapsed Hodgkin's patients that have had a stem cell transplant, but I'm pretty sure from my response that I got the drug. And one of the adverse effects of the drug is low platelet counts (mine is 115, low normal is 150). So my oncologist and I are thinking that my anemia and low platelets may be a side effect of the brentuximab jacking around my bone marrow. Another data point is that my red cell average size is still around 110%. This is a sign of immature red blood cells. My onc isn't worried and I'm really living a pretty great quality of life, so I'm going to try to be a bit more healthy in my lifestyle (more fruits and vegetables, less alcohol, fats and sweets) and give my body all the help I can to have healthy bone marrow.
    • I have some intermittent, low grade chills. This is the most worrisome symptom since this can happen with lymphoma. But I'm also a bit temperature sensitive, so we're thinking I may have some thyroid issues at work. We took some blood for that today and we'll have results in a week or so. I don't have night sweats, not running any fever, no other 'B' symptoms so we think there's nothing serious going on. But it is one of those nagging things that can be stressful.
    • Thin hair. My hair is definitely thinner than it was before. I'd like it to be thicker, primarily as another sign of health. The good news is that I have less grey hair! Anyway, I'm not going to do anything about this either, but it is another subtle sign that my body has been through a lot in the last few years.
  • To CAT scan, or not CAT scan? I'm now far enough out from my transplant that I can have some flexibility in how frequently I get scans. The upside of a scan is that you can find problems early and early detection can help long term prognosis. The down side is that CAT scans give you A LOT of radiation and at some point, you start entertaining serious risk for radiation caused illness - leukemia, heart problems, etc. I've gotten a number of CAT scans in the last three years so today we decided that I would not do a CAT scan this month, but wait until next march and then do them for the next three years on an annual cycle, assuming that no other symptoms present themselves. So again, it's a bit of a crap shoot and you kind of worry that you might be sticking your head in the sand and give tumors another six months to grow in your body. Which is pretty much a disgusting thought. But if you get too much radiation, you will get sick. Mutations can cause malignant cells to be produced and it would be a really stupid move to get another cancer from doing so many diagnostic tests to detect a cancer that you don't have. Now that would be ironic - but not good. So that's the decision. If something bad shows up in march there will be a lot of anguish that we decided to go this way, but with no acute symptoms today, I feel comfortable with the decision.
Well, that's about it on the health front. Everything else is also going pretty well. My immediate family are all healthy and happy and I'm enjoying riding my bike, running and being with friends and family. I have had a few folks I know die of cancer in the last few months which is super sad and obviously strikes close to home. But I don't think that's anything special to me - if you're a 50 something in this day and age, you probably know people that are both cancer survivors and have died of cancer. So when I get down about that, I give Susan a big hug, think of all the good things in my life and get on my bike and ride!

that's it from here. I hope you're having a healthy fall and thx for checking in! Look for my next post where I will shamelessly post pointers to a video I shot this summer about cancer survivorship. ttfn!

1 comment:

  1. well, it looks like the no-CT in November choice was a good one. Just had another CT scan (early March, 2014) and everything looks normal. So I successfully avoid a CT scan in November of '13 which saved my body from mutation causing radiation. Yeah, me!