Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Another clean CT scan

Yeah, yeah, YEAH! Another clean CT scan today. Wow, that's a relief. It's hard to put into words how unbelievably stressful and scary it is to face this kind of event in your life. But I guess I will try to do it. Ok, here we go:

Last month I had a few days when I felt kind of 'blah'. Just a general feeling of being off - a bit of nausea, feeling pressure in my head. Kind of like I was fighting a cold. No fevers, no night sweats, no itchy skin. In other words, no Hodgkins 'B' symptoms. But I'm worried that I have nasty tumors growing inside of me so I work up my courage, call my oncologist (who is awesome!) and ask to move up my CAT scan from late march to early march. So, we get it scheduled...

As the time of the CAT scan approaches (usually it's about a week or two out for me),  my imagination starts going. And I apparently have a REALLY good imagination when it comes to thinking about all the possible ways I could be getting another recurrence. Feel a pain in the middle of your chest? Before cancer, I would not have given it a second thought, or perhaps attributed it to muscle soreness from riding my bike or swimming. With a CAT scan approaching, I immediately have visions of mediastinal tumors. Pain in your back? Most likely from doing hill repeats on your bike. But me? Nope, I'm thinking that I have a tumor in my back, similar to the Hodgkins patient I saw when I volunteered at the infusion center last week. Trouble breathing? Probably an allergy, maybe a leftover from the bleomycin toxicity? (which isn't something to sneeze at - this article indicates that bleo toxicity is not good for long term survivability). But no, I've completely convinced myself that I have several large tumors that are restricting my lung capacity. This is primarily due to me knowing a few people that have had lung problems due to thoracic (chest) cavity issues - tumors, blood clots, etc. And then I start thinking about all the ways my life is going to change with a bad diagnosis - lots more treatments, lots of bad side effects, higher likelihood of an early death from this damn disease. So by the morning of the procedure, I'm basically a  mess. I feel like I'm going to puke, I have diarrhea (stress induced hyper-bowel, thank you very much) and I feel like either not saying anything to any body or start screaming at everything and everybody. And then the test. Which goes fine.

And then - The Wait.....

The wait sucks. You watch your phone, wanting it to ring so you can get the news and move forward. And wanting it not to ring, because you're afraid of what the answer is. So you decide to do some work. Which of course is close to impossible, because YOUR FUCKING LIFE IS HANGING IN THE BALANCE, WAITING FOR THE GODDAMN PHONE TO RING!

If you've followed the blog, you know that this is not a new condition for me. Back in 2012, I got all worked up, as I describe here. So you would think that with every passing CAT scan I would mellow out. But somehow, I seem to always engineer some set of ailments that put me on edge.

So I get the news, and it is awesomely awesome. And yes, that's a phrase that's OK to use because I just GOT MY LIFE BACK!!!! So after a few seconds of wild fist pumping, I calm down enough to chat with my oncologist and we talk about my symptoms that made me move up the CAT scan. When you have a stem cell transplant, you reboot your immune system, with either your own or some donor's. In my case, it was my own stem cells, so I now have a 3 year old immune system. And it's not quite perfect yet. So although I don't get sick much, I do have periods where I feel like I'm fighting something. Which I probably am. With my original immune system, I would never notice these battles. But with the Geo V2 system, it's still kind of immature and I can feel it when it's working. At least, that's the prevailing theory. I hope over time that these periodic, sub-clinical symptoms will go away and I will finally be able to relax in the period building up to my CAT scan.

But to end on a happy note - it looks like I'm still pretty healthy. More yeahs! It is so awesome not to be sick and have a good chance of living a long time. It's really fantastic, because I have had plenty of opportunities over the last four years to see things end differently for friends I've lost to cancer. So I'm so very grateful for pretty good health and the love and support of lots of people.

That's my update for today - health, happiness and joy. And now, off to write some code, ride my bike and hug my most awesome wife! TTFN - I'll probably do another post at the end of the month when I have my 3 year old immune system birthday party.

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