Well, it's been a few years since I've updated this blog. With my 7th cancer-versary coming up this week, I thought I would check in and give the blogosphere an update on wazzup. So, without further adieu...
I'm still (pretty) healthy! That of course is the big, fantastic news. I'm down to yearly oncology visits and I'm also participating in a long term study of patients that were given a regimen of SGN-35 (commercial name is brentuximab) following an autologous stem cell transplant. These studies are pretty funny (if you have a macabre sense of humor). They call you every year and ask you "hey, are you still alive? If so, any symptoms of a relapse? If not, how are you answering the phone?" Or something like that...
More on the health department. In 2010 I developed a blood clot in my left arm, probably due to the port I had in my chest. Over the following year, that clot resolved into some scarring in the vein under my armpit. My body compensated in a pretty cool fashion - I developed some pretty large surface veins above my left pectoral muscle. As my oncologist described it "your vein interstate has got some debris in it, so your body enlarged the surface streets." Pretty amazing, really. My left arm is almost completely normal, which is great. If I exercise a lot (ex: swim several hundred yards of free style), my left hand will turn a bit purple, due to delayed blood flow return. I'm not sure this will ever resolve, so my hope is that it doesn't get any worse. I can play hockey, do push ups, pull ups, ride my mountain bike, etc. so it's not held me back much from being as active as I want to be.
Next health issue - bleomycin induced damage to my lungs. I still notice this and I suppose that after 7 years, it's likely that it won't get much better. But my oncologist is fairly confident that it won't get any worse either, which is good news. I've had several PFTs and I always test as super-positive, but I definitely notice that my lung function is less than it was and I have periodic episodes where my lung function seems off a bit. I tend to exercise very hard on my bike so it's pretty obvious when my lung function is different than normal. After the initial problem in 2010, my oncologist was hopeful that my lungs would completely recover in a few years. But after 7 years, I'm thinking that this is about as good as it's going to get. I wish it was better but I'm still plugging away, running, biking, playing hockey, etc. So compared to most people that have any sort of significant pulmonary illness, I'm doing great so I'm not going to complain!
Mental health check - pretty good, I think. Susan and I continue to have a tremendously awesome relationship and we've both had enough health issues over the years that we don't take anything for granted. Our immediate family is very healthy and we're getting new grandchildren and grand-nieces/nephews every year or so. Whenever we get a new arrival in our extended family, I take a moment and realize that this was one of the things that I was fighting for - living long enough to see my family continue to grow and get to know the next generation. Grand-parenting - greatest thing ever!
My cancer advocacy continues - Susan and I have volunteered in an infusion department and we are involved in supporting a couple of local Camp Kesem chapters here in Colorado. It feels good to give back after having received such great care and having a pretty good outcome, considering how sick I was in 2010/2011.
I supposed that after 7 years of survivorship, you might wonder if I've gained any great perspective on life, serious illness, death, etc. I think the biggest thing I've taken out of the experience is what many people feel - the sense that every day is precious and to take nothing for granted. I've also realized that the most valuable thing you can have in your life is love. Your health might be great or not so great. But if you have love in your life, you'll do fine. And if you don't, being a world class athlete or acquiring great material wealth doesn't fill the gap. I'm lucky to have a tremendous life partner in Susan and lots of love in my immediate family and friendships.
So I'll close by hoping that if you're reading this and you're dealing with cancer in your life that you take the time and pay attention to your loving relationships. Do that and you'll be OK, regardless of how much time you have on this shiny blue ball. Here's to life!