May 31, 2006

O Best Beloveds, I’m writing this while looped, because I haven’t done enough of that in these latest epistles, and it’s always Arlene’s favorite, so here you go, dear. Having finished one full round of New Kinda Icky But Not Really Chemo, and beginning Round #2 yesterday (three rounds scheduled total, but…as if), it was time for tumor markers. To remind you, this whole chemo switch was commanded because my makers went up, first from 100-something to 136, and then to 170. They were drawn again yesterday, on Chemo Day, and put to a speedy lab so that results could come stat, in time for meeting Dr. W. today, Fluids Day. The results? 170.

Actually, that’s good news, and there is potentially even better news lurking behind it. If we take it at face value, the brakes have been put on but good. There is every chance the markers were rising during my off week, all that fat Louisiana crawfish I consumed notwithstanding, and if nothing else, New Slightly Icky Chemo pulled ’em back down ,or at least, stopped it cold. BUT it seems that Speedy Lab is not “our regular lab” and usually registers counts higher, and so Dr. W. (and his Nurse Practitioner) both think the true count is closer to 140 or even 130. That would be VERY good news. Steve and I could both tell they thought that for sure, but after a bit of delight crossed their faces, they then decided to go the “let’s not get your hopes up because this is such a roller coaster” route. (In other words, we’ve gone down and then gone up before) But he’s very optimistic this chemo is working. In any event, it’s most encouraging.

In other chemo news, my red blood cell count is down, which would account for the unusual amount of puffing I’ve been doing on walks. I got a painful shot of something to help with that yesterday, plus encouragement to eat red meat, leafy greens and oatmeal. I like the first two better than the last. Also, my platelets were down, which is causing some anxiety. CHemo Nurse Lisa wasn’t even sure I could have chemo yesterday, but Dr. W. gave the go-ahead. What happens if they go down too far before my third, vacation-scheduled round? (I was suddenly filled with images of rerouting the trip, AGAIN.) No worries; Treatment #3 will either be watered-down or he will skip it entirely. It seems my body may have had a wee bit too much chemo (fancy that) and probably could use a few weeks off. Meanwhile, I’m told, no contact sports (yeah, there’s a hardship), no bungee jumping (ditto), I will bruise more easily (how can you tell? wondered Steve, who touches me and I burst into purple-bloom), and I need to call immediately if I bleed. Gosh, what fun!

And what happens once we hit that magic number of Tumor Markers 32-and-under? How many rounds after that? “I’m stopping you immediately.” What do you think, Best Beloveds? Hold him to his word? Or let him go ahead and top it off with another round or two?

In chemo-response news, the second week’s treatment didn’t knock me out quite as badly as the first–there were whole portions of the day when I was awake!–though there were sections of various days when it felt like someone was pressing concrete on my eyes and it took effort to keep them open. (Why didn’t I just sleep? Because I would close my eyes and yet remain totally awake. Frustrating.) Today, Day Two of Chemo 2 I had a little bit of queaze, nothing really dramatic, no worse than if I had spent the day before eating too heavily with certain friends (you KNOW who you are and you know it involved bacon), but since I know that instead I spent the day being infused, and that the effects are cumulative, I feel trepidation–is this going to get worse? What can I do? Once at the clinic, everyone said I did not need to feel this way, mild though it really was, and I got extra drugs in my fluids, and advice to take those appetite-supressing pills (which are really anti-acid type thingies) every day henceforth, plus a few others things, and with promises of more goop to come if this doesn’t help. That’s a very great relief, as you can imagine. Appetite-loss is no big deal (I can hear Diana protesting from here) for a little while (see, Diana?), as long as I’m back in full “yes, Mit Schlag, if you don’t mind” mode by Austria.

And now, toes! So during Cancer: The Return, my fingernails never quite fell off, but they were only barely attached, while my toenails did similar grotty things. This time, the fingernails oozed and smelled, but never got into full detaching mode, though the tips were so loose it made opening anything, even an envelope, problematic. They seem to be settling down and becoming more useful. My toes, however, stayed pretty sturdy, until the last few weeks. I couldn’t track their progress with the same hypnotic fascination I give my fingernails (seriously–they can change over the course of an hour; it’s like watching a lava lamp), because they were covered with nail polish, but when the dogs started licking them (umm….suppurating!), I knew something was up. (Much lamented black dog Bix never once in all her born days kissed me on the face, but during last chemo treatment, she licked my toes frequently, gravely and methodically, with the solemn manner of one Doing Her Duty.) First it was the left big toe, which has since curved up nearly a centimeter from the nail bed, and now the left one is attached only at the bottom edge. When I stub it–as I do at least once a day–it flips up like a tiddlywink. Oh, the pain and the hopping and the grimacing. The dogs follow me around all day long, trying to lick them, which was kind of cute the first few minutes, but the charm wore off weeks ago. I get the most exercise these days dodging them, dancing around their eager ministrations. As for walking, many of my closed toed shoes don’t fit, because the nails are too tall for the top end of the shoe, which presses painfully down on them. Sandals help some, but just the act of walking puts pressure on them so they are always sore. Again, I’m worried about our upcoming trip and walking a bunch (I need to walk off some of that Schlag, don’t you know). I showed them off to Dr. W and the NP today, and they strongly suggested I just have the left toenail removed. Dr. W. claims he has it done a lot (“For fun?” I asked. No, for ingrown toenails) and that once it’s done, the toe feels great. So, maybe. But i do feel a little disgruntled; for Cancer: The Extended Dance Remix, I was told I might well keep my brows and lashes (the last hair on the right side of each fell off last week, so I’m firmly in the Freaky Egg Look portion of the fun), and my nails certainly wouldn’t be affected. There are bigger promises I do hope they keep.

But you know, I get to have a nice steak as soon as I feel like eating again. And I got a paper done, so that’s one class finished. And our trip is still on. And Steve made me a cold cucumber yogurt soup because that was today’s bizarre craving and it was really good. And my tumor markers aren’t up. And they might even be down.

So what’s a little oozing toe?