Well, This is a Fine How-DYa-Do

May 11, 2006

Rest assured, O Best Beloveds, that this story has a more positive ending than the start may indicate, but there we were two weeks ago Wednesday, frantically trying to get ready for the NOLA trip, when Dr. Rain On My Parade calls to tell me my tumor markers, hitherto falling nicely if not swiftly, had reversed the trend, going from 106 to 136. Which means? “Well, it could be a false reading, or it could be a `tumor blast’ [an upswing of a burst of blasted tumor registering one final flame out], or it could indicate that something is not responding to treatment. I don’t’ think this is cancer running wild through your body, but we have to see what’s there.”

In order to start ruling things out, we stopped on our way to the airport the next morning, so I could have a new test drawn, the results of which Dr. W.. told me the following Tuesday, Steve’s and my 11th wedding anniversary, which we were celebrating at that very moment at the actual location, Marc and Ann’s beautiful backyard in Cajun country. This time it was up to 170, despite super triple blasto chemo happy happy joy joy, which ruled out lab error and tumor blast. Nettie, Robin, Chuck, Wes and I wrapped our arms around each other and put our heads together in a group huddle, and I had a nice 45 second or so cry, and then we dried our eyes and went off to have cake, because that’s a solution to many of life’s problems. At least, for us.

And so we got back late Monday night, and by Tuesday at 8am I was in a PET scan machine, because there is no occasion of joy Dr. W. can’t kill, it seems, bless his heart. Way to bring me down off my couchon de lait high, pal. BUT today he redeemed himself, by calling to say that all the old cancer is gone, dead, decimated, responded perfectly to treatment and while there is a new liver lesion, it’s just one, and it’s a clone (ie, nothing new), and there is nothing else. So this is “as good of news as we could have hoped,” Dr. W. said.

So now what? I have to give up Chemo O’ Fun, and turn to something stronger. Dr. W. said “This one doesn’t have many more side effects, just some nausea..” Oh, hello? In nine years, he’s NEVER SAID THAT. “Ah, dude?” I said, “We made a deal from the beginning. You would save my life, and do so without making me sick to my stomach. In exchange, I would accept any and all other grossness with equanimity. Someone here is not holding up their side of the bargain.” He just ignored me, as he usually does when I talk like that. For those keeping track at home, the new chemo combo is called Gemzar, which apparently doesn’t cause any quease, and Cisplatin, which I know nothing about, but it seems that like Cancer: The Return’s Taxitere/Xeloda combo, each on its own is just fine, but put them together, and it’s super toxicity time! Hooray! And yet, there is a strong chance I might grow some hair during this regime, so go figure. Anyway, there are all kinds of plans for extra meds to help handle any nausea, plus my sister Deb is coming along tomorrow to use all her considerable medical knowledge to make everyone understand that there are anti-nausea meds, and special anti-nausea meds, and then there are Herczog Girls anti-nausea meds, and that’s what we want, thank you very much. I simply fear that whatever stomach problems I have, they will be resolved by eating lots of bread. And cake. And that I will be both sick to my stomach and gain three dress sizes. I have my priorities in order.

What I am not, is worried. I was initially, but Dr. W. from the first was calm about the matter. It seems he started me on a relatively gentle chemo to see if that would work, and spare me some trauma, and while it did work, there is this one stubborn bit that it didn’t get, so out come the stronger guns. “But what if this new chemo doesn’t work?” I asked. “Oh, I’ve got a gazillon more things to try,” he replied. “They are inventing something new all the time. I’ve got two new regimes coming out in August.” The scan news today only relieved everyone’s mind all the more; he’s quite confident he will be able to continue my remission. Further, I spoke to his former nurse Michelle, who still works at USC NOrris, and along with her co-nurse at the Breast Center, Lori, remain very close to me, and she said that many docs would just keep me on weekly chemo and in some low but not complete remission (“170 is not a high number,” she said) for perpetuity, but that Dr. W. treats things aggressively, because he’s always going for the home run. “And that’s why I would go to him, if I needed treatment,” she said.

Speaking of Michelle, to show how lucky I’ve gotten with medical personnel over the years, I mentioned how anxious I was waiting for the news, and how I wished that busy Dr. W. didn’t have the policy of delivering such news himself, so I could get info more quickly. “Oh, I know you,” she said. “You do fine with bad news. It’s no news that makes you crazy. I bet you spent hours fretting while waiting, and seeing all kinds of ghosts, but once you got the actual news, you cried for about a minute, and then you were ready to go.” “You left out the part about the cake, but yes, that’s right on the money,” I said. I haven’t been her patient in years, but she recalled all that about me,and even remembered all the specific symptoms I had with the last kind of chemo. These are good, good people, and if I’m calm and confident, that’s a large part of why.

New Chemo is once a week for two weeks, then one week off. He’s going to start with three rounds (so nine weeks) and then likely run me through the PET scan again, while “watching your tumor markers like a hawk.” No clue how many total of these rounds might be in order; it just depends on those pesky markers. More reports as we get them, including the official list of Potential Side Effects, my report from land o’ queasy and, of course, the complex negotiations that are emerging thanks to the timing of Round #3, which will exactly coincide with Euro-Trip. (One Highly Likely Solution: Paula, please ready up your guest room and nursing skills, as I experience Chemo, London-Style! Yippee!)

Here’s hoping this lesion doesn’t survive this upcoming chemo liaison,