Uncharted Territory example

Uncharted Territory

I just had another oncology meeting after my latest CT scan. I always like meeting my oncologist; he grins wider and shakes my hand harder each time. What he said to me today was that we’re in “uncharted territory.” He had originally expected by now to be setting up my next level of cancer treatment in an eventual losing battle, but instead there is still no sign of disease. He is thoroughly delighted!

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Peripheral neuropathy and tinnitus

Chemotherapy is nasty stuff. Okay, it’s useful nasty stuff, but boy, is it nasty! It works by hammering every part of your body, and it’s the fastest-growing cells (which include cancer cells) that suffer the most. The side effects of chemo while you’re going through it are widely known: hair loss, nausea and loss of appetite, weakness, and a compromised immune system are the biggies. Me? I lost far less hair than was expected and I avoided the whole nausea and appetite problem (thanks to cannabis and to being fit and healthy to start with), but I did suffer from weakness and ultimately quite serious immune system effects, as mentioned in ‘immunocompromised.’ 

What I hadn’t quite realised was that the end of a course of chemotherapy is not the end of the problems it can cause…

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Chemotherapy is evil stuff. It’s a necessary evil, as the saying goes, but whatever kind you’re given it is, at heart, a poison. It works by flooding one’s system and hammering on everything you’ve got, cancer cells and good cells alike. Cancer cells are fast growing (which is the basis of what makes them a problem) so, like weeds, they are more vulnerable to poisons than slower-growing cells. The chemo doses are carefully tailored so you’re given enough to knock your normal cells down but not actually ‘out’ – but any fast-growing cells suffer more seriously. Aptosis, or cell death, of the cancer cells is the aim.

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Chemo: finished

Yesterday I finished my last session of chemotherapy. If I had more energy I’d cheer! 😀

It’s been a weird time; very dark predictions to begin with back in Spring, then dramatically, in fact unprecedentedly, good ‘half-time’ scan results in Summer: the various places it was (bladder plus lymph glands and a couple of different organs that wanted in on the act) appear to have shrunk to almost or entirely just scar tissue or are actually undetectable. I am, as always, a pragmatic optimist, and my consultants are (now) also optimistic and looking forward to the results of next week’s end-of-treatment scan.

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Cisplatin, gemcitabine

My chemotherapy runs as a set of six three-week cycles. Day 1 is spent in the oncology out-patients ward, hooked up to an IV drip from around 9AM to near 6PM. This starts with anti-sickness drugs and some steroids, then some saline through the IV, and then some big chemo guns: gemcitabine and cisplatin. Finally, more saline to flush everything through.

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