|Garth Williams from Little House in the Big Woods|
Thursday I had my scans, a bone scan and a CT scan. A good and a bad surprise there. The good surprise was that my facility seems to have changed their oral contrast protocol, they've gone from nasty barium "smoothies" (2012 through 2015) to something else (iodine based, I think, early 2016) that tasted and felt better, to no oral contrast at all (October 2016, February 2017) which is better still. Twice in a row now it's been no oral contrast, so I think it must be a done deal.
I guess that's the joy of being a "frequent flyer." Most people wouldn't know what they were missing, but with more CT scans than I can remember it's enough to know which flavors of barium smoothie to request (berry) and which to avoid at all costs (mochaccino), I know what I missed and I was thoroughly glad to miss it.
The bad surprise was apparently I don't actually have veins in my arm. Ok, that's an exaggeration, I do have veins, but they're getting wise to the world of medical procedures and I guess they've decided it's time to fight back. The first stick got in but hit some scar tissue or a valve and the IV had to be scrapped and the vein team was called in. The vein team nurse tried again and the second vein collapsed so she decided to call in the top vein nurse. The top vein team nurse tired a few different things and eventually called down a 3rd vein team nurse to put something called a midline catheter in a vein in my upper arm using ultrasound to guide it through. More dramatic than I would have liked and kind of bad that it added an extra couple hours to the schedule, but, still, highly effective.
So I had my scans and went in the next day for my appointment with my oncologist. I was honestly expecting, what with those rising tumor markers and having discussed potential next steps at last month's appointment and all, that she was going to tell me there was progression. Instead, I got an excellent surprise: turns out I'm stable and continuing on with Xeloda!
I asked about the tumor markers, but my oncologist told me that sometimes the same amount of cancer can evolve into one that just gives off more markers, so it could be that. But also, she feels that it's not a good idea to switch treatments on tumor markers alone if I'm feeling good and the scans (and therefore the bones and liver) aren't getting worse. You use up treatments that way for no good reason. I like the way she thinks, it makes sense to me.
There had been some lessening in the cancerous lesions in the scans before this one, so I guess the news isn't quite not as great as it could be, but keeping the beast at bay another few months and not burning through another treatment is still, I think, always good news.
So now I'm in my kitchen, getting ready for the Superbowl. Between typing I'm stopping to turn the bacon frying for potato skins. Crockpot pulled pork is cooking away, a Turkish-Lebanese bread with feta and walnuts is rising on the counter and artichoke dip is mixed up and ready to heat. I'll be making cornepones to go with the pork closer to game time. Our "baby" and I spent time yesterday trying on prom dress styles (with photos carefully emailed to her sister) and looking at fabric and patterns so I can begin sewing a dress once she decides on a style. Nice to be here feeling well and feeling able to do these things I love, almost 3 years after my stage IV diagnosis, going on 5 years dealing with cancer.
It's good. And I'm glad to be able to put off worrying about the next treatment, the next side effects, and how well the "next" will even work and if so for how long, at least for another few months.
I hope "our" Patriots win, but (and don't tell the rest of New England this), it's ok with me if they don't get this one. I'm still going to consider this a winning kind of weekend.