Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Radiation is off - cancelled altogether

I interrupt the regular every-other-week message for this special announcement: No more radiation treatments. At all.

Monday and Tuesday were really long days at the hospital. My white count just seemed to be dropping to the basement after each treatment. I ended up doing three treatments over two weeks. In the end, it was determined that radiation would likely do more harm to my bone marrow than good for my cancer prevention program, so we nixed it.

I was quite impressed with the team of doctors who came together at a moment's notice. That is always a bit daunting, to see them drop what they are doing and come from various corners of the hospital.

I'm still processing that meeting. I thought that low white count was a normal side effect of chemo. Apparently, I present this in an usual way. Lovely. As in, "I've honestly never seen this before. I'd like to stay involved to see how this turns out." Hmmm. Not a reassuring statement from a doctor, but good to know, and doesn't sound horrible horrible. Besides, my attitude is always that there is room for one more at the party, so any doctor who wants to be involved, come on in!

Speaking of more opinions, I learned that mine was a case study at Dana Farber because my case is unusual. I'll spare you the details, but I got to hear the ideas of the other doctors at the conference, so that was cool.

Anyway, change in plans. I start chemo again on April 8, back to my every-other-Tuesday regimen, followed by two days of continuous infusion chemo (and the pills, neuropathy, etc.). It's kind of the devil you know, and there is some comfort in that.

Sometimes, this path really stinks. I hate not knowing if I will be at the hospital one hour or eight hours. I hate wearing that pump. I hate the side effects of chemo. I hate having the energy to do only one thing each day. I hate that I see other people there who are having a hard time, and it breaks my heart that they have to go through that. I hate that I found the book Oliver's Story in the infusion room. (Oliver's Story is the sequel to Love Story, where the main female character dies of leukemia.) And I hate that I was compelled to read that book while I waited.

I hate that my kids are experiencing this through me, and that there are times that I can't do normal things with them. I hate that we can't plan ahead, even to have a playdate, because I seem to always get suddenly called into the hospital.

But, it is good that my schedule is flexible enough to tolerate long doctor appointments, that they have this traveling pump so I don't have to sit in a hospital room for two days to get the infusion, that there are drugs to help with the side effects, and that I am able to do one thing each day. It humbles me to see others in the waiting room. And I'm hoping that my kids, going through this, develop strength of character or some other positive attribute as a result.

I sometimes feel like I am rowing down a river with a strong current, and the river is filled with rocks, both seen and unseen. But if I pay attention, there are guides along the way.

The doctors have been really on top of all this, and they are great guides. I get to work with the Fellow I liked at Dana Farber -- he moved to MGH. The radiation oncologist is smart and caring, and today, I met the oncologist I'll see while mine is on maternity leave. I really like her. The hematologist I adore is staying involved. And I get to keep my chemo nurse through all this. Fortunately for me, she used all her vacation on her honeymoon so she will be here through my treatment. Yay! All these people listen really well and have insightful thoughts and experiences to share.

There is a person who works in the infusion room with the same last name that my older son had at his birth. Wild. On top of that, this fine gentleman at MGH taught me alot about meditation and breathing.

The other patients are also good guides, each in their own way. What a diverse world we live in!

So, while this path sometimes stinks, I am reminded on almost a moment-to-moment basis that it is so important to be in this moment, that we have this moment, and that is everything.

Thanks for listening to this saga. It has been a crazy two days. I hope that yours were more sane, but I suspect they were crazy in their own ways. I'll be back to you on April 8 or so!

Love, Marie

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