I’m headed home from Nashville after a long day. We have a pattern with these trips; we drive up on Sunday, have a nice meal somewhere and sleep at a hotel. On Monday, I undergo treatment and whatever tests are required, and we head home afterward. This trip was special because Kim and I took Joy with us (our 16yr old daughter), since she was out of school today. The picture is of the two of them in front of the Nashville Parthenon.
Today was a busy day. It started at 6:30am at the radiology center for a CT scan, followed by an eye examination. I had planned to get a bit of work done in between appointments and during treatment, but that was rendered impossible because they numbed, dilated and stained my eyes. After the eye exam, it was an echocardiogram, which if you’re unaware, is essentially an ultrasound of your heart. Then it was on to the oncology clinic for bloodwork (I think 7 tubes today), a visit with the physician’s assistant to discuss test results, and immunotherapy treatment. A lot of fun packed into single day! And this time I got to experience it alone, as Kim and Joy explored a little of Nashville, and Joy even took a tour of Vanderbilt University. Why not?
It’s probably obvious why I get regular CT scans. The images provide updates on tumor response to treatment. The other tests are performed to check if the therapy is having adverse affects on the eyes and heart, and the extensive bloodwork looks for signs that other organs may be affected. The good news is that my eyes and heart appear normal, as does the bloodwork for the things with which they are most interested. In the past, I’ve had some inflammation of the pancreas and liver, so it’s especially comforting to see no elevated enzymes from these organs.
The great news is that the therapy continues to kill cancer cells. The CT scans show no evidence of disease in lymph nodes or other areas, other than the one primary tumor in my nether region (my 3cm nemesis). We saw additional shrinkage of that darn thing too, another 5mm. When we started therapy back in October, it measured about 33mm, and it seems to have shrunk to 25mm, almost 25%. That sounds very exciting, I know. The only question mark was the appearance of what appears to be inflammation in my right lung, so this is something to watch (and pray about), as this could be a side effect of the treatment and could become a problem if it worsens.
We’re thrilled that the treatment is working, obviously, but I honestly don’t know the significance of the tumor shrinkage. Is my immune system truly attacking the cancer inside me? Is it possible that the tumor could totally die? I just don’t know. The oncologist probably won’t want to discuss these possibilities yet, either. It’s a day-by-day, month-to-month battle. Things could change. But I will tell you that the last time we met with her, she said that she thought they might have found the “magic combination.” Doctors don’t say things like this if they don’t have high confidence. I’m cautious, to be sure, but these past few weeks have been the best that I’ve felt in a long, long time, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I feel more at ease. I find myself laughing more often, being silly, and telling even more “dad jokes,” marks of the me I remember before cancer began its merciless repression. And for this I’m not only thankful but also hopeful that I’m experiencing some amount of holistic healing.
Thanks to all helping out with the kids and dog at home.