The Cliff Notes:
Yes, I'm done with cancer treatment
, and according to Moderne Medical Whizbang Technology (a CT scan
) I am currently cancer-free. This is a Good Thing.
The long version:
The SF Chronicle just came out with an article last Tuesday about how the medical profession doesn't address the aftermath of cancer treatment sufficiently....why, how topical!
I finished radiation, hrm, 7 weeks ago, and I'm still not back at work, and have about 10% of my usual energy. Convalescing. Bleagh. I knew this in my brain, people, that they would say, ok, you're done! and that I would not feel better, but the emotional reality of it is another thing entirely. There is a vast gap between "cured" and "healthy".
Radiation was beastly. I think it was more beastly, in part, because I was told it was easier than chemotherapy, but it turns out that this is somewhat like saying rolling rocks uphill 12 hours a day is easier than rolling rocks uphill 14 hours a day. True. But they both still SUCK completely, to the extent that "easier" really loses it's meaning. The last 2 weeks of treatment and the first two weeks out were the hardest, mostly because no one told me about the joys of having second degree burns. Yucky. Double yucky.
The CT scan showed me all clear, at least what they could see. There had been a spot on my right lung that the docs were unsure about - when I had the original CT scan, the report said probably a scar, but could be the beginning of metastatic cancer. It was unchanged, which was the best result - if it had disappeared, then it was cancer, and that would kick me up into stage 4 cancer, which had a whole different set of statistics.
HOWEVER. I am
getting better. A little bit more energy each day. I'm having to learn how to conserve it, for the first time in my life. When I overdo, the next day I'm a basket case. Also my brains are coming back FINALLY - chemotherapy wreaked havoc with my concentration, amongst other things. And hair! I have EYEBROWS, which I had no idea how much I loved until I didn't have any. And hair. Did I mention the hair? It's CURLY. This is NOT MY HAIR. (Luckily, it's pretty much back to it's original colors. Wertperch had threatened to divorce me if it grew back blonde....)
In hindsight, I really question the way we treat cancer. Going into it I didn't feel like I had much choice - fast growing, locally advanced cancer, we need to treat this NOW. Thoroughly. One oncologist said, well, we're going to take a big bat, and hit it hard. (Gotta love those sports metaphors....) I had pretty much the most advanced, and in many ways the most brutal treatment which is currently available.
BUT. It seems to me that cancer is a sign of a failure of the immune system
. In reading about what's happening at a genetic level, cancer cells have mutated, and lost the ability to regulate themselves. When a normal cell gets old, it stops reproducing, so genetic errors don't get copied. Cancer cells have lost this bit of code. Typically, your immune system can find these cells, and clear them out. So it seems clear that if a cancer takes hold, there is already a glitch in your immune system. But to treat it, we do a number of things that trash out your immune system even more. Surgery. Chemotherapy, which is VERY hard on red and white blood cells. Radiation, the same. I know of one doctor at the National Institute of Health who is experimenting with boosting the immune system instead....
I have been very slow to return phone calls and letters. I'm often pretty wasted by evening, and so I tuck the imp
in and fall asleep at 8 pm in spite of all my good intentions. At one point, I was completely frustrated and fed up with the treatment. My reptile brain realized that when someone said "How are you?" "AAAUGH! Fuck you! I hate you! I hate cancer! Cancer treatment sucks! I'm sick of cancer! I'm sick of talking about it! AAAUGH!" is probably NOT a socially acceptable answer. Needless to say, this has improved a LOT, and I do love you all and love the phone calls and letters and love hearing from you. The support that came out of, and continues to come out of this place has been incredibly wonderful.
Humble thank yous.
(R) breast and (R) axilla - Caught in the medical machine - Going Amazonian - When the Breast Fairy Comes - So there we were, in Oncology, wishing for Star Trek technology - Weddings, and other Sundrie Diversions - Support the Amazons: A Dual-Function Ninjagirls Bakesale for Boobies - Seven Down, One to Go - 1950s technology meets 21st-century woman. - Getting better, but cancer SUCKS - An Open Letter to Macy's regarding Tits