So this afternoon, I checked into hospital for chemo session #4 to begin. It’s been a wonderful third week; the part of my cycle where I take no chemo drugs at all. I’ve felt almost completely normal, and have been wandering around all over the place in our neighbourhood with Emilie, sorting out bank accounts, food shopping, messing around with the attestation-printing machines at social security offices – just everyday life stuff, but it felt great to be able to do it. We went into the hospital Tuesday to drop off the CAT scan results from last week, and we walked there. To be able to do that under my own steam (with, of course, the portable Puritan’s aid) was quite an amazing feeling.
So, I’ve been letting myself feel quite cautiously optimistic. When chemo session #4 rolled around again today, I wasn’t really feeling too worried, especially after last Friday’s “not bad” news – I kind of expected to just come in to hospital, load up with the purple, and roll out again the day after. But in fact, things have turned out a little differently.
Firstly, it was the casino-heist medical team scenario again. In sweeps The Prof’s second-in-command, accompanied by an intern (unlike in “Scrubs”, a proper qualified cancer-expert doc) and a senior nurse. They proceeded to explain that they were concerned by my continued loss of weight, and possible causes of this – it isn’t the chemo, as I haven’t been vomiting or suffering from loss of appetite. It’s true I’m now down to 50kg, down from 57kg at the start last chemo session, and this has been bothering me a little – especially as I’ve been eating like a horse. (I haven’t knowingly eaten horse in this time, even though I am aware this is an option in my new adopted country.) The docs went on to explain the comparison between last week’s CAT scan with the original from September hasn’t yet been done, and will in fact be hard to do, as the original hadn’t involved an iodine injection – my kidneys weren’t up to it at the time. So, they swept out again to go and do the comparison as best they could, and come back to let me know what they could get out of it.
Cue slightly sweaty palms.
I slept. A while later, The Prof’s second-in-command came back alone. She explained that the general improvements in my clinical health (better breathing, being able to sleep lying down, etc.) have been caused by improvements in the side-effects of the cancer – but that the cancer itself has not actually shrunk or diminished in any way.
To start with, this scared the shit out of me – so the chemo hasn’t really been working, after all? But, apparently, it has, to an extent – there’s been no spread, at least. Already, this is good. And apparently, with the rare kind of tumour that I have, it’s not uncommon for the normal, first-shot, mass-market chemo drugs I’ve been taking not to necessarily be that effective. Another piece to the puzzle is that since September’s biopsy, they’ve been slicing the cancerous tissue they extracted and have been subjecting it to all kinds of chemo chemicals, including the purple shit – and it turns out that Mr. Purple in particular is completely ineffective against this kind of tumour. So, the good side of this: I will definitely stop taking the purple component of the chemo, which is actually the most toxic part – that’s what’s making my hair fall out, for example. The… I hesitate to call it “bad”, so the “other” side is that they’ll need to change my chemo treatment to something else.
This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing at all, but it still gave me a bit of a chill – of course I would have preferred to have heard “yes, the cancer is shrinking faster than a forgotten sprout in a pressure cooker, and we’ll just keep on going exactly the way we are in this semi-comfortable routine and you’ll be sound as a pound in six months”, but it was not to be.
So by this point, it’s 9pm at night, and the Prof’s deputy didn’t want to make a major drug-changing decision without consulting senior colleagues; absolutely A-OK with me. But she has some ideas. She wants to try a new, extremely expensive and “interessant” (promising) drug, and to do this, she will need to get all kinds of approval and possibly push some weight around – but she’s confident it can be done, especially as this is a teaching hospital I’ve found myself in. (Entirely by chance; my lucky stars are overdue for a good thanking.) But nothing further was going to happen that night – so, she sent me home, which is where I am now blogging this from. I’ll get a phone call early next week to let me know what’s going to happen. I may even (holiest of holy grails) be able to come in a receive treatment as an out-patient, bypassing the need for hospital food entirely.
Brief motivational gastronomic aside – for dinner at the hospital today, I was served my absolute least-favourite “meal” ever, which co-incidentally was the same I had just before starting chemo #2. That time, I threw the whole lot up several hours after ingesting The Big Purple in one silent, dry, completely undigested lump. So this time, I decided just not to eat it – hell, I’d eaten for about three at lunchtime (my dad’s salt-free chicken pie), and my innards just did not need soggy, wilted, boiled-to-string green haricot beans with a dry-but-still-somehow-disgustingly-limp lump of what was apparently veal steak haché, but could frankly just have well have been a round cake of unidentifiably-processed grease. Good god it was revolting. I just could not fork the stuff into my mouth. I tried. I failed. So I ate a good portion of the thankfully tasteless leek-and-potato soup, the accompanying apple and some bizarre cottage-cheese-type yoghurt thing, and left it at that. And now we’re back home, I have supplemented this with a slice of delicious leftover salmon-and-leak quiche with a lettuce-and-roast-beetroot salad, and my lucky stars have another item on their thank-you list.
So – no chemo for ce soir, nor for the weekend – something new and exciting begins next week. I feel slightly more like I’m venturing into guinea-pig land, but that’s the way it is – and clearly better to be trying something that might work than something that definitely isn’t going to.
More news, of course, as and when. But for now, we’re back in One Day At A Time land, and from that viewpoint, I have a blissful extra drug-free weekend to enjoy. A gift.
Night all, and hope all’s well with everyone.