There has been much to write about since I last bored you with scribbled thoughts from inside my head. The reasons for the long pause are many, chemo-brain, anemia, feeling like shit, uninspired, and a general malaise. Chemo-brain is a phenomenon grabbed onto to by cancer treatment patients like the last cold beer in the bottom of the cooler. (Stole that metaphor from PG) Chemo-brain manifests itself like a fog rolling into San Francisco Bay, clogging up daily thought processes, causing explanations of treatment options, side effects, and other doctor instructions to wiz by my ears like the wind in the Columbia River Gorge. (That’s a Dr. Mike metaphor) This is why it is critical there be a backup in every meeting where complicated information is communicated. Thankfully I have the best backup of all humankind. She is about 5’3”, beautiful, smart…I met her at that place I wrote about earlier. It is common for us both to listen to the exact same thing spoken by Marissa or Dr. B. and come away with completely different understandings of what was said. As is always the case, her interpretation is the more accurate one.
While chemo-brain is a vague concept, anemia is a measurable one. The chemo regimen administered suppresses bone marrow production of red blood cells. Normal hemoglobin has a numeric value of 14 grams per deciliter, during session 4, 5, & 6, my hemoglobin levels hovered around 8.0. Often it was explained that I might have a transfusion of whole blood if it fell into the “7” range. After session #6 that’s what happened, I was given a pint of whole blood, the universal type, “O”, although I have a much rarer blood type. After about a week, the energy levels returned, I felt much better. And felt that I wanted to write…so here we are.
Now for the good news…after session #6, a CT scan was performed to determine the effect of the chemo treatments on tumor size. Low & behold, as Dr. B excitedly explained, the 2 tumors in my lungs, one of which attained a diameter of 3cm, had completely disappeared from the lungs. We did not have a PET scan done, he explained that with the structure of the tumors gone, the likelihood of random rouge cancer cells floating about looking for another place to perch, was not plausible. The ‘red death’ (doxorubicin) would have tracked down all the escapees & rubbed them out. The original soft tissue sarcoma tumors in my abdomen were reduced in size by approximately half. This is a major battle that we can call a win, but the war continues. Sidebar: Asking Peggy to proof this blog post, she made the plausible point that while the images we viewed with Dr. B. were clear of the previous tumors, the radiologist report did not say the lung tumors were completely gone, they are ALMOST completely gone. See, always have a backup to correct you!!
To celebrate the good news, and to take a break from driving back & forth from Sibley Memorial Hospital, laying around the house feeling like crap until the transfusion explained above, we took a long weekend in New York City. This is where the soul part of my post title comes in. We had a wonderful time, this past Saturday we caught the early Acela train (the fast Amtrak train) from DC to Penn Station, walked to the hotel in Times Square, & took the subway back downtown to the 9/11 memorial. That is a must see for all Americans. The design of the museum awe-inspiring, they begin with the violence wrought upon the buildings, as you continue lower in the South tower basement area, the museum changes to the violence wrought on human beings. Take tissues or a handkerchief, the visual & audio imagery is quite powerful. Funny thing is Peggy & I have been to Shanksville, PA to the Flight 93 Memorial, now the WTC site, yet have not been to the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, which we drive past every time we go to Sibley or to visit my sister, Leigh, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. We are doing that next week or maybe when all the kids are here at Christmas.
On Sunday in NYC, we went to a matinee production of Hamilton. What a show!!!, this is the only Broadway performance I have ever seen, & except for the play Peggy performed in while we were dating, the only show of any kind I’ve attended. The professionalism, timing, overall performances given by the cast have me hooked, I’ve already bought Ron Chernow’s book, Alexander Hamilton, that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s composition & script. It is an incredible performance; funny, educational, emotional…it restored my soul that had been so drained by the chemo sessions we endured.
In order to enjoy the glow of writing this blog post, I’m going to wait awhile to write about the next battle tactics discussed with Dr. B. Also, I have to ask Peggy what they are, since I can’t seem to remember correctly what was said!
Hope you are all well, are all looking forward to the Holidays, and know that we love you, no matter the tie we share.