The PET scan shows that the lymphoma has pretty much spread throughout the lymph system, but no other organs are affected. Another good thing. My cancer should be responsive to the antibody treatment, Rituxan, that we discussed at my last visit. That's the one with the mouse protein. Still more good news, and David is really pleased. My survival rate has gone up to 90% at five years out.
We do want to set up an appointment with the transplant doc in Greenville, just to establish a relationship if I should need his services down the line. He is the person who would do a stem-cell transplant if my cancer is recurrent or does not respond to treatment. Dr. Naidu says he will have their office call us.
"How soon do you want to get started?" Dr. Naidu asks. "Right now!" I shoot back at him. "What are you doing tomorrow?" he asks, not missing a beat. Man, talk about quick on the draw...
"I guess I'm having chemo!"
We discuss the pros and cons of having a port put in for chemo, and I decide not to do that right now if the nurse thinks my veins look good. I'm a little nervous about this, since the nurse at the hospital blew one of my veins when I had the bone marrow biopsy. My arms are sore, and I'm getting needle-shy. Dr. Naidu doesn't pull any punches - he tells me I'm going to be getting stuck a lot over the next six months. I will be having two chemo sessions per week, two days in a row, and then will take Prednisone for five days. This cycle will repeat every three weeks.
One nurse comes in and draws some blood, and then another nurse comes in, pronounces my veins good enough for an IV and shows me around the chemo area. I spot a red curly wig sitting in a basket on the floor and comment on it. "That's a donated wig - we often get wigs and hats donated, and we just put them in the basket for patients to take." Okaaay... as if I needed a clue that this was not a regular doctor's office...
There are lots of recliners in the chemo room she shows me, and an alarmingly large number of people in them. I am just a little freaked out by this. I'll be here for about six hours tomorrow; longer than usual since it's my first time, and they have to start with a low dose of Rituxan and gradually increase it to see how I will tolerate it. After this first time, they can start me at the full dose and it will go quicker. Tomorrow though, I will be bringing a lunch and hanging around for most of the day. Thursday should be a shorter session - 3 or 4 hours.
After we leave the doctor's office, clutching drug info sheets, David takes me out and buys me chemo presents - headphones and a lap desk so I can use my computer to watch movies comfortably during my appointments. We also go to the library so I can check out a stack of books. I want to make sure I have plenty to keep me occupied tomorrow.
When I get home, I'm reading emails. One of my Ruby friends asks me if I'm scared about the treatment. (Raquel - I am so glad you asked.) I respond:
Yes, I am scared. Especially for this first time because even though they gave me the paperwork with the side effects, I really don't know what to expect - KWIM? The doctor said each patient can have varying side effects, and differing levels of severity. I really hope that mine are not too bad. I am scared at the thought of poison going into my veins. I know that this is what I have to do in order to send the cancer into remission, but I don't want to do it. I want to just get up tomorrow and eat breakfast and clean the house and make a list for Christmas shopping this weekend instead of wondering if I will be sitting with my head in the toilet by the time Saturday rolls around.
David is really excited that the cancer has not spread to my bones or other organs, and I (somewhere deep down inside) am too, but right now, I am mostly scared. Really scared. Will you all pray really hard tomorrow?
And then I start to cry. When David comes downstairs, I'm in the kitchen rolling out the pizza dough. He can tell I've been crying and I tell him "I don't want to have to be happy that the cancer hasn't spread to my bones. I want to not have cancer." He knows. He holds me tight and whispers that he wishes he could take the chemo for me. I know that he would if he could.
Katherine comes down and asks if I'm okay - my eyes look red. I tell her I've been crying a little, and she says she has been too. I hate cancer. I really do.
Focused prayers for: minimal side effects of chemo