Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Out of the chemo room -- for good?
More than a week ago (which now seems like an extraordinary length of time), and after another scan of my lungs showed the cancer still growing and new tumors forming from the previous month's pictures, the docs said the coughing and shortness of breath I was experiencing, and the increasing exhaustion that accompanied every step I took, or every exertion I made, would only grow worse.
Putting me on a new round of chemo, with all their horrible side effects, would only add to the burden my body is fighting against, and so they recommended no treatment at all other than the medicines and practices that might lighten the load and make my life a little more comfortable.
"How much time do I have?" I asked, knowing full well that's not a question an oncologist likes to answer.
In five years of treatments, neither of the two oncologists who have treated me, Dr. Tom Kenney out of Porter Hospital, and Wells Messersmith, from the Anschutz Cancer Center, has ever offered a personal life expectancy. I think both of them are surprised to see me still walking around, no matter how slowly. "Look at you!" Messersmith said as I pressed him for an estimate for my survival.
Then he turned to his assistant and asked: "What do we tell people as a standard?
"Three to six months," said the young woman doctor.
"So that's it?" I asked, always wanting to confirm what I've heard from a source, which is an old reporter's trick.
"I don't know," Messersmith said, but probably.
Over the period of three scans, I realized, my plant-based diet seemed to be having no effect on the disease and its progress as well. So this time driving home from the appointment I knew I was going to go back to eating meat and fish, ice cream and using butter in what I cook. Funny thing is that first week after the diagnosis, I didn't seem to have any appetite at all. And kept losing weight by virtue of not eating much.
I have not been able to have a beer or a drink either, and that, too, seems to find it's way to the bottomline on the scale.Call it a benefit. I know the alcohol will make me feel bad so it turns off my desire for even a sip.
Yet, still, on Monday, I went back to Centennial to play croquet with my friends and share the news. That was actually a mistake. The sun and not much hydration combined with every heavy-footed step up and down the court and the increasing shortness of breath that accompanies such "work" wiped me out for three days after I got home that afternoon.
But 'Look at me!' I am still walking around and getting some things done, and I expect to beat my "standard" life expectancy by more than an additional three to six months after this first ticket expires. If some new drug is approved by the FDA in the meantime, who knows (God knows) I may still wrack up that miracle survival from this stuff.
And walk back into the chemo room for another round of living, albeit with side effects.
Also in the meantime, there is hospice and funeral planning to take care of. My writing here will probably turn more frequently to the small business coverage I have been posting, and since every day of life seems to cost at least about $75, if not $300 or $1,000, if you have any interest in sponsoring my journalism, I'm still alive and kicking, and barely living off my Social Security.
Give me a call. I will try to accommodate almost any request.