There certainly was plenty of good news.
First off, the chemotherapy continues to be very successful. There was no check for proteins this time, but the doctor assured us that the blood work I had done showed real progress in knocking down the malignant cells.
Secondly, he is reducing the amount of steroids I need to take from 40 mg to 20 mg. I take them once a week and they throw my system off track, make me manic, and take away my ability to stop talking. Jabber, jabber, jabber, jabber. Even as I tell myself to stop talking, the steroids are telling me not on their watch. The doctor thinks the reduced dose should still be effective against the cancer and I am certainly willing to give it a try.
And C, we're adding an intravenous medicine that will start mending the holes in my bones caused by the myeloma. My listening skills decided that right in the middle of the doctor's explanation of that process was the moment they'd done more than enough, and stopped. The treatment is a good thing, I got that much. Details will need to wait. Besides, we have bigger fish to worry about.
Namely, the stem cell transplant. My new oncologist thinks I would be a good candidate for the procedure and I guess it can make quite an impact on long-term remission. I'm not a doctor, though I've played at least two onstage, but at least that's the gist I think I got.
“They” take cells from my own system, process them, and put them back in. Shaken? Stirred? Don't know. Pros and cons? Yes. Since multiple myeloma is as yet incurable, long-term impact of any treatment is important. The oncologist here has set an appointment for us at the Dana Farber Clinic in Boston for mid-January with someone who specializes in the procedure.
I think I need to take a minute here to say that ignorance isn't always the wrong tool to use. Just sayin'. There was a time, for example, when, if my car started making odd noises I didn't understand, I just turned up the volume on the radio to drown them out... Okay, maybe not the best example. Things invariably got worse and cost more to fix.
Instead, let's say we're having dinner at someone's house, and they serve something exotic, but don't tell you what it is. They want you to be “open to the experience.” Fine. Turns out I like it, eat the whole thing. I don't then need to know it was iguana offal fried in wolf urine and covered in cow teat gravy. I don't. I just don't. Score one for ignorance.
Unfortunately... As fate would have it... Alas... Regrettably... As we began to consider the transplant, ignorance became the first casualty. It had to be done, but at least it was quick, though hardly painless.
As you know, I have kept my focus on my cancer, my treatment as guided by my doctor, and I'm still trying to do that. It's almost as if I'm in between doctors right now. I'm not at all, but my doctor is sending me to the Boston guy, so I'm thinking the answers are there.
It's probably just as well that there's little need for me to into specifics here; you may have noticed that specifics aren't really a strong point for me. Suffice to say, the transplant is a very serious procedure. It's time consuming, involves at least 2-3 weeks in the hospital, and the recovery can take months.
I won't know the specifics of my case until after we go to Boston. The information I've read seemed to discuss some constants, regardless of the individual situation. But, considering I found out I had cancer after being attacked by a swarm of wasps, I'm open to possibilities.
The one thing I do know about the transplant is this: If it can lengthen the time I'm in remission, reduce the amount of medication I need to take to stay in remission, sign me up.
This isn't really about life expectancy, by the way, because any number we put on that is just a number, cancer patient or not. It's like Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel explaining how all the numbers on a particular guitar go to 11. “Well. It's one louder, isn't it?” When pressed as to why he just doesn't leave it at ten, and make ten louder, his only response is, “These go to 11.”
I guess we all have parts of our past which we can describe as our Dark Ages. I certainly do and if all this had happened then, I would probably have joined my father and my sister Moira in giving up the fight because it “just wasn't worth it.”
Well, guess what? Somewhere along the way I lost my “give up.” I have a life I consider second to none. Frankly, I fought to get it and I'm surely going to fight to keep it. I'm just glad I don't have to do it alone.
So here's my current plan: I will continue to take this one day a time and try to keep my brain from treating a lack of solid knowledge about the transplant process as an excuse to party like it's 1999. (Yeah. I know. But you get what I'm sayin'. Right?) I'll let you know how it works out.
There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”