Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Look who got an A+

We had another positive clinic visit this week.

I actually got an A-plus from the doctor for the way my blood work has progressed. That's right A-plus, and I didn't even study.

The subject of remission finally came up. I had been reluctant to ask, just in case. I mean, not knowing was better than being told I wasn't in remission. It reminded me of the last time I was out of work. Whenever I had an interview, I dragged my feet on following up to see if I got the job. As long as I didn't know, I had hope, and in the second year of being unemployed, hope was hard to come by. The more the rejections piled up, the longer it took me to do the follow-up calls.

The doctor here felt the blood work showed amazingly quick progress. He did, though, point out that there are other aspects of the multiple myeloma that he wasn't prepared to address. Those would have to wait until we go back to Dana Farber in Boston next week. Fair enough. We'll take the successes we have and drag them along with us to face the next bits.

We had a revelation while we were at the Alfond this week: We don't really have any idea how to deal with processes involved in my getting healthier. I had been sick and getting sicker long enough that we knew so many of the medicines I took, the procedures to be done, and so on, that we were able to address it all pretty easily.

But now, so much has changed. It sort of ties into what I was saying recently about not having specific tasks ahead of us to get through. Now the treatment plan is in something of a state of flux. There are nutrition restrictions; when can they be lifted? There are medicines to take until a certain point in my recovery; when is that point? I have to avoid crowded places and anyone who visits me in our home has to wear a mask and gloves; how much longer before each of those restrictions can be lifted?

Another thing that has popped up takes me back to when I was first sick. I didn't know what my cancer was going to do; what is was going to feel like. So each little pain, each physical anomaly caused me to wonder if that was because of the cancer. The trouble with the speculation at that point was that I'd never paid much attention to my body, so in most cases I couldn't tell if something was always like that, or was it something new that could be cancer-related.

Now, I find that speculation has been turned on its ear. I know to a great extent what the cancer feels like, though virtually nothing is certain.

For example, after mentioning recently that I was pain free for the first time since I got sick, the pain in my ribs, which had previously been my constant companion since day one, returned. Currently the pain is dull, except for when I probe with my fingers to try to determine the extent of the problem. Then it hurts a lot, reminding me of course of the old vaudeville joke. A man goes to his doctor, who asks the man what's wrong. He raises his arm above his head and says, “Doctor. It hurts when I do this.” The doctor wastes no time telling him, “Don't do that.”

Rib pain hasn't always meant something bad. At first, it usually meant the myeloma has caused some damage which brought on pain. But as I gave myself injections designed to build up my stem cells prior to the transplant, I had the worst pain of all as my bones, literally, became crowded as healthy cells fought for room with the cancer cells.

Good pain, if you will, was also the result of an intravenous bone densifier that I was taking, as well as my white blood cell count improving and fighting for space.

When I brought it up at my appointment, my doctor, who has always told me what was really going on, admitted that he wasn't sure. He allowed that it could have been ay number of things, all to do with the effects of the transplant or some other aspect of treatment. He wasn't too worried about it because almost any issues would have shown up in the blood tests. So, I don't worry about it either. So, there.

Continuing to heal will obviously have its own challenges, its own moments. And that's okay. The journey continues but I like the scenery better on this new road I'm own.

The next challenge is Sheri reacquainting herself with driving in Boston. She's been practicing being unthoughtful to other drivers and, of course, she has been pounding the horn, regardless of what the circumstance might be; some days before we even get out of our own driveway.

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.”