Thursday, March 31, 2016

You couldn't beat it with a stick

Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer.

Cancer is everywhere, which means the talk of it is everywhere also. We all know someone who has cancer. You can't read a book without finding a cancer sufferer, survivor, or family member coping with someone who has it.

Turn on the television. Never mind the ads for treatments and cancer centers, watch virtually any program and it's going to come up at some point. At times it is a central plot piece, at other times it just comes up in passing.

There are times when I don't need to spend much attention on my cancer and at those times, each mention leaves me feeling as if I've been poked by a stick. A little stick, and not poked very hard. Still, poked with a stick. The surprise of it, don't you know.

After all these months, I wouldn't describe it as especially bothersome, but it can be a bother. I am not now, nor have I ever been, one who tries to deny having cancer, even if I could.

There are times, though, when I have to focus on it because I need to do something about it. Like, right now. I've spent extra time at the cancer clinic while we decide what we're going to do, in terms of treatment, now that I am back on chemotherapy.

The good news is that there are lot more things we can do than when I first started on this journey. My oncologists have always said that the goal of my treatment is to keep me alive and as well as possible while the search goes on for a cure for multiple myeloma. As we discussed treatment options this time, there was a genuinely good feeling in the air. It's not a case of we do this or that. Rather, we can do this, or that, or a number of something elses to find something that works.

The bad news is that we have to do something, be it this, that or something else. While my overall blood work continues to be good, there's a set of proteins that is interfering with my health and need to be dealt with. That's why I'm back on chemotherapy.

The increases have been small from five, to seven, to nine to 14 with each passing measurement. When I was first diagnosed, the number was 186, so, obviously, things aren't too bad. The way to keep them from getting out of hand, of course, is to treat the cancer and whack it back down since “Not too bad” can certainly become “Oh. Oh,” if left unattended, so treatment it is.

An interesting fact in all of this is that this is the first time we've instituted a treatment and then had to revise it because it wasn't working the way we wanted it to. Every other time we've tried something, it's done it's job, even if that job was just to get me to the quasi-finish line that was my stem cell transplant.

The fact that we had to adjust this treatment did not come as a surprise though, since it came about because of the manner in which we chose to proceed. The main chemo medicine that I take is a tablet of varying strengths. To date, each one has made me experience varying degrees of nausea. So, we wanted to start with the small dose and see if that wouldn't be successful, while cause the least stress to my system.

Well, no, it didn't work, so now we're going to take a larger dose and add another medicine in the hope that the two will work together to bring the proteins back under control. I'd be lying if I didn't say it concerned me, because I'll be taking more now than I did the last time I had to stop because it was making me sick.

Still, it's the most direct and simplest method to use at this point, so that's what we're going to try first. Complicated can always wait.

I will say this about being in the midst of treatment... Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. We can pretty much talk about it all we want without feeling so much as a single stick poke.

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