Monday, December 12, 2011

Anticlimactic conclusion

My blood tests today revealed that my neutrophils, part of white blood cells that are related to immune function, we're too low to safely do chemo. They were 800, well below the lower normal range of 1300 to 6600. I've been here before, but this is probably just confirmation that I need to stop chemo for awhile. Because of my immunosuppressed status, I'm a little like someone with AIDS (clarification: I do not have AIDS) in that getting sick right now could be extremely dangerous and could easily lead to hospitalization. My immune system is much, much weaker than yours right now. So if we have plans to get together and you're sick, or think you might be sick, or have been around sick people, or even just in close contact with young kids in general (who are of course germ factories) we should probably reschedule. At least for a few weeks. I'll wear a mask when in big crowds and continue to not touch public doorknobs, etc. I'll also continue to use the Purell.

I'm glad to be done a little early, but mixed on the subject. I do want the most benefit from my chemo, and I worry that it was cut a little shorter than planned.

Chemo, concluded.

Today I'll do the final treatment of the final round of chemo. It's been 6 rounds total (each 3 weeks long) which means that I've been doing this for 4 1/2 months. Which feels just long enough that I'm having a hard time remembering what "normal" feels like. My blood cell counts have been a little lower each time, which means that were reaching the point of maximal return for chemo: the damage (to my bone marrow, which will rebound given time) is starting to outweigh the benefit. I'm looking forward to gaining more strength and doing normal people things like working and returning to school.

The frustrating thing is the reality that I'll be back doing more chemo after an unspecified period of time, to be decided based on PET/CT and MRI scans. I'll have at least 2 months off, and likely best case is about 9 months. It is very bleak to realize that the chemo is going to be what's keeping me alive. It's becoming an oddly familiar part of me and of my life. I'm getting better at doing it and have the process nearly down to a science, but believe me the constant tiredness, and persistent-occasional nausea and dizziness get old quickly. But, like someone who is wheelchair bound or doesn't have sight in one eye, etc., it the way of things. I can cry about it or just do my best to accept it as the new normal. This would be a good time to quote the serenity prayer.

I have been through all of this before, of course. I aim to make the best of my good times and do my best to. It overly focus on the scary stuff.

People have asked recent about my prognosis, and I know that this is based in concern. But it seems to surprise nearly everyone that I don't have a clear life-expectancy estimate. I'm hollywood they like to quantify stuff like that, but my docs refuse to give an estimate. Partially because they don't want to get sued if they're wrong, but also because there are too many variables. Lastly, and most importantly, it's because it's not healthy to focus on time estimates. I know that many have a need to quantify things this way, but I'm surprised that I do not focus on these.

Anyhow, It's good to have this chapter closed and I look forward to the next.