Where everybody knows your name
Today was a big day. After six weeks of no oncologist visits I walked into the office for an appointment with my doctor. I am sure it seems funny to some. Honestly, what is the big deal about six weeks between doctors visits? You have to understand this morning was kind of like a homecoming. For months Nancy and I were in their office multiple times a week. It was a rare week when we had only one appointment. The front office had kind of become my personal “Cheers“. We walked in and the woman working the front counter shouted “Norm”, or in my case, “Dan”. We have our normal banter about getting a “fancy bracelet” and then if there is time talk about life as if it is normal.
Today there was a line when we walked in. When it was my turn she picked up like I had not been gone for six weeks. “Welcome sir, you want your fancy bracelet?” “Sure” “How are you feeling?” “Feeling more like myself these days, kind of forgot what that felt like.” We both laughed. Then the conversation moved to tissues and toilet paper.
Nancy and I sat waiting for the doctor longer than we ever have. My mind racing. Maybe he does not want to come in and tell us the bad news. Could it be that he is delaying having to speak hard words?
Weeks 2 Months
Finally the door opened and he came with a smile. He asked how I was feeling. I was moving a little slowly and he noticed that. “Why, what is your problem?” We talked about my neuropathy and how it does appear to be getting better. Finally he took his seat and turned his attention toward his computer. “Your blood panel looks un-remarkable.” His language for good. Starting at the top he went through the most important numbers found within in the blood panel. Sitting there listening to him talk I wanted to scream, “There is only one number I want to know about…can we get to the main event!” I relaxed and in a few minutes he got to my CEA. 1.8!
1.8 is actually lower than the last time I was there. Statistically it is a meaningless change. My oncologist reminds me each time we measure it that as long as we stay below 5 he will be happy. For me, someone who likes excel and tracks numbers closely, any change is important. It was especially important for this to be lower than my last reading. It gives me hope that we can stretch this break from weeks to months to years.
I am scheduled to return in six weeks for more blood work. I will also have a colonoscopy in the weeks ahead. No, I have never had one. The prevailing thought was that whatever it showed would not change my course of treatment so why go through the “fun” while on chemo. Now that we are stretching out the break my oncologist and I are eager to see what is truly going on inside. I will also have one of my regular scans in four to five weeks. My next appointment to assess this break will be on April 28th.
Last time we started a break it took me a while to be at peace with the decision to stop chemo and take a break. Every ache, every pain brought to mind thoughts of cancer invading and destroying my body. About two weeks ago I was able to relax and let go of some of those thoughts. Life became more enjoyable and I was able to focus on what was truly important. I am hopeful that this time I will simply be able to relax and continue the break.
I spent some time thinking of this journey we have been on. I share it here in short form just so there is some form of record of where we have been.
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – pain in my shoulder
Friday, April 29, 2016 – unable to get a full breath of air
Saturday, April 30, 2016 – go to ER in very early am
Tuesday, May 3, 2016 – receive diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer
Thursday, May 5, 2016 – surgery to install port
Friday, May 6, 2016 – first appointment with oncologist
Monday, May 8, 2016 – first chemo treatment
February 3, 2017 – take break from chemo
There has been a lot that has taken place between those days. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. It is amazing to believe that I am almost one year into this battle.
“We can do this”
On our way to the truck after the oncologist appointment today Nancy and I were talking. Part of our conversation with the oncologist was about what we would do if / when the cancer returns. What kind of numbers are we looking for, what will trigger a return to treatment and what would that treatment look like. I like to know. It helps me prepare for what lies ahead. In short the treatment would look just like my first round of chemo, just using different drugs. We would be back to square one and start the fight all over again.
Standing at the elevator I chuckled. “We have gotten good at this cancer thing.” “If we have to go back to treatments we can do it,” I continued. The truth is we have learned how to live in the midst of this chaos and life this past year has been GOOD. We both continued to do the work we enjoy. We have spent time with family that has meant a lot. Life has been hard but in the midst of the struggle Nancy and I are closer now than we ever have been. This summer we shared in the wedding of a great friend and got to catch up with friends from decades ago. Our family vacation this holiday season was special. Looking forward there is much to be thankful for and much to celebrate. Rayann will graduate high school this spring! If things continue as they are I will be chemo free for that event! Whatever comes we have been tested and have learned to walk well in the midst of chaos and turmoil.
God is Good All the Time….All the Time God is Good
* for those of you wondering…we had a conversation about the softness of different brands of tissues and toilet paper and why some people thought it was a good idea to save money providing either when they could pass as sandpaper. 🙂