That Kind of Guy
I often joke with people that “I am an excel kind of guy.” Whatever you are talking about seems to become more real and relatable once it falls into the neat rows and columns of a spreadsheet. Maybe that could be true for my scan results.
I know, this sounds odd coming from the pastor who spends much of life wrestling with things spiritual. Struggling to understand and live out the very ideas and truths that fail to fit into the organized columns and rows of a spreadsheet.
The tension is real. I want it all nice and neat. Let me see clearly how the data falls into line and points to a clear path forward. Reality is rarely that easy. Chaos abounds. Even those things placed into the discipline of an excel spreadsheet fall prey to disorder and unpredictability.
Today was my oncologist visit.
We were going to be reviewing my latest scans.
I saw the results a few days ago. When I first looked at them I was less than encouraged. The numbers did not add up and were showing something less than stellar results. It was pointed out to me that where the technicians were once measuring in centimeters they were now using millimeters. By itself, that change was encouraging.
Results & Excel
Here is where excel becomes important.
I went back through all my scans. I translated those measured in centimeters into millimeters. Once that work was done I built an excel sheet which recorded the size and then determined the overall area of the two major lesions we are tracking.
Something about that process was very healthy for me.
The data suddenly went from abstract numbers to very clearly defined and tracked markers.
In January 24, 2017 it measured 17 x 20 mm, with an area of 340 mm. The scan of January 15, 2018 revealed it had grown to 57 x 34 mm, with an area of 1938 mm. This January 15th scan is the one that caused me to start chemo after a years’ break. My latest scan shows the lesion at 22 x 23 mm, with an area of 506 mm! Great response to this round of chemotherapy.
In January 24, 2017 it measured 42 x 34 mm, with an area of 1428 mm. During my break from chemo this lesion continued to shrink. It got as small as 25 x 19 mm, with an area of 475 mm. The scan of January 15, 2018 showed it had grown to 35 x 31 mm, with an area of 1085 mm. This latest scan reveals it is down to 17 x 19 mm, with an area of 323 mm! Another great response to the treatment.
As I showed my excel sheet to Dr. Saroha I expected him to tell me reasons why this was not an accurate way to track my progress.
Instead, he said it was a very accurate and healthy way to see what was going on. He was excited. Excited because we were seeing good results.
I learned a lot about how these lesions are measured. The measurements vary by who does the measuring and what technique they use. It is easy to see differences of a few mm between measurements of the same scan.
The short of it is that we are making progress.
When I resumed treatment in January of 2018 the two main lesions in my liver covered an area of 3,023 mm. As of my scan a few weeks ago that area has been reduced to 829 mm!
Monday is chemotherapy round ten.
I will work to make it to round twelve on July 23rd.
A Prayer for Wisdom
At the end of July we will have a decision to make. Do we “press on” with “maintenance chemo” or take a break?
Last time I pressed on until my body could literally take no more.
I got a full year chemotherapy free. It took me half of that year to begin to feel like myself. I was just finally back to moving like myself when the scan of January 15, 2018 sent me back into treatment.
Part of me wonders if stopping earlier might be wiser. My excel sheet shows me that the lesions are already smaller than they were when I took my last break. Excel does not lie. I can see it clearly.
Dr. Saroha is quick to point out that while my excel sheet is helpful it is no predictor of the future. Cancer does not follow the mathematical truths found within columns and rows.
Cancer cells, while currently being beaten back, are constantly seeking ways to mutate and grow. No excel sheet can predict when, nor how strong the cancer will re-emerge.
Please pray I have wisdom to know what decision to make when we complete round twelve later in July.
For now…rejoice with me…that in this moment the numbers on my excel sheet are moving in the right direction.
God is Good All the Time… All the Time God is Good!