And So It Begins — Again

Thank God! Another three months, (13 weeks actually) of wedded-type bliss until my next scan scheduled for mid April. Save for four weeks of pre- and post-chemotherapy-infusion non-bliss in the interim when the effects of the before, during, after treatment will make me feel less like the person I will otherwise be — for the nine or so other weeks, I am indeed lucky to be “stable” and looking forward.

However, I will be off to a bit of a bumpy start as a result of the timing of my most recent chemotherapy infusion and its negative side effects coming so soon on the heels of the previous week’s positive scan news. Not that the negative overwhelms the positive in the slightest, it’s more that it slows down my progression from feeling abnormal to feeling normal; well, as much as one diagnosed and living with a “terminal” disease, non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV, can. Which, as you regular readers know, I’m generally able to do, except when there a blips, and for the next week, I’ll be “blipped.” Having considered the inevitable taste and eating issues I typically face post infusion, I spoke with a nutritionist this past week to see if I’ve been missing a boat somewhere. Unfortunately, other than remaining well-hydrated, it seems there’s very little I can do other than to endure the post-chemotherapy weak.

But of course, it’s the big picture (no tumor progression, no fluid build up) that matters most, not the small picture (the pre- and postscan anxiety and the post-chemotherapy eating issues). And of course, it’s nothing new. I’ve been through variations of this routine going on nearly eight years now, since the diagnostic process began on Jan. 1, 2009, when I first visited the Emergency Room. Pain in my rib cage had migrated from one side to the other and simultaneously I was having difficulty catching my breath. Then, even I knew, I needed some medical attention. Two and a half months later after the usual schedule of tests, interpretations and more tests, I received my diagnosis with which you are all so familiar.

Amazingly, life has gone on and fallen into a sort of routine. The most recent one, going back approximately three and a half years, began with my first and only hospitalization followed up a month or so later with the beginning of my Alimta infusion. For the most part, the infusion/experience has been quite manageable, and according to my oncologist, “great.” So “great,” in fact, that we have been extending the interval of my infusions from three weeks originally to four weeks to four/five weeks to now infusing forward, every five weeks. This will give my body more time to recuperate between chemotherapy and give me more quality-weeks of life (always a concern of my oncologist); minimizing eating and anxiety issues.

For the moment, we’re keeping the scan schedule to every three months. As to our concern about trying to limit the exposure to radiation — per scan; as my oncologist sort of joked, it’s the toxins from the chemotherapy that are more harmful (it’s akin to the line from the movie “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” when Paul Newman snickered at Robert Redford’s concern about not being able to swim — should they in fact jump off the cliff into the raging river below, to escape Joe Lefors and the Indian tracker, Lord Baltimore: “Swim? Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”)

So by the time you all are reading this column, Thursday-ish, I’ll be mostly back to eating normally — well, normal for me. It’s a routine I’ve become accustomed to and one with which I can live, live being the operable word. Certainly not a life without some hardships and difficulties, but still a life worth living; with some weeks harder than others; this week certainly being one of them. It won’t be pretty but soon enough it will have passed with clear sailing ahead for the next four weeks until you-know-what.

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