Sunday, March 30, 2008
Last week I took a week off from chemotherapy to celebrate Easter and regain strength for the last few weeks of chemotherapy. I noticed that I've been feeling more emotional lately, about the experience of cancer, toward personal relationships, and even in response to television shows and news stories.
Other cancer survivors have warned me that the period after treatment can be harder emotionally than treatment itself. The common belief, I think, is that one has to act strong and determined to tolerate the stress of treatment. After treatment, patients let their guard down and all the repressed feelings resurface. My increased emotion could be anticipation of finishing treatment and greater openness from discussing the experiences in support groups.
But this week as another dose of chemo builds in my system I feel the emotional numbness and detachment returning. I think now that it may in fact be another aspect of chemobrain. Just as memory, concentration, and agility are gummed up by therapeutic poisons, maybe emotion is too.
I have been looking forward to regaining my full intellectual abilities after two long years of chemotherapy. It will be interesting to see how my emotional state could change with recovery too.
Friday, March 14, 2008
My latest PET/CT scan and blood CEA were excellent. Everything is normal; no evidence of disease.
My doctor is considering three more months of chemotherapy just to be aggressive. But chemo also carries risk of further damage to my organs and more lost time from leading a normal life. The problem we have is that there is no medical evidence to say what to do in my situation.
Few stage IV cancer patients survive as long as I have. Of all the ways that people get colon cancer, mine is in the fraction of those that are hereditary, in the sub-fraction that's nonpolyposis, in the sub-sub-fraction that's not caused by one of the known genes for hereditary nonpolyposis. There's not much medical research available on such a rarity, just educated guesswork. The Xeloda + Avastin therapy that has worked so well for me was expected to just slow or shrink the tumors temporarily, not eliminate them completely.
I am hoping to finish chemotherapy by my 35th birthday in May. In the past four years, that is the one month that has always brought improvement and a break from treatment.
But I'm not as excited I might be expected to be right now. I'm very happy to stop chemotherapy and get back to some normalcy. But I'm still afraid that something bad will happen before I get there. Or maybe as soon as I go off chemo some hidden cancer cells will come zooming back.
I've been in remission once before, so I know better than to expect that I'm cured. I just hope for a long break from cancer and time for medical science to catch up. Maybe some months or years down the road I'll feel ready to celebrate, for now I'm just happy to get some time as my normal self.