I’m now finished with week three of the four-week high-dose phase of my treatment. I felt so good when I came home from the clinic yesterday that I headed into the yard for a little gardening. The fever finally hit after I went to bed, which made for very fitful sleep. One of the weird side-effects of interferon is cotton mouth; some nights my mouth is so dry I have to sip water every 40 minutes or so. It’s as if my salivary glands stop working. This makes me wonder what else is being whacked by the drug—other than my brain. There’s no question that my thinking is way off par, as Ellen can attest.
Now that I’m over the hump with the high-dose regimen I feel I can definitely make it another week and put this nightmare behind me. I know what to expect and the symptoms don't seem to be getting any worse—at least those I can observe. I’ll have another blood test on Monday, so I hope the liver markers are still in the acceptable range so I can both finish the infusions and get out of Dodge with that organ in working order.
I will also meet with the radiation oncologist next week. The plan is for me to have daily radiation for five weeks that’s focused on where I had my lymphectomy (left side of groin). The purpose of the radiation is to destroy any cancer cells that might be lingering there, which is the most likely site for recurrence. Radiation should be a walk in the park compared to interferon, although it does have the untoward side-effect of causing fibrosis in the tissue being treated. That could make the leg stiffer and more uncomfortable than it already is. I won’t know for sure how bad it will be until I get into the radiation.
I’ve also been having an academic discussion with my medical oncologist on the timing of my next PET scan. It’s been three and a half months since my recurrence was diagnosed. I figured I was about due, but he insisted we wait. His logic is that there could be false-positive findings in the groin caused by infection, surgical scar and/or benign lymph node swelling. I’m still being treated for staph infection, but it seems to be under control. I was skeptical of Dr. Neville’s conclusion, based on my concern about distant mets in the internal organs. So I emailed my surgeon at OHSU, who had already spoken with Dr. N about this and they agreed to wait on the scan. So I've been outvoted. If there’s cancer in my body, the PET wouldn’t detect it until it’s of critical mass anyway. Psychologically, this is probably the hardest part of everything I’m going through: not knowing if it’s all for naught. It certainly helps me to stay focused on living each day well.
The adventure continues…