Thursday, July 3, 2008

Skin in the game

WARNING: Medical details ahead.

It’s been a couple of days since my radiation treatments ended, but their legacy continues. All of the skin that was “sunburned” is gradually sloughing off, adding to the misery of having scar tissue (from the surgery) that was already broken open. It’s pretty uncomfortable on account of where this is all happening. I guess I’m fortunate in that I have very little feeling in my left thigh, which minimizes the pain. The nerves may regenerate some day, but for now I’m glad they haven’t. I also didn’t bargain for the fibrosis in muscle tissue, which makes them stiff and ropey. This doesn’t hurt, but it too feels uncomfortable. I’m told the fibrosis—which is essentially scar tissue—will partially break down with time and exercise, but is unlikely to completely resolve.

Any good news, you ask? You bet. So far there's no sign of lymphedema in my lower leg. This is the retention of fluid caused by the interruption of channels (and nodes) by which lymph fluid moves out of the limb. The lymph node surgery followed by the radiation did a masterful job of wrecking this network. Apparently, lymph can find alternative pathways, or develop new channels, so I’m hopeful that’s what’s happened. Lymphedema would be seriously debilitating and painful—to say nothing of freakishly ugly.

All things considered, I’m in better shape than I expected after surgery and radiation. I’ve been walking 10 to 15 miles a week, which has been a boon to both body and spirit. I was cycling for a while, but I need to let my skin heal before I do that again. I’m hopeful that I may be able to run again in a few weeks. I suspect my marathon days are behind me, but it would be cool if the leg heals enough to let me do some recreational running. That’s a goal I’ve set for myself and hope to achieve.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve felt better in almost all respects since the interferon was suspended. My general outlook and attitude are better, and I’m simply not exhausted like I was. The challenge once I resume the shots a week from Monday is to find ways to mitigate the effects of the drug, be it a lower dose or antidepressants. I think just having had this break is a confidence builder. Now I know that when I finally reach the end of the treatment sometime next spring, I will probably bounce back from its constitutional effects. My appetite has returned with a vengeance in the last week, and I’m back up to 160 pounds—my normal weight. I’m sleeping about 9 hours, instead of the 10 or 11 that I was for a while. It’s obvious that in certain ways the drug clears the system pretty quickly.

More good news: Nick and Allie both come home tomorrow. Ellen and I will pick them up at PDX in the evening. Allie will be home from eight weeks in Nicaragua and Nick from two weeks in the Bay Area--an equally exotic place.


Cam and Stephen said...

The McCandlesses are back. We've been incommunicado, but haven't stoppped thinking/praying/reading about you. Particularly glad to hear about the edema not materializing as feared. Glad too to hear your kiddos are back. Give them our love. We can't wait to hear about Alison's adventures. Enjoy your time off.

Anonymous said...

Your more upbeat tone is apparent in this post. I'm glad for you to have this break, despite the continued physical struggles with healing. And the kids are back!

Karen B.

Anonymus said...

I hope is not too late for my comment.
I am back to my good habit of reading about my friends.
I describe myself as a book worm.

This reading is more than a normal and simple story, because is the real story of pain, strenght, patience, endurance, and hope from you to our God of the Universe.

I am very glad my dear friend for your break of the (bad juice).
and radiation.

I am still praying and hoping for a miracle.

I hope that the joy of having Ali and Nick in your house overwelm the physical and emotional pain that you are been having during this last months of Inter,and Rad.

Please keep fighting the good figth. Remember that you are already a winner.