Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Running on empty

I haven’t known exactly what to write now that I’m safely past my CT scan but still dopey from the side-effects of interferon. It’s hard to say which way things are headed. While I feel some relief from the immediate threat of recurrence, the physical and mental toll of therapy continues to pile up. Some days are better than others, and mornings are always easier than afternoons and evenings. I’ve found it especially hard to concentrate this week—which includes finding the right words for this posting. If you find any typos in what I’ve written, I can’t be held responsible. It’s the drugs.

As I’ve written before, the effects of interferon are cumulative, both in terms of physical symptoms and in its effect on my body chemistry. My blood panel yesterday showed a big decline in the white blood cell count, which twice before has forced the temporary suspension of my shots. The dose has been reduced each time I’ve resumed treatment to the point I’m currently at the lowest recommended level. If I fall below a threshold on my next panel, then we’ll likely stop the injections for good. It’s also possible that my WBC count will plateau, and I’ll continue with the interferon. Given how I feel today, I won’t be disappointed to throw in the towel.

The toughest part of staying with this treatment is the languor it causes. I couldn’t hold a job right now if I had to. I probably shouldn’t be driving a car. It’s hard to even read sometimes. I sort of figured by now (more than six months after surgery) that I would be adding some normal activities back into my schedule. I’m not ready for that. I don’t have enthusiasm for much more than puttering around the garden. The weeds don’t stand a chance against me these days.

The exception to my sluggishness is that I’m back into a regular running schedule. This is how I convince myself that regardless of how I feel some days, I’m still a runner. There’s no question the exercise gives me a mental lift. I’m up to 15 miles a week, which is about as far as I want to push things right now. I’m told the radiation-induced fibrosis in my leg may worsen in coming months, which increases my odds of lymphedema (swelling of the soft tissues). My radiation oncologist thinks physical activity can’t hurt, but he also says there’s no way to minimize the fibrosis, or to treat it. It could worsen for months or years to come—or completely resolve. You’ve gotta love the precision of medicine. My leg slows me down, but it doesn’t hurt when I run.

Elsewhere in the medical ward, Ellen’s back surgery appears to be healing properly, but she has some nerve irritation at L4 that’s possibly a side-effect of the diskectomy. She’s on prednisone as of today, and we’re hoping this will calm down the nerve and eliminate the tingling she feels in her butt and upper leg. This is what got her started down the road to surgery in the first place.

And I should add that Nick made an emergency visit to the dentist’s office in Newberg on Friday after he hit himself in the mouth while playing tennis (go figure). He badly chipped both of his front teeth. He’s fine, and is having crowns made. No word yet on whether he plans to take some tennis lesions, or just to wear a mouthpiece the next time he takes to the court.


Anonymous said...

Peter: I can imagine that your mental energy is running on empty after what you've gone through and are going through. And then add the timing (but good luck) of Ellen's surgery - and now Nick. Your mind needs the break- and the running. That's about all though. Rest and get the weeds!

Steve said...

Good talking with you last night. What a dastardly treatment interferon is, and one wonders the mindset of whomever worked to develop it. I'm sorry the white cells are dropping--and hoping they'll have plateaued by Monday as the doctor suggested they might. Keep your chin up. Meanwhile, give Ellen our best, and tell Nick that when they say you should find a sport you can sink your teeth into, they don't mean it literally.
Take care,

Anonymous said...

I'm totally impressed you're out there running --- and pulling weeds. I have to say those are the first 2 things that would go if I was in a similar situation!

I read your posts and sit here, willing myself to come up with something inspiring to say. But it's hard when the person I want to inspire continually inspires me in the most surprising of ways.

What's left for me to simply say is that you're in my heart and mind nearly every day, and Ellen, too.