Anyone who has been following The Ogler knows that I’ve been living on Planet Interferon for the last few months. It’s not a place I’d recommend. The atmosphere is a little thick, the people pretty dim, and nothing ever seems to get accomplished there. If that reminds you of Washington DC, it’s purely coincidental. The Interferians would be offended by the comparison.
It is with mixed emotions that I’m reporting that my exile is over. My white blood cell counts have been on a roller-coaster ride since I started injections in June, and on several occasions have dropped below a level at which infection becomes a serious threat. My count was below that threshold last week, but my doctor and I decided to give the shots another week. The WBCs rebounded slightly on Monday, but not by much. Meanwhile, my fatigue and brain fog continued unabated. After six straight weeks of treatment (21 weeks total), it has become obvious that the side-effects of interferon are not compatible with anything resembling a normal life. There is no groove to be found in this exercise—just unrelenting lassitude and boredom. It’s time to end it.
This decision does not put me at any immediate physical risk. While it’s true that interferon is the only agent that’s known to limit the recurrence of melanoma, the statistics are uninspiring. I may have already gained the benefit that interferon offers during the infusion stage I went through in May. I’ve also had my dose reduced to the minimum recommended level. While I may be surrendering some very small statistical advantage for long-term survival, it can’t be measured nor even proven to exist. It’s a little scary to be giving up on the only therapeutic hope there is, but looked at rationally, it’s a defensible decision. I don’t do this because I have a death wish.
I will add, in fact, that God is with me in this decision, just as he’s been with me throughout this episode of my life. I don’t believe that just because I have asked for his protection that he will prevent a recurrence, but I know that he’s walking through this process with me. I speak to him daily. He is my companion and my guide in all the major decisions I make, most certainly including this one. I don’t have control of my life, but He does.
Based on past experience, the effects of interferon should begin to dissipate in the next few days. I’ve heard that some patients have longer-term issues, so we’ll see how things go. As I emerge from the fog, my left leg will be a good reminder of where I’ve been. The radiation fibrosis is getting a little worse, both stiffening and weakening my leg. I tripped while crossing a railroad track three weeks ago, which I attribute to the bum leg. I cut and bruised my right hand in the fall, but everything seems to be OK now. I’m stretching the leg regularly, and will start some weight training soon. I'm hoping to at least arrest the progression of fibrosis.
There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ll save it for future posts. My spirits are lifted just for having made a decision. Now I can begin to reengage with the world.