Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warts and all

One of the stranger side-effects of ipi treatment are changes to the dozen or so seborrheic keratoses on my body. These warty skin growths are benign, looking a little like—ahem—barnacles on a whale. They’ve never much bothered me before, but as ipi has raised havoc with my skin in general, it’s also caused these keratoses to thicken and become irritated.

After a routine skin check by my dermatologist yesterday, most of them have now been flash frozen via cryosurgery and will begin to slough off in coming days. This process involved nothing more than having them sprayed with liquid nitrogen. This should relieve some of itching caused by ipi that I expect to be living with for weeks to come.

While I feel very much at ease in my skin in the metaphorical sense, the skin inside which I actually live gives me grief. That's what comes with having melanoma. It’s been more than six months since I last found a subcutaneous metastasis, so that’s good news. For more than two years up until the cancer spread to my brain it was my skin that concerned me most as a source of my health problems.

Now, thanks to ipi, the skin mets have taken a vacation. In exchange—and cancer treatments are always about tradeoffs—I deal with rash, itchiness and keratoses that get picked at in my sleep. While I’m at heightened risk for another primary melanoma and/or other, less dangerous forms of skin cancer, I’ve so far avoided that scenario. Rashy skin will make you crazy, but it doesn’t kill or disfigure.

I get my final ipi infusion a week from Friday, after which I expect gradual relief from the various side-effects that have grounded me over the last month or so. Physical fatigue hasn’t been too big a deal, as I’ve been able to run most days since I started treatment. The mental fog persists, with radiation likely as much to blame as ipi. My appetite has improved slightly and my weight loss has finally plateaued. Eating meals remain an exercise in frustration, however, as my dry mouth makes almost all food unappetizing. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as artificial saliva but it’s not a product that’s ever going to win a consumer choice award.

I’m encouraged to know that I’ve probably bottomed out from my combined rad-ipi therapy regimen. It could have been so much worse. We’ll be having a low-key Thanksgiving this year, with no one more thankful than me for what I hope is a turkey dinner that I can eat—without having to use fake spit.


Carl Pelz said...

Peter, this sounds every bit a Job experience. My prayer is you experience relief soon and enjoy your turkey dinner!

Debbie said...

Your lust for life has always inspired me, Peter. I hope it returns along with your appetite in time for Thanksgiving .. I'll be thinking of you here in Boise.