Recovering from Recovery
Many have asked if I have recovered from my run-in with blood cancer. My answer is a qualified YES, followed by a qualified NO. What the heck does that mean?
Here is the story. The oncologist said I was fortunate that my blood cancer was caught at stage II, meaning the cancer was observed in just 2 different regions of my body between the abdomen and the rib cage. I never knew that such good news and fortune could be so scary. Apparently, large B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, most often, is not obvious and consequently diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
A pain like I had never experienced
What triggered my seeking out some answers? It was a sudden and intense rush of pain in the abdominal area. It was a pain like I had never experienced before.
Following the biopsy, I learned that treatment was to be a series of infusions administered every 3 weeks over a 4-month period. After mentioning the specific and hard-to-pronounce pharmaceutical names of each of the 5 drugs, I see why it was easier to call this concoction R-CHOP. Treatment began in August 2020.
Worried about treatment side effects
Naturally, I researched the possible side effects of this treatment and was not looking forward to the predicted nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, and more. As with most things in life, the anticipation was worse than reality. Much to my surprise I did not experience many of the probable reactions. I did experience weight loss and intestinal blockages. Since I had a buzz cut, hair loss was not an issue.
After the first treatment things became routine. Show up for the infusion, read a book, listen to music, and fall asleep. Just before Thanksgiving the treatments ended, and I was cut loose to enjoy life. My oncologist felt confident that I responded well and was in remission. A follow-up MRI scan was scheduled January of 21 and, as he anticipated, all went well.
What was it like after treatment ended? Candidly it felt strange. I was in something called remission and yet still felt the same. While I was free of my cancer, I could not taste food and had significant numbness in my fingers and toes. Due to chemo, I was immunocompromised and needed to avoid getting a cold, the flue or worse...COVID. My MD suggested getting the vaccine in the next few weeks of the new year.
Slowly returning to normal
After 3 months I was feeling physically better, and food no longer tasted like plasterboard. Over the next 9 months, life returned to a new normal. While the chemo was behind me, the run-in with blood cancer gave me time to reevaluate who I was, and ask myself if I needed to make changes. The run-in with cancer reminded me that I had a limited amount of time in life and to make the best of the remaining time. During those long 8-hour infusion times, you have lots of time to think and plan. Now that treatment was behind me, I decided now was the time for action.
It really is the simple things that matter
Yes, the cancer is behind me for now, and with it, are all the small annoyances in life that I no longer react to. I now focus attention on family and friends and have become comfortable with letting things go. My wife and I are looking through 50+ years of all the stuff we've collected and asking what we really need, and who or what organizations might benefit from a contribution. Blood cancer has reminded us that sometimes in life, it’s the simple things that matter the most.
How long did it take to be properly diagnosed?