Yesterday I had one of many routine follow ups with my Oncologist. I will have these regular appointments for a while; at different intervals for years. Every one feels like I’m playing Russian Roulette. Will this be the time they tell me they need t run more tests? That my blood work shows markers that the cancer is still here or has come back? A sinking feeling always lurks deep in the pit of my stomach every time I sit in the exam room after the nurse leaves from taking my vitals while I wait for the Doctor to come see me. My last few follow ups had been uneventful but yesterday, was different.
My doctor came in and after the usual “How are you feeling?” and “Yes that ache/pain/weirdness is normal,” he began to discuss my tumor that was was evaluated after they took my jubblies off. It still had some live cancer cells; under 1cm but, still there. This meant that not only was my cancer of the aggressive nature but, that it was pretty resilient. The types and doses of chemo that they gave me should have killed the entire tumor based on its size. But it didn’t. Now I had the option to take chemo pills. Pills that are essentially chemo that I’d swallow. A chemical that I would ingest and that then would change its chemical make up to attack any (possibly) remaining cells floating around directly and stop them from growing as well as reducing their size. They would be a precaution. They haven’t found any cancer else where in my body but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a rouge cell floating out there somewhere that was one of those damn resilient bitches that fended off the chemo secretly.
There was a catch though. Because of the amount of the still living cells found, I was in a grey area. Too small to be a definite yes but, enough that it made my doctor raise an eyebrow. Ultimately, it was my choice. As usual, I didn’t want to make a choice so, I asked my doc “What do you recommend?” and my lovely British Oncologist said, “I think we have one shot to cure this. You’re young. We can lower the percentage of a reoccurrence….”
So Xeloda pills it is. 2 pills, twice a day for 2 weeks on then one week off for 6 months. Six. Fucking. Months. With this precaution comes side effects. Lovely chemo side effects. Well, donkey balls on that. I was officially having a bad day while reading that list in the drug pamphlet. My lovely chemo nurse that I happened upon in the hall on my way out asked how I was. When I told her about the pills she reassured me that they list ALL possible side effects because they have to. Then she proceeded to go over what I could most likely expect; Possible dehydration (so drink a lot of water), maybe a loss of appetite, head aches, joint/muscle/body aches, dry skin, dry scaly hands and feet, red/painful/swollen/numb hands and feet, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, tiredness, trouble sleeping, mouth and throat sores, upset stomach, stomach aches and possibly vomiting. The usual suspects with most chemo. All that sounds like a long list but, it eliminated quite a bit from the list on the pamphlet. Most importantly, she said I wouldn’t lose the short locks that I have lovingly grown back on my head (it’s very very unlikely because NOTHING is 100% in cancer med land). Bless her heart, she knows that barfing has been my biggest dread throughout all my treatment. So she offered to call me in a new prescription of a quick dissolve version of one of my previous anti-nausea meds. Just in case I was at work when a way of barftasticness swept over me, I could pop one under my tongue and get the fastest relief.
I’m 24 hours into taking the little buggers and so far, I’ve been fine. A little bit of weirdness, not in my stomach and not quite nausea but… weirdness. At the moment, I’m chalking it up to being nervous about what’s to come. I mean, my joints already hurt like a motherfucker, to the point that if I sit for more than 5 minutes when I stand up and walk like a gimpy robot for a few minutes until the all joint juices get flowing again. How much worse could that get? Complete immobility? I’d welcome a little loss of appetite. I mean, all I do is want to stuff my face. Not having that constant urge to graze would be nice temporarily. My peripheral neuropathy just recently started to wear off so, if that returns, no biggie. Been there, done that. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and subsequently spent most of my waking hours battling tiredness. Check, check. So my biggest concerns lie with the gastrointestinal issues, shitty uncomfortable skin conditions and either shitting my pants or not being able to shit at all.
I was so close to being “done” with treatments. I got confirmation that I didn’t need radiation. SCORE! So all that I still had on my plate was my final surgery which my Plastic Surgeon assured me was way less invasive and painful than the first. Basically, I was getting ready to put this bullshit in my rearview and carry on smartly with life. Getting back to normal. Alas, I have 6 months more of bullshit in the form of oval white pills. Perhaps the coming months won’t bring pain and discomfort like I’m imagining. Here’s to hoping it’s just business as usual just with a new alarmed reminder on my phone every 12 hours reminding to eat my chemo like a good little cancer patient.