At present, July 12th, I’m halfway, approximately, between my last CT Scan which showed a previously unseen silver-dollar sized growth in my lower left lung and my next CT Scan scheduled for August 6th, one month earlier than my usual three-month interval in order to make an evaluation sooner rather than later; to determine if this is new growth or nothing more than old growth that is now visible due to the combination of shrinking tumors and dissipating fluid opening up the viewing area, so to speak. Apparently, the chemotherapy drug, Alimta, with which I’ve been infused every three weeks since last September appears to be doing its hoped-for job: shrinkage.
My reaction to this new finding in late May was not negative. At worst, it was neutral, at best, it was positive; something seen for the first time because previously there was too much of other unhealthy stuff in the way for it to be seen at all. Less clutter, if you’ll allow a lay person’s description to suffice. And for all my oncologist knows, this growth may have been there all along and is not the least bit a cause for concern, quite the opposite in fact. But we don’t know enough yet, so he decided not to wait three months. Heck, this growth could even be smaller than it was originally (affected by the Alimta also) and smaller even on this next scan. But we won’t know definitively, we’ll only know comparatively – between late May and early August.
To say I’m looking forward to the results would be a bit overstated. Curious, I’ll allow. Moreover, I don’t want to express any real confidence about my prospects, because so much of what cancer does it will do, regardless of what I think or hope or pray. But two things/symptoms my oncologist advised me to e-mail him about: pain in the area of the “new” growth and/or a persistent cough, neither of which I’ve experienced in the slightest. Now he didn’t give me a timeline as to when I might feel something, but six weeks out, I haven’t felt a thing. (I know better than to ask him hypotheticals; presumably patients feel symptoms differently, manifest symptoms differently and tolerate/notice symptoms differently, so feeling/not feeling might mean something or nothing; it varies. Uniformity is hardly at play here.) Still, I suppose I would have to go along with my brother Richard’s encouragement: “It’s better not to feel anything, KB, isn’t it?” Heck yes! But it’s hard not to worry. It’s cancer, after all.
Following the calendar and chemotherapy schedule, I will have one more infusion before my next – and final – CT scan before I see my oncologist to discuss the results and dare I say, treatment options. On or about August 15th, I will once again know the tale of the tape. I will learn if my life goes on as it sort of is, with relative calm, or if I’ll be thrust into the unknown vortex of clinical trials/N.I.H-type studies and the educated hands of researchers.
I’ve been extremely fortunate so far, diagnosis-to-date. And I’d like to think (wishfully, naively) that my luck will continue to be exceptional. Although, I realize I may be beginning to bump up against some shorter odds here, having survived five-plus years already (only 16 percent of stage IV NSCLC survivors live beyond five years). Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be an aberration. In fact, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be called.