For the past year, every three weeks I have been infused with a chemotherapy drug called Alimta, “the last miracle drug,” to quote my oncologist, and a drug with which I hadn’t previously been infused. The fear then and now is that once this drug stops working – and for the last 12 months the results have been extremely encouraging – my alternatives, given my underlying kidney issues, are grim. The reason being, if I understand correctly, (and there’s an excellent chance that I don’t) is that cancer cells don’t respond nearly as well to repeated exposure to the same drug. They sort of become accustomed to it and subsequent treatment is much less effective, if at all, so some other drug has to be prescribed with the chance of continuing success hardly guaranteed. My current treatment is working so well that when I asked my oncologist if perhaps we could spread out my infusions an extra week to allow my body to recuperate a bit, his answer was an emphatic “No.” Because it is working so well, and because I have so few alternatives if change were truly necessary, the status should remain quo (which is no problem, really).
However, within the last six months or so of this treatment, I have experienced a change in my post-chemo week symptoms. Food, uncharacteristically, has no appeal to me. Psychologically, the prospect of eating food with which I am exceedingly familiar is a complete turnoff. Complicated by the extremely-less-than-satisfying aftertaste, the combination presents food challenges all day long. The result is that I lose my appetite, lose the enjoyment I derive from eating, lose energy/fuel to maintain my normal routine, upset my sleep, then become tired and depressed about the whole cycle of gloom I’ve just described. And so far, there seems to be nothing I can do, nothing I can eat, nothing I can change to affect this pattern. I just have to wait it out. It takes a week or so to pass.
Granted, in the scheme of cancer things, considering I am alive and reasonably well 67 months post-diagnosis, this blip is certainly manageable and nothing really to complain about; more something to write about as I so regularly do, sharing in sometimes excruciating details the ups and downs and all-arounds of living in the cancer lane. And therein lies the key word: “living” with cancer, as in, I’m still writing (wink, wink). And though I would prefer to not have been originally diagnosed back in February, 2009, I have made the most of it nonetheless, and shared “the most of it” with you regular readers. What I think I have learned in this entire cancer experience (hardly could one call it an adventure) is a type of patience; where context, perspective and controlling expectations, both good and bad – are fundamental to surviving. Fortunately, I’ve experienced more good than bad, but the fact that now I regularly experience a bad week shouldn’t cloud my judgment. I’m still incredibly lucky during that week, just hungry and tired, and not in a very good mood. It’s not perfect by any means, but perfect left the building on February 27, 2009.