It’s been a few days since I found out my tumor was gone. I returned to work yesterday; a big transition from the life I had gotten used to. It was a big transition for Renee too. We had become an efficient family unit. When I wasn’t having treatment and I was feeling decent, we took turns with the daily tasks, a well oiled nuclear family unit.
The news that I am in remission continues to sink it slowly. I will never be return to my pre-cancer life. This seems like an obvious statement but it is something I think I did after my initial diagnosis and surgery. At that time I “only” had a 15% chance of recurrence and in my mind, body and psyche I was done with cancer. Of course this was only to find out a year later that I was part of that unlucky 15%. That mental state made my second diagnosis as shocking as the first. So, as a result, I’m taking this “all clear” message with the proverbial grain of salt. I’ll really feel relieved in two years, after which the chance of recurrence lowers to close that of the rest of the population. (The most likely location of a third recurrence is unknown, so it’s really like the rest of the population.)
In addition to this mental state, I will also have a PET scan and CT in October. This is to confirm that the changes in my armpit and neck lymph nodes that showed in the CT scan have resolved as expected. The conclusion is that those lymph nodes were irritated by the chemo, so they’ll be looking for those to have diminished. (It makes sense because the lymph nodes play a key role in the human immune system, and chemo has a major immuno-suppressive effect.)
In the short term, I still have a handful of small but annoying remaining side effects. The most apparent is my shortness of breath and lightheadedness. For example, after I go up a single flight of stairs I have to stop and lean on something as my heart goes into overtime. Or after sitting for a long time I stand up and stretch, I get an intense head rush where I feel like I’m going to lose my balance and usually grab onto something.
Both of these can be explained by my shortage of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the circulatory system. Less RBCs, less oxygen to the brain and muscles. In a couple weeks my bone marrow should have reasonably replenished my RBCs, but it’ll be three or four months before I’m at my normal pre-chemo counts.
It’s amazing how life returns to normal during the minute-by-minute rush. But it’s during the rare quiet times that I’m reflective of the experience. Ironically I’m expecting some depression sometimes in the next few weeks or months, as I felt a couple of months after my initial diagnosis. We’ll see.
I also want to share a link that some of you have sent to me. There’s some truth to it.
Regarding this blog, I have a few more posts in me. I have a few people to thank 😉 Stay tuned for a bit more.