Saturday, January 7, 2012

"What's Next?" - President Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)

My final day in "The Chair."
It's just under 24-hours since I completed what is supposed to be my final chemotherapy session. I say, "supposed to be," simply because I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. My oncologist, Dr. Tepler, reassures me time and again that this will be it. Perhaps it's the paranoia of having cancer; the same auto-pilot reaction to any ailment or ache that immediately causes a cancer fighter to assume the worst, or the fact that Murphy's Law has had a nasty habit in the past for playing the "Oh yeah? I've got a curveball for YOU!" game with me. But regardless, I'm cautiously optimistically celebrating.

My father came by at around 8:20 to pick me up and take me to Stamford Hospital's Bennett Cancer Center. We loaded up the car with the usual suspects: My laptop/briefcase, a couple of DVDs including Robin Williams' "Live on Broadway," "The Shining" (my father's never seen it) and "Clockwork Orange" (he's also never seen this, so I figured I'd bring it just in case), my iPod, the yellow blanket my cousin Jon's mom used when she had chemo and has subsequently passed onto various cancer fighters to keep them comfortable during their treatments, a couple of Naked Juices and my laptop lap desk. It seems like I was packing for college, but let me tell you, each and every item serves a purpose.

First, I hadn't had anything to eat or drink all morning. It was another one of those, "Rush, get the kids ready for school and then take care of yourself," mornings, and I was just ready in the nick of time. So, I had to bring the Naked Juice for nourishment. The iPod was meant to bide the time in the waiting area, distract me while I had my finger stick, and fill in some boring moments with some motivational music.

After the finger pricking, Dad and I were walked to the room - in fact, it was the same private room I had with my first appointment. We were full circle. Dad started setting himself up while I set up the laptop to play the DVDs. (We know from experience that most of the DVD players don't work.) The nurse, thankfully, listened to me (unlike last time), and didn't try and go spelunking for veins never tapped before, but went for "Old Faithful." Either the veins have begun to recover, or my nurse continued her magic touch, because I didn't feel a sting from the saline, nor did I taste the metallic-saltiness on my tongue. I didn't even notice the  Decadron.

We popped the Robin Williams DVD into the laptop and thus began our laugh-fest. Thank goodness we had a private room with a door, because the profanity spewing from my laptop had me a bit red in the face - not that I, personally, am that sensitive, but there are so many demographics represented in the halls at the hospital, and folks, undoubtedly, who do not feel that chemotherapy is a fun thing, I didn't want to offend anyone.

At one point, Clarissa, my first nurse at my first appointment, came in and saw Robin Williams. Just as she says, "What a great DVD to watch!" Robin begins a riff about how his friend Lance is in France riding in the Tour after going through chemotherapy. Needless to say, they knew I'm a LIVESTRONG leader, and this got a big giggle from everyone.

Chemo went smoothly, and, now it's post-chemo recovery mode.

One of the next steps, in my case, is going to be hormonal therapy. Typically, that means Tamoxifen. Here's the catch. I don't want to take it. I mean, I really don't want to take it. It will likely put me into early menopause, which isn't exactly a prospect I'm jumping at. I've had enough thrown at me to put my femininity into play this year, had my boobs lopped off and replaced by square-shaped Ziploc baggies while I wait for silicone jelly beans. Not to mention, the side effects of menopause doesn't exactly excite me, either.

I was going to participate in a clinical trial incorporating Metformin, which is a drug used in treating diabetes that has been successful in helping prevent some of the problems with Tamoxifen and menopause. I was really looking forward to it, after being told I was an ideal candidate. That is, until I was told that my tumor was 0.175cm too small to participate with the new guidelines for the trial.

So, now I'm screwed.

What's next? A long, hard talk with Dr. Tepler to figure out a way to get me involved with Metformin, because I am not going onto a regiment that will put me into early menopause, with all the bells and whistles that accompany it.

My body. My cancer. My treatment.

So, what's next?

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I'm all about free speech, etc, but I have to ask that comments are respectful of other readers, the fact that I, and many of us who follow this blog, support LIVESTRONG, and that you reserve Lance or LIVESTRONG bashing for another forum. As of right now, I'm still allowing Anonymous postings, however, that may not be the case in the future. Thanks!