Monday, March 3, 2008

Latest scan results

I met with my doctor this morning to go over the results of last Thursday’s scan. As I was sitting in the exam room, waiting for her to show up, she popped her head in and gave the “thumbs up” sign. “You’re good to go.”

“Does that mean it was a clean scan?” I asked.

“No, stable. We’ll give it another cycle and see where we go from there.”

I must have looked at her quizzically because she said “Stable is good. I just have to finish up with another patient; then I’ll come back and let you know what my thinking is about this.”

She’d said “Stable is good,” but I heard “but…”.

When she returned, she explained that frequently patients plateau for no apparent reason. The scan was good in that there was nothing negative about it, no hot spots, no new growth.

No news is good news, one might say. Only thing is, there was no change, so therefore we can’t infer anything about what is happening or why. We have to wait for the next scan for more information.

Tonight I start taking drugs for my fifth chemo cycle. In eight weeks, I’ll have another scan that should fill in the blanks of this cancer puzzle. If the remaining tumors resume their shrinking-and-disappearing act, we can proceed with the course we’re on. If the next scan is a continuation of the plateau, my doctor may want to pull me out of the study and change the treatment.

“I don’t mind taking you off study, since you’re just taking Temodar and Abraxane, which are standard chemotherapy drugs we can always go back to. If we switch treatment, it will be to an immunotherapy, not, strictly speaking, chemotherapy.” And here she rattled off some multi-syllabic medical terms to describe the drugs I’d never heard of.

We talked for a while about what that other treatment consists of. Basically, it seeks out all foreign elements in the body and stimulates immune system reactions to them. Her findings are that the drug is even more effective after taking Temodar. There could be side effects, but some people have no adverse reaction at all.

I must say, a lot of this went right over my head. I really didn’t want to hear about new forms of treatment. I’m familiar with the one I’ve been following since last June. I want it to be over, not continue down another path that would extend it possibly beyond the summer. On the other hand, I’m grateful that she is comfortable sharing her thinking with me.

“This is all theoretical,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what to make of the results, so I’m already thinking two steps ahead, but so far, everything is good.”

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