Wednesday, July 30, 2008
“The scan is what we expected,” my doctor said when she entered the exam room. “No new disease, but the tumors that are there are lit up. That’s because they’re inflamed."
She was referring to the PET portion of the scan which tracks the radioactive glucose injected into my body beforehand. Malignant cells gobble up the glucose more readily than regular cells, so they show up as points of light in the pictures.
"If it were up to me, I wouldn’t do the twelve-week scan at all, just the one at twenty-four weeks. But the FDA requires it.”
My side effects over the past three weeks have been nearly unbearable. The itch and rash are gone, for the most part, but I’ve still got pancreatitis, so I continue to have bouts of nausea and vomiting, even though the anti-nausea pills I take control my queasiness during the day. I also sleep a lot, feel very weak, and have extremely low energy when awake. When I reported the symptoms to my doctor, she sent me to the treatment floor for an infusion of steroid to boost my energy level.
In fact, from the laundry list I presented, she suspects hypothyroidism as well as pancreatitis, so she also ordered more blood tests, commenting that the immunotherapy tends to unleash certain elements into the blood that cause “little itises”, and these inflamed organs can cause lots of uncomfortable symptoms. She’ll call me with results of the tests, and plan to see me in a month to make sure things are under control by then. We’ll be in touch via email and I’ll go in to see her sooner if things don’t clear up by next week.
It’s unnerving for me to watch this process continue. I would certainly like to be disease-free. I’d like to stop having side effects from drugs that address one issue while compromising another. I’d like to forget about the medicine-balancing-act that attempts to keep it all under control.
On the other hand, the disease has not progressed in over a year. That is certainly good news. It makes the condition manageable. At that slow rate, it gives the immunotherapy a chance to settle in and work over the long term.