Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten down, five to go

I visited my oncologist on Monday, and it's all good news.

The CT scan turned out really well - all 7 lymph nodes have shrunk, and are either undetectable, or "normal", which means smaller than 1 cm. An "optimal" response, according to my doc. The chemotherapy is working very well. After a discussion with my doctor, we've decided to tack on an extra three sessions of chemo after the next two, which mean instead of having two more, I have five more, taking me to March 6.

There's a small hope that the extra chemo will knock the cancer out completely (about 10%, if you like statistics), so I'm trading off feeling like shit now for the hope that it goes away, or I go into remission for longer. I'm shooting for the long tail here, people, the end of the bell curve that either manages to get cured, or lives for a reeeaally long time. 20 or more years.

Fact is, I fall into a little bit of a statistical crack - somewhere between a regional recurrence and a metastatic recurrence. Regional would be confined to the axial lymph nodes, or in the area of the first surgery. A true metastatic recurrence would have shown up in another organ. The further I drill down into the statistics, the less they seem to apply to me. So, truth is, there's no way to predict how I'm going to do. Now, they treat me as if it's metastatic disease, just because I've already used up some treatment options - can't do any more radiation to that are, can't do hormone therapy. But I've dug around, and have found very few discussions of a recurrence like mine. So I think I'll just plan on being an exception to the statistics.

Spirits are good, I think Kevin is more worn down than I am. If you are local, take him out for a beer or a hike.

Love to all,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chemo not in vain....

The CT scan showed that all seven of the lymph nodes have decreased in size. This means that the chemotherapy is effective, and is working to beat this cancer.

I am speechless with delight.

Love to all,

Monday, January 12, 2009

I hate Anthem Health Care!

I'm going to moan for a second -

Chemo sucks! I have horrible side effects! I hate my insurance company! Suck suck suck! Hate hate hate!

Pacificare insurance, which I had when I was originally diagnosed, covers cancer treatment. All of it. Fully covered. No co-pay, no nothing. Chemo was covered, surgery was covered. Pacificare, you rock - or at least then you did.

Then I was hired by Caltrans, and switched to Blue Cross Blue Shield. In order to keep my same group docs, I had to get the PPO - the most expensive health care option - large deductible, etc. Paid out the nose for premiums, payed the deductible, payed the max out of pocket - for four years running, so far. But at least I got all the care my docs recommended.

Now a few months ago, Blue Cross became Anthem Blue Cross - and for the first time drugs and procedures recommended by my doctors have been denied. One of them is an anti-nausea drug that was working really well. "The nausea should be controlled by a more cost-efficient alternative." Well, it isn't, you bastards, and if my appeal doesn't overturn that decision, both Kevin and I are going to get mean. Quickly. We'll see how this appeal process works - WATCH THIS SPACE.

I don't think whoever made this decision has any concept of what weekly chemotherapy is like. "Moderate" nausea? No, that's car sickness. Try severe. Or maybe extreme. Well controlled by the drug which I WAS getting, NOT so well controlled by the "more cost-efficient" alternative. What in the hell are you people thinking?

I trust the decision will be overturned. Otherwise I'm going to start a big tantrum. Big. With reporters. And my union. And nasty letters from all of you.

/end rant

Other than that, I'm not sure if I'm really in the home stretch now, or not. I have a CT scan this week, and HOPEFULLY all those lymph nodes are getting smaller - and if they are, I might do an extra round (three more, taking me into march) or two (six more, going to April) of the same chemo, in the hopes of knocking the cancer out more completely. It would be easier to know that I just have the remaining three, but if it's really working seems like it's worth putting up with the additional chemo. (It'll take 3-5 days after the CT to get the results, so I probably won't know the details until a week from Thursday...) I think I can tolerate six more, not sure about nine more. I think the thing I hate about it the most is how it eats my life - three days mostly sick and with no energy to do anything, and then two or three days of being sort of my normal self - but it gets shorter every week. And last week I had a sinus infection, so I was basically out of commission for 10 days. I feel as though I lost a year the first time around. This time I think (I hope) I will recover faster, but still, I don't feel like I've really gotten to live my life since October.

"Moderate" nausea. Ha ha ha.