On my last post I noted several of the side effects of 5-FUc. One of the most bothersome for me is foot and hand syndrome or, for those in med school, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia. It results in soreness, pain, split skin..fun stuff. This can be counteracted with topical creams. However the friction between my crutch handles and my sore hands significantly amps up the effect for moi. The solution is to wear gloves when using my crutches for extended jaunts. So what kind of gloves should Jimmy procure, one may ask. Of course DUCK gloves is the answer!
This week has been a little rough. On Sunday evening, while enjoying the Super Bowl, I began having chills, headache and nasal congestion. Uh oh. Monday it was much worse, Tuesday a little better and got better throughout the day. Today I felt almost normal. It it wasn’t for the fatigue due to my lack of sleep over this period, I probably would have felt nearly fine today. I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight.
I was scheduled for chemo today and was anticipating that it might be cancelled because of my flu bout after my meeting with Dr. P. Well surprise for me, my beat up old body is like the old Timex watch ads, “takes a licking, but keeps on ticking”. In looking at my blood work report, I discovered my white blood count doubled as my body marshaled its forces to attack the intruding infection. A big danger for cancer patients is that the chemo distresses the immune system diminishing its ability to fight off infections. Mine seems to be working fine, along with my kidneys and tumor infused liver. I continue to feel blessed in this fight. Dr. P proclaimed me good to go and off to the chemo suite I went. Another bit of good news is that my CEA dropped a touch down to 3.4, basically within the normal range. The past 6 weeks have been around this number indicating that there probably is not much tumor activity.
One day cancer treatment will be able to unleash our immune system to attack cancer, just as it did my flu infection. Right now, since cancer is an internal mutation and not an external infection, our immune system ignores cancer cells. Immunotherapy is the future, it will be nice when I can instruct Jimmy’s white blood cell army to carpet bomb the mutant cancer cells, the jihadists within my body. I just need a little more time and the cure will be here, I can see the goal line.
Speaking of CEA numbers, this morning I read an interesting blog about “the number”. The blog, Adventures In Living Terminally Optomistic, is penned by an oncology research scientist who also happens to be a Stage IV colon cancer patient. The subject of today’s blog was the CEA number. The power and fear this number has over patients. Even though he knows very well all the limitations and margin of error of this report, he still finds himself putting too much focus on “the number”. Fear is a very powerful emotion. Stage IV patients know that the course of the disease can quickly turn, success is all too often temporary as the cancer mutates to counter treatment. The CEA number is far from definitive, only one indicator, only part of the equation. But it is The Number.
And now for something completely different. Please meet Jack. Jack is a legal scholar living in Chicago. For several years he had been mentoring his human as she works on obtaining her legal degree. Of course by mentoring, he is referring to sitting on case studies as she tries to read them and walking on the key board as she types. Thus teaching his human patience and prioritizing….always pet the cat! Important skills for all lawyers.