When last we met, I had been given a clean bill of health in April of this year, and was venturing out in my motorhome for summer fun. My oncologist wanted to see me in 3 months, which would have been July. He had said previously that if the cancer returns, it doesn’t really matter if it is caught early–there is no advantage to the overall survival rate if caught early or later. In fact, they don’t usually treat it again until you’re experiencing symptoms. Wanting to put thoughts of cancer behind me, I said if it doesn’t matter, then why come back in July, why not 6 months from now? He went along with my request and I scheduled my next oncology appointment for October 2018.
When I got home from my trip to Waco in May I felt good and continued my running and yard work. I planted my flowers and vegetable garden. Life was looking pretty normal. I flew to Seattle in late May to visit my daughter and family, and had a great time. I made some local camping trips and did some kayaking and laying out in the sun.
After my long drive to Waco in May I started experiencing some neck, shoulder and back pain which would kind of come and go. At first I chalked it up to the long drive, but it really didn’t happen until a couple of weeks AFTER the trip. Anyway, it would go away for a while and then come back again. In July, it was getting a little worse and I wondered if it was my running that was causing it so I stopped running and returned to one mile walks again. I noticed (thanks to my Fitbit watch) that whenever these pain bouts would happen my resting heart rate would go into the high 80s for days when it was usually around 60-70 bpm. When the pain went away my heart rate would go back down to normal.
I had two big trips planned for August/September and was a little worried about these pains. Now I was having pain in my side intermittently and when I took deep breaths. When I was about to sneeze, and drew in that quick deep breath right before sneezing, it would cause such pain in my side that it stopped the sneeze. Strange. I made the long distance trips to see family and had a wonderful time, but did not feel great physically. The featured picture above is my daughter and granddaughter at our family “reunion” in Waco over Labor Day weekend. I put “reunion” in quotes because my family consists of me, my brother, sister and brother-in-law, and daughter, her husband and granddaughter. That’s it.
Of course I wondered what these pains meant and did it have something to do with the cancer or was it just chemo kickbacks, old age or some new dreaded problem. I was soon to find out when I went to my oncology appointment in October. The office schedules you for a lab draw a week prior to your actual appointment to see the doctor so he has all of the pertinent information available to him at the appointment. Labs are posted online as soon as they are available so I always see the results as soon as they come in, and before my appointment. The first ones to come in showed my hemoglobin and hematocrit (a blood protein that holds iron and transports oxygen through the body) was at the low end of normal which is fine, but much lower than what it was in April. That bothered me. I remembered it was low when I was first diagnosed with the cancer. I had to wait several more days before the tumor marker result came in, which was right before I went to bed one night. Never look at lab results like that at the end of the day! In April it was 15, and now it was up to 81 with a normal result being less than 35. Naturally, my heart sunk–the cancer was back. Although I’m sure I suspected it somewhere in my brain, this made it real and I had a hard time sleeping that night. So, there would be no miracles for me. Not only no miracle, but precious little time was granted me to be free of the disease. I didn’t beat the odds, in fact, it seemed the odds were beating me.
Next time I’ll tell you about my appointment with the oncologist and bring you up to the present day. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everybody!