October 2014

Trev-MUNils_trevmun wrote
on November 14th, 2013 at 11:12 pm
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One round down, five to go ...

I was going to make this update after my second infusion this Monday, but I've been under a bit of pressure this week with university coursework and exams, so I had to hold off until I could get a breather. The second infusion completed my first round of chemo. I also met with my oncologist that day, and got a melange of good and bad news.

First, some good news: The bone marrow biopsy came back clean. No sign of metastasis.

And now, the bad news: The PET scan discovered small tumors in my lymph glands below the diaphragm. That means I do not have Stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma; it's actually Stage III.

However, there's some more good news in that the chemotherapy is actually having an effect! Before the second infusion, the oncologist checked my neck and said that the swollen lump has indeed shrunk significantly. So it's not my imagination! The chemo seems to be really working. However, to really know for sure how much of an effect it's having, they'd need to do another PET scan. And because Blue Cross Blue Shield will only cover so many PET scans per year, they're not going to do one right away; probably wait until halfway through the treatment to see how things are working out.

The fact that I had Stage III cancer going into this, though, affirmed my oncologist's belief that I need to get the full six rounds of chemo done, rather than finishing early. Not too happy about that, but we'll see how it goes.

Since the second infusion Monday I've been hanging in there. There is one troubling new development; the weekly blood test they do on me revealed that my white blood cell count has gone below the normal threshold. I am now officially immunosuppressed, meaning I need to be REALLY careful about exposing myself to infectious crap. As my white blood cell counts go down, even the common cold could be fatal untreated.

That's going to be nigh impossible in a campus environment, especially when you get so many people who like to just cough or sneeze obnoxiously out in the open. But that's why they gave me antibiotics to have on hand, and told me I NEED to check my temperature three times a day now. If my temperature ever peaks over 100, I'm to start taking the antibiotics immediately. I still worry, though. I've seen the stories of people with Hodgkin's who died not because of the cancer, but because they got an infection while immunosuppressed.

I haven't noticed any other dramatic new side effects, but I am starting to see some. For example, my hands feel prickly more often than not now; I'm pretty sure that's chemo-induced neuropathy, the nerve damage to the hands and feet I worried about before. I'm going to talk to the cancer center next week to warn them about that. They said that if I notice it, they can cut back a bit on the drug known for causing it. Hopefully the damage is not permanent. I haven't started shedding hair, but I am starting to notice more stray hairs than usual coming out when going about my business. Not enough for me to want to go and get my head shaved; I'll wait until I actually see chunks of my hair coming out before I resort to that.

On the upside, I don't itch nearly as much as I have been earlier this year. I still itch and bleed occasionally, but for the moment I think it's finally getting under control. Couldn't have come at a better time!

Aside from that, Cameron University is going to some incredible lengths to help me out as the chemo progresses. I've met with Student Housing and Student Services over the past few weeks concerning my cancer, the chemotherapy, and the side effects and what assistance I may need as time goes on. They're already doing some assisted-living things to help me out, and some more are planned in case I need them--for example, they might start doing meal deliveries as I grow more neutropenic so I don't have to worry about exposing myself as much, and Student Housing has volunteered to help me get around campus using the university karts if I get too weak to walk to class. (On my busiest days I walk like a mile in total!)

In fact, I was just approached today with an offer to move me from my current apartment to one that was recently refurbished and cleaned, rooming with an RA (the same guy who gave me a tour of the campus this summer in fact). I'm gonna take them up on it; this apartment I'm currently in was kind of grody to begin with.

That's where things stand for me right now. My hospital bills are mounting, though; I owe several thousand dollars already, and the bills keep coming in. Once already the hospital called and tried to get me to pay in full, up front. Tomorrow I plan to try and meet with the hospital's business office to try and work out a payment plan; in fact, I was advised to see if I can get some sort of discount for being a university student. Still, I don't think that's going to be enough. I may really need to set up that fundraiser, but finding the time to do it with finals and final projects coming down the line is going to be tough ...

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