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Cancer 101 – My Report Card

I was never so happy to finish a course, nor as anxious to learn the results of my final exam. For the better part of three months, I showed up on-time and did everything as planned on the syllabus. I even pulled a few grueling all-nighters. Of course, I am referring to Cancer 101: Chemotherapy.

Joy abounds…I passed! Now I can matriculate to Cancer 201: Immunotherapy.

Both Lori and I experienced the same mixed emotions after having my scores reviewed by my oncologist. Clearly, our hope was to show enough improvements to warrant moving forward. Yet, in doing so, we both felt like this process is starting anew.

The four cycles of chemo achieved their principal goal of slowing down the spread of cancer, and in some instances decreasing the size of various tumors. For example, the primary lesion in my left kidney appears similar in size. The metastatic lymph nodes showed a slight decrease as did the metastatic lesions in my liver. Some of the lung nodules demonstrated a slight interval decrease while others remain similar in size.

Going forward, I will begin an immunotherapy regimen next week. The hopeful result of this will be a production of cells that can recognize and fight the infected cancer cells in my body.

Sitting in the same chairs as I did as a chemo patient, an antibody medication will be infused over a two-hour session every other week. My oncologist said the side effects of this treatment should be less brutal on my body than the chemo. Like all such meds, the list of possible side effects is long and ugly. The shorter list of common side effects includes fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and infusion related reactions of rash, decreased appetite and swelling of the limbs.

Awaiting the first infusion, I am thankful for the daily lessening of chemo side effects. Presently, my constant issues are chemo brain, UTI type symptoms, and breakthrough cancer pain. Today, and comparatively speaking, I am feeling better. Who knows what tomorrow and immunotherapy will bring. We can only hope and pray for the best.

To all of you who prayed for me during chemo, thank you! Please pray that the immunotherapy also achieves its goal of stabilizing the remaining cancer and slowing its spread.

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