Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weather Report

Gahh!! Once again, for about the kajillionth time this winter, the skies dumped a load of snow on our city. I shoveled the wet stuff as quickly as I could, pausing to reflect that I had a lot more energy than when I was on radiation. I talked to my sister-in-law yesterday, and she mentioned that I seemed to have dropped cancer as a topic in this blog. I have neglected to tie up the loose ends of my treatment, the more aggressive part of which ended a little over a month ago.

I had my first post-radiation appointment with the oncologist on February 14. While I was in the waiting room, I noticed a man sitting across from me. He wasn't a kid, but was obviously younger than me, dressed in business casual and checking the messages on his cell. Maybe he was waiting for an elderly parent? We kept casting glances at each other and finally struck up conversation about the complimentary beverages. "I didn't discover the coffee until my seventh chemo," I told him. "Oh, did you finish treatment? I'm just starting."

Brian had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was taking a shower when he discovered a lump near his collar bone. "I guess we caught it early; it hasn't traveled below my pelvis." Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes, or white blood cells, has a cure rate of over 90 percent. "It's the cancer you want to get..." he said, adding "...though I'm sick of hearing healthy people tell me that." Brian is only 38, and was just starting a second career when this hit. We exchanged cards, promising to keep in touch.

Dr. T., the resident working with my oncologist Dr. C., was the first to see me. I secretly hoped that Brian had the same oncology team, because her appearance would have brightened the mood of any heterosexual male. Dr. T. is HOT, as in Gray's Anatomy hot, and on Valentine's Day, she kicked it up a notch: wine-colored wrap dress, boots and fishnet stockings. "You look cute," she said to me, taking in my outfit. "So do YOU!" I answered. "Everyone has commented on my appearance today. They keep asking me if I'm going out tonight." Was she? "No. This is my only chance to look pretty today." And give male cancer patients heart-attacks.

Dr. C. came in after a few minutes. We discussed my post-radiation treatment. "I'm going to put you on Tamoxifen for a year," she said. She explained that since Tamoxifen was only effective at blocking the action of estrogen, most of which is produced by the ovaries, it wasn't ideal for post-menopausal cancer patients. "We'll test your hormone levels in a year to confirm that you're really in menopause." If confirmed, then I'll switch to an aromatase inhibitor, a drug which is believed to be more effective with menopausal women. "Tamoxifen increases your chance of developing cervical cancer, but the risk is very small. It most likely will increase the incidence of hot flashes. But, nobody has ever died of a hot flash." True, but I could kill someone while I'm having one.

So, I'm taking an anti-cancer drug, and will see the oncologist once every three months. In addition to physical check-ups, I need to order a mammogram for May, and also meet with my surgeon again. The rest of my body, neglected for a year, is overdue for a tune-up. I might as well get used to doctors' offices.

No comments: