Like most things, I've put off making a final post on this blog for far longer than I should have.
I received the all-clear from my doc about three-weeks ago after a minor scare. I was scheduled to receive my final CT scan on Dec. 23 - setting myself up for an awesome or glum Christmas - when my onc noticed something on the results...two spots on my pelvis. Looking at them carefully, he said it would be "weird" (I actually like it when docs divert from the standard of using confusing medical terminology. I would have understood him if he said "unlikely" or "uncharacteristic," but him using the word "weird" seemed like something further down on the unlikeliness scale. My odds of having something "unlikely" I would put at 1 in 5, but my odds of having something "weird" I would put at 1 in 200) if the cancer had metastasized in my pelvis during treatment. I took that as good news, but as I would if the situation was reversed, my wife was clearly not satisfied with that answer.
"What's the worst-case scenario if it has metastasized?" my wife asked.
Still staring at the computer, the intellectual side of my oncologist's brain kicked on, and he went off on a rant about further treatments, bone marrow transplants, more intense chemo, etc. By the time his common sense part of his brain caught up with the intellectual side of his brain and, while panting, screamed "What the hell are you doing?" my wife had turned pale from fright and had tears welling up in her eyes. After a swift ass-kicking from the common sense part of his brain, he assured her that was very, very, very unlikely and further emphasized the fact that it would be "weird" for that to happen.
In another God-like move, my oncologist scheduled a bone scan two days AFTER Christmas...he was gonig to be out of town (along with 3/4 of the hospital's docs and surgeons), but he knew I had reached my out-of-pocket deductible with my insurance and that everything I had done before Jan. 1 would be free. So, he squeezed me in a bone scan, a follow-up appointment one hour later with the only oncologist who got finagled into working two days after Christmas, and bid me adieu.
Christmas was somewhat subdued for my family. As usual, I never gave it a second thought...my philosophy has always been that there's no sense worrying about things you can't change, so I put it out of my head and just enjoyed my bald holidays.
I went back for my bone scan after Christmas, and the oncologist that was filling in was an obvious pro when it came to dealing with cancer patients. He walked in the room and merged the good news with his introduction - "Hi Greg, I'm doctor so-and-so and your bone scan is fine." He knew that since he wasn't running a television game show or a television cooking competition, there was no use dragging out the suspense...I thought that was awesome.
The ride home was joyful. My wife was, obviously, excited. I got to call my parents for the first time in four months with good news (Let's recap my phone calls to them up to this point..."It looks like I probably have cancer," "I'm having a testicle cut out of me," "Yeah, that testicle they removed was cancerous," "The cancer has spread to my lymph nodes, so I need chemo," and "my white blood cell count is low, so I may have to be careful around Thanksgiving. Don't get sick."). Everybody at work was super happy...it was much better than two days before Christmas when I returned and everyone was in the front office, hunched over and ready to explode with cheers of happiness for the good news...only for me to tell them, "Uh, it's not entirely over yet." Oddly enough, as everyone was understandably happy, I wasn't "jumping around excited," which is how I normally am for minor things such as finding out that the McRib is back or that a band I like is coming to town. I think this experience has made me realize that when I'm at my happiest, I'm actually a bit subdued and pretty quiet, although I'm not sure finding out I was cancer-free was me at my happiest. After the past five months, I think I could best describe the feeling as "cautiously pleased."
I think that's why it has taken me so long to make a final post on this blog...throughout the past four months, every time I get optimistic about something, I get bad news. Now, I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm also not one to boldly break a mirror while walking under a ladder and kicking a black cat.
My hair is starting to grow back, although it's super-thin and makes me look like a guy that just had cancer. All of my side effects from chemo (which ended in early December) have obviously all disappeared. My appetite is back, my heartburn is gone and I'm almost back at the point where I could probably, cautiously, try Burger King again...the first food I ate after my first chemo treatment which made me cringe to think about for the past three months. I've got a scar from my orchiectomy and from having my port removed, but on the plus side, I've got something to remind me of all of this for the future. (No, I'm not talking about my scar...I'm talking about my port. Fun fact...if you ask nicely and persistently several times, the surgeon removing your port will clean it off for you and let you keep it. "I guess you paid for it," the nurse said as she handed me a biohazard bag with the port in it).
This should all be over, and I hope it is, but I'm hesitant to make a declarative statement about being done with all of this. In all honesty, I'm really not done. I've got years ahead of me of returning to that oncology department, having blood tests to check my tumor markers and meetings with my oncologist and CT scans to make sure that the cancer doesn't return. Many people who have had cancer talk about how this prevents them from living a normal life, but I don't have that feeling...I can put it out of my head and be perfectly happy, but I'm still cautious about raising my hands up and celebrating a definitive victory over a disease that came out of nowhere and brought my life to a standstill in the first place.
So, that's where I am. Five months ago, I was told I have cancer and became initiated into this weird club of people who had gone through an equally weird ordeal. Now, I'm just a guy with baby-fine hair starting to come back in on the top of a head that's still spinning from the speed of my diagnosis, surgery and treatment. I'm fine medically, and my personality hasn't really changed (as my doctors and nurses could attest to), but I'm constantly analyzing every pain, soreness or bump I have and trying to figure out its odds of being cancer (Average of my guesses: about 50%). Life is back to about as normal as it could be, and I'm still the sarcastic, slightly odd person I was when this all started.
This will (hopefully...very hopefully) be my last post on here, but I wanted to thank everyone that's read this blog and e-mailed, called, commented to me on the street or mailed me kind words about this. This has been pretty therapeutic to have an outlet to joke around about this whole "cancer thing." I'll keep writing weird stuff, but I'll likely put it on one of my other sites (if you're interested, check http://www.staticthinking.com/ in the near future. I finally redesigned it and may end up doing some random writing on there again).
Thanks for the encouragement and kind words from friends, family, strangers and neighbors over the past four months...it's made this whole ordeal much easier (albeit somewhat embarassing, but I guess that's what you can expect when you start a blog about getting cancer).