I am so lucky. I’ve been reflecting on the fact that two years ago tomorrow, I heard the well-intentioned gastroenterologist say over the phone, "Adenocarcinoma, stage IV." It took a few more days to establish the precise location—primary peritoneal carcinomatosis—and another day or so to start treatment, which fortunately has been effective and mostly well tolerated. Furthermore, unlike many people, I haven’t had to undergo extensive surgery—yet. And though I’ve been on chemotherapy for most of the last two years, I’ve only lost my hair twice and can even contemplate growing it longer than I have for years. Small vain victories mean a lot.
Saw the oncologist yesterday and learned that the Aranesp® hit of three weeks ago did its job—my hemoglobin is normal. I had hoped for more Aranesp yesterday to forestall any anemia from yesterday's chemo. The doc tried to do it, but the money ladies said no way—insurance won’t pay for it when hemoglobin is normal. We had previously discussed that this round of chemo might end this month; but the doc said, and I agree strongly, that since my blood numbers generally turn bad as soon as I get off chemo I should continue it as long as it's tolerable. So I can look forward to at least several more months of chemo. As the surgeon did last month, the oncologist said yesterday I have no clinical symptoms, which simply means that when he pokes my abdomen he can’t feel any nasty hard masses.
OK news came today when I was on my way out the door for the day-after Neulasta® shot for white blood cell production. The P.A. called to say the benchmark CA 125 blood test result “leveled off”—to 54. It’s a few ticks higher than last time, when it was 52; but it has been explained to me in the past that small changes like that may simply be due to the vagaries of testing. Disappointing not to be in the normal range below 34—maybe next time.
Between the time of my initial diagnosis two years ago and the start of treatment, I'd had ample opportunity to search the web for sources good and bad. Apparently because PPC is so rare, up-to-date info was hard to come by. But mainstream sources said median survival was 12-24 months, and that still seems to be the typical prognosis.
So, having lasted two years, I feel I've beat the odds and each additional day is a bonus. Just yesterday, I heard yet another story about someone diagnosed with cancer—in this case liver cancer—who was dead in six weeks. And two years ago I was told I had a lesion on my liver, among a bunch of other places. Now worries about the details of my symptoms then, and all the fears that went with them, seem like ancient history.