January 2nd, and the holidays are all but behind us. Barely one day after the holiday that is New Year's Day, we are working and stressing and forgetting that last week was Christmas and the alarm was silent. I, for one, woke today at 5 am for my 6 am shift at the ProShop. It was fine though. I had my coffee, and there were only a few die-hard regulars during those early, dark hours. After that, I had my first session of maintenance therapy at Dana-Farber, only four months later than planned. Meh. As I've mentioned, I am not finished with treatment yet. I am just through with the heavy and frequent pills and infusions. Now I only have to go in every four weeks for a chemotherapy push, equivalent to a shot. I have to take a few more pills too: steroids every day for five days, low-grade chemo daily, a different chemo pill once a week, and, of course, the antibiotics. There is also a bone-marrow biopsy scheduled every six months. All in all, not that bad. My counts will probably remain below normal levels, but not so low that I won't be able to do anything. All this lasts until two years from my initial diagnosis, or December 8, 2008. Then I will be completely free of all chemo nuisances.
A refresher for new and old readers: this here b-log is meant to be both an account of what I'm going through (or went through), and information about ALL and certain chemo realities. I am mostly just relaying what I learn, see, hear, feel, think, wish, and anything else I deem appropriate. I sort of have this vision in my head that somewhere, some newly diagnosed someone has stumbled across my b-log and is grateful for the witty (?) commentary and frank explanations. So there.
Here's what I learned today: Cancer survivors in remission sort of tout the five-year mark as the "all clear" date for their disease. I talked to my doctor today about recurrence and its likelihood in me. He told me that ALL usually comes back during treatment or during the first two years following treatment. His ballpark was that usually we are "all clear" after four years. I think five is just a nice round number with the extra year as a little safety cushion. Which is fine with me. The point is that my cancer didn't come back during treatment. At last biopsy, my marrow was clean and sparkly and lacking any nasty cancerous cells. Now I've just got two or three more years of mild doubt or fear, supposedly. Really, the fear never quite goes away, but hopefully the cancer will for absolutely ever.
I also learned about fertility, rather, infertility. According to the professionals, I should not be infertile. My doc's information was that survivors of childhood cancers, especially ALL, carry the same risk of infertility as any other person out there. Radiation may cause it, as well as bone-marrow transplants, which apparently affect the pituitary (sp?) glands, which in turn affect the ovaries, but luckily I didn't need a transplant. So while I don't even really plan on having children, it is a valid question and good to know that I don't need to worry if I eventually change my mind.
Third fun factoid of the day: Human Papilloma Virus - a nasty little bugger that can potentially lead to... more cancer. More cancer is probably the last thing I want, anywhere, ever. Perhaps then, the HPV vaccine is something I should look into. Once again, according to my doctor, this is a smart inquiry. He is not, however, too sure about the efficacy of the vaccine while I am still immuno-compromised. Vaccines work because basically a dead or harmless virus is injected into your system. Your body is able to produce antibodies to the virus which would hopefully kick in if ever you were exposed to the actual virus. No studies have been done on female cancer patients to see whether they could make the antibodies to the virus, in part because the vaccine is so new. It is a good idea to get the vaccine as a precautionary measure, but my question now is, when? I will have more on this issue in the future after I've done some research and talked to my doctor more.
Finally: (sorry, this is a long post. I enjoy typing while listening to crazy flamenco, awesome guitar). Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has read the Globe article and responded to me, whether by e-mail or here on the b-log. I can't express my appreciation for your support and your stories. No one is alone in their fight against the beast that is cancer, so I thank you all for your kind words. Keep on fighting, whether you have, have had, or do not have cancer. Life is pretty amazing regardless, and we are all in it together. ALSO! I would love to hear from you personally. If you don't want to post comments on the internet, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. If you want to say hey, share your story, tell me I'm really not as witty as I like to believe, whatever, it's all good. firstname.lastname@example.org. So thank you again, and enjoy the week! Peace.