The Results Are In

Well, we didn’t get the news we wanted to hear yesterday. In the PET scan before this last one, I had one tumor left. It was in the middle of my chest and 1.8 cm in size. For reference, 1.8 cm looks something like this:

I still had a couple of doses of chemo after that scan, so we expected this latest one to show the tumor either gone or significantly smaller. The results of this latest PET scan show that tumor to now be 2.7 cm in size.

Not only is it still there, but now it’s bigger. Wonderful.

Just to help try to lift our spirits, Barb asked the doctor to go through the results of that initial PET scan with us (the one taken right after I was diagnosed). In that scan, I had tumors in my spleen, my neck, above my collarbones, under my arms, nodules in my lungs and tumors in the middle of my chest, the largest being 6 cm.

Six months later, we’re down to just that one in the center of my chest. So even though these latest results aren’t what we wanted to hear, it’s rather amazing that this is all I have left. My doctor even described me as a remarkable patient with an amazing recovery, so it can’t be all that bad, right?

So what’s the next step? As we speak, my doctor’s trying to get me in to see a doctor at Yale. He’s a hematologist/oncologist like my current doc, but he specializes in two fields: Hodgkin’s disease and stem cell transplants. This doctor will look over my case and see if he agrees with my doctor’s findings and conclusions, namely that our next step should be very high dose chemotherapy with associated stem cell transplants. Once he makes the decision, I’ll be going in to see him and get the whole rundown on what will be happening to me. In the meantime, here’s what my current doc told us. If you’re getting tired, you can stop here, ’cause I’ve already covered the important stuff. Also, the following paragraph is what I recall from what my doc was explaining, but I wasn’t in a very good frame of mind at the time, so it may not reflect reality.

Once this is all decided and planned out, I’ll make a few trips to the hospital at Yale. These trips will be to harvest stem cells from my body. Basically, they’ll give me that accursed Neulasta shot, which will make my bone marrow pump up its stem cell production, since stem cells are basically just new blood cells. Then they’ll draw a lot of blood from me so they can sort out these stem cells and keep them handy. Once they have however many they need, the chemo starts. My last chemo was pretty high dose, but I was able to walk in to the clinic, get my chemo and go home. This one is much, much higher and more evil. Basically, for each administration of the chemo, I’ll be checked into the hospital and put into an isolation ward. The chemo is going to be so powerful, it will completely shut down my bone marrow’s blood cell production. After the chemo is given, that’s when they’ll inject the stem cells back into me. The new influx of stem cells gives the bone marrow a kick to the head and gets it to start working again. In the meantime, I’ll be quite susceptible to infection and disease. Wonderful.

So, at this point, that’s about all we know. We don’t know when all of this will happen, how many times it will happen or how long I will be down each time it happens. Plus, we’re not even completely certain the new doctor will agree that this should be done at all. I trust my doc though, so I’m getting ready for battle.