Oops… Still Alive.

You know how sometimes you’ve got this nagging feeling that there’s something you should have done, but can’t quite put your finger on it? It turns out that in this case, that thing was you, my lovelies. Or at least giving you guys the latest updates in Moondoggieland.

Actually, it’s not so much a forgetting as it is a remembering at the wrong place. Like thinking of posting something when I’m downstairs and worn out from a day’s work and two hours worth of sleep the night before. Then it all reaches that awkward point where there’s so much stuff to tell that I’m too tired to sit and type for long enough to get it all out. But you know what I discovered today? Stuff keeps happening. So I’ll just start typing and we’ll see just how updated you get.

First off, the biggest news I’ve been keeping from you, my loyal and adoring fans. I had a PET scan last Monday. This was a follow-up PET scan, specifically to check up on the cancer. Unlike those previous ones that were mainly to check for infections or weird pains and such. Last Tuesday, I visited SuperCoop for the answer.

I am cancer-free.*

In deference to my parents and grandparents, I will say “Holy expletive EXPLETIVE!”

No wonder four letter words are so easy to use – “expletive” is hard to spell and doesn’t quite look right.

So can you imagine how excited and thrilled and overjoyed Barb and I are? I can guarantee that you can’t, because you’d probably overguess us by a mile. It’s not that we aren’t all of those things, it’s just that our minds haven’t grasped the meaning behind the results enough to let us be ecstatic and giggly. In fact, I think some people are a little concerned with our rather nonplussed attitude. My current theory is that we’re so used to hearing bad news and expecting bad news that we haven’t fully figured out how to act when good news hits.

It does seem to be sort of time-released happiness, though. I’m definitely more happy, excited and giddy about it that I was last week. This time next week, I may be wetting myself with joy. We’ll see.

You might have noticed the asterisk on the diagnosis. That’s another reason we can’t be 100% ecstatic right now. Remember The Itch? The Itch that started this whole ride and would occasionally rear its ugly head? It’s been back in full force since just before Thanksgiving. Wasn’t this supposed to be caused by the Hodgkin’s? We all thought so. But hear I am, clean PET scan under my belt and torn up, scratched-through skin everywhere else. SuperCoop is rather stunned, since my PET looked so good. He checked me over and found one lump behind my collarbone that was negligble. He said with my PET results he wouldn’t think it was anything, but with all of this itching, he wants me to see an ENT and get checked out by someone specifically concerned with neck stuff just to be sure. He also recommended I go back to my dermatologist to see what he thinks. As SuperCoop said, since it doesn’t appear I have any cancer right now, there’s not much an oncologist can do for my skin.

I saw my dermo on Friday. We’ll call him Dr. Heald ’cause, interestingly enough, that’s his real name. Dr. Heald gave me a good looking over and tossed out a few theories.

  1. This itch we’re seeing is The Itch of 2003, which never really went away. You see, with most of my chemo treatments they would give me various steroids to keep down inflammation. That also keeps down itches. This rings true, ’cause looking back through my blog before the appointment to write down my full medical history (damn, these things are useful) I saw a recurring theme: I’d go through chemo, then a few days to a week later I’d freak out ’cause the itch was back. Not every time, but repetitive enough that I was surprised I didn’t pick up on it sooner.
  2. The itch is something new. That’s kind of a given, if it’s not the old one, it has to be a new one.
  3. The itch is something weird from the stem cell transplant time. There are a couple of possibilities with this one. One is that I picked up something weird in that post-sct time when my immune system was compromised. Maybe I have monkeypox after all. The other possibility is just that something weird happened. That one’s less likely, since my stem cells came from me. In scts where someone else is the donor, he said there have been instances recorded where really weird things happen. For instance, say Barb is giving me her stem cells and let’s pretend she has psoriasis. Turns out, there’s a good chance I would wind up with psoriasis by taking her stem cells, even though I didn’t have it before then. Weird, huh?

Right now, the theories are academic. We won’t know much more until we get a biopsy (which he did last Friday) and we have the results (which we get this Friday). In the meantime, he gave me a really strong antihistamine to take and some Elidel cream for my blotchy face. I dropped off the prescription after work and picked it up to find in my bag a tube of Elidel and an antidepressant. Pardon? I called Barb to make sure I heard Dr. Heald right. Yup, she heard “antihistamine” too. Huh.

Naturally, this is all Friday night, after doctors have left the office. All I have to go on is that he told me it would put me to sleep that night. The three nights previous, I had two, two, and four hours of sleep. This pill said “May cause drowsiness” all over it. Good enough for me. I get home, take the pill and go to bed at 10:00.

I wake up at 2:00 the next afternoon. Holy crap! And I wake up groggy too, like if I wanted to, I could’ve squeezed in a couple of more hours. Nice! The effect wasn’t as strong as my itching Saturday night or Sunday night and I’m back down to around four hours of sleep again. I called the office early Monday morning and they confirmed that while this is an antidepressant, it is also a strong antihistamine. The trick to it is, it’s one of those drugs that has to build up in your system before it starts to really work. The little Walgreen’s drug sheet just says it may take “several weeks.” Doc says the good thing about this drug is they can actually measure it through my bloodwork and see how well it’s working. My itch does already feel different. It’s not as… urgent. Like, sometimes I can almost ignore it for a little while. If I do happen to scratch, it gets just as maddening as ever. Hopefully this will improve with the ensuing days.

Oh, and just in case someone stumbles across this page on a random Google search (I’ve been seeing a lot more medical questions coming this way since I was diagnosed), I’ll state it plainly. The antidepressant doxepin is also a powerful antihistamine and can be used strictly for that purpose. I’m living proof. See the above paragraph if you skimmed to the good part.

So that catches you up to my life now, health-wise. We still have technology-wise and life-wise, but those will have to wait until another day. Now it’s time to go rest my weary hands.