Four rounds of chemotherapy attacks have now almost been completed. For the fourth time this total attack floored me for several days. Today, thankfully, slow recovery has set in. My world is getting larger again and I realise spring has finally arrived. Already before the chemos started I was told that it is very heavy therapy indeed and this is exactly how I feel it physically.
What I want to know most, is the effect of this first attack on my cancer. I wish I could get a complete survey of the number of cancer cells that survived the first round of poisonous attacks. Measuring is knowing, don’t they say? Unfortunately, for some time to come the state of technology is not yet as advanced to comply with this wish.
Even before the chemotherapy was started, the mammography and the MRI, PET and CT scans all yielded separate pieces of the complex puzzle of my illness. Five high quality scans were made and yet it could not be guaranteed that all pieces of the puzzle would get known. Tumours or metastases smaller than 5mms are not detectable anyway, and abnormalities of the bones do insufficiently show up in scans. Besides, in the one scan something that looks like cancer was found, whereas in the other of the same part of my body nothing alarming could be detected. Apart from the scans biopsies were done, needed to ascertain whether the cloudy scan images do or don’t indicate cancer. The four rounds of chemotherapy also leave their traces on healthy tissue. This makes it even harder for the radiologist to draw conclusions on basis of the scan images.
The most accurate scan in this stage, the internist-oncologist explains to us, is a new MRI scan of the breast. If it can be concluded that the size of the tumour has decreased sufficiently, there is hope that the dangerous metastases in my breastbone and vertebra have been attacked effectively as well. The same holds true for the lungs, in case there would also be metastases there. This MRI is planned for Monday, 7 June.
On Friday, 11 June I’ll hear the results. However, there is no time to let the message sink in. Immediately after, the second rounds of chemotherapy will start – the second attack. For these sessions I’ll have to come to the hospital for several hours each week during 3 months. So, no summer holidays for the moment. The type of chemo is different from the first. It is unknown what side effects I’ll get from this chemo and when. For most patients this chemo appears to be less taxing than the first one. A frequent and annoying side effect in the second round is neuropathy.
Fortunately, there is a low-threshold, free scan which I am allowed to do every day and as often as I want. Less accurate, but reliable: self-palpitation. And I don’t have to wait for the results. Several times during the past weeks it helped me through difficult moments, for it is obvious: the tumour is decreasing in size!