Looking well

7

If you have been following my endless saga through the looking glass and into the medical world you will be pleased to know I have passed through the latest checkpoint with flying colours and been pronounced still ok. My lymph nodes, and relief, are palpable.

If you thought I was looking well, you were quite right it seems.

Next checkpoint another 4 months down the track.

The Good Ship Watermelon sails on, colours streaming from the top of the mast.

On average

9

My reliable (mostly) water pump of 16 years seems to be knackered, and, having timed the knackering to the end of one of our driest ever Octobers, and the start of (probably) a very dry November, I need to go wrestle with it in a little while. Nothing dramatic, the knackering, I don’t think, no Honda equivalent of, say, a fall from a cliff, more like the gradual blocking of a cardiac artery with fatty deposits, or the gradual enlargement of lymph nodes. I’m sure it can be fixed by cleaning out carbon deposits, or unblocking a fuel line, but it will never run as well, or as reliably as it once did, I will never again be able to rely on it starting first time, every time, like clockwork. Mr Pump and I have, it seems, grown older together without noticing, and suddenly woke up one day to discover we are, astonishingly, old.

Which is a long-winded way of introducing my six month Oncology review that took place this morning. [Beware, spoiler follows] I’m ok – blood counts and chemistry as near as damnit returned to normal, no re-enlargement of glands, no nasty testing needed, next review not for another four months. Odd that I had so little reaction to that undeniably good news though, I thought, and considered the matter while driving home.

I guess the nub of my reaction is this. Good news (for me) might be “Hey you’ve won the billion dollar lottery” or “Hey you’ve been selected in the Australian cricket team” or “Hey you’ve won the Nobel Prize for Literature”, that sort of thing. While “Hey your cancer hasn’t returned as quickly as it did last time, yet” is certainly not bad news, it is not good news in that sense. Really all it is saying is that you are still perched on the little plateau of neutrality, not too hot, not too cold, just room temperature. So, no champagne toasts, I think, for still being sort of average, but certainly relief.

Anyway, better go work on the pump. See if I can get it functioning in an average sort of way again.

Cheers.

True Grit

6

Again I have been slack, and again I must crave your indulgence (well, let’s face it, you have been indulging my whims and foibles on this blog for many years). I have been suffering a little malaise, once more, and my writing finger has been out of action. Incidentally I was recently referred, by an old friend and fellow cancer sufferer, to a very interesting article on the mental, physical, emotional state of cancer sufferers after treatment is completed.
…Read more

Toot Toot

12

I know you’ve all been avidly watching this space for some new piece of wit and wisdom and have been sadly disappointed of late. Sadly disappointed.

But (a word signalling that alibi follows) I’ve been sampling, in a series of pit stops, the other delights of the medical profession in which one lot of specialists fixes up the damage caused by the other lot. Have also been waiting, somewhat anxiously, for my first oncology check-up, three months since the end of the two years of chemotherapy.

That was yesterday, and, not to keep you in suspenders, it was all fine. So far so good, no recurrence this time so far, check back again in another three months. Phew!

Now I just have to finish the last of the medical tinkering and tuning up. Feel like an old car which is almost as new except that it has had engine, chassis, gear box, doors, roof, windows, seats, and ash trays all replaced.

Almost ready after some last-minute petrol tank filling and bolt tightening (and belt-tightening – uniquely in the universe my cancer and chemo have resulted in a big weight gain, my latest weigh-in yesterday producing the kind of result that you expect to set a bell ringing like one of those test-your-strength machines at carnivals) to roar out of the pits and back into the blog race. So stand-by for smell of petrol fumes and the roar of the crowd as the green and red racer sets off again.

Toot! Toot! Here I come.

Blockhead

16

I’ve been searching for a cure for Writer’s Block, but the only one that seems to work is to start writing. We shall see whether it is effective or not.

An update on me first, then perhaps some less important stuff about the rest of the universe. I’m doing ok, thank you. Half way through my three-month holiday from Oncology and so far so good on my mutated lymphocyte guerrilla army. But if I am temporarily playing hooky from the claws of Oncology, I am spending a lot of time trying to repair some of the ravages of two years of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy works on the old tested procedure of destroying villages in order to save them. Or, a more modern metaphor, on the IMF procedure of imposing austerity on countries in order to repair them
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Can’t judge a packet by…

5

This week came the very welcome news that Ireland is to follow Australia’s lead in forcing cigarettes into plain drab packaging containing only health warnings.

Couple of things struck me. One was that the media report felt obliged to seek the “reaction”, in the interests of balance you understand, of a spokesperson for the biggest tobacco company in the world. Now you, I’m sure, like I, will be amazed to learn that the BAT man was opposed to the Irish government’s move. Shocked I was.
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Winter Holiday

11

Latest instalment in lymphoma’s two-year battle with me yesterday. A passing out parade with my Commanding Officer Oncologist. Apparently I am passed fit to return to the real world, not to see her again for three months, a winter holiday from hospitals and doctors. And, nice as she is, that suits me!

So there we are. The two extra serves of nastier chemical rations have done their thing. Physical examination confirms my last PET scan – nothing going on in my lymph system as far as it is humanly possible to tell (always remembering that you are never cured, just in remission). My blood and body however do reflect the ravages of chemotherapy, and it’s going to take some time to feel relatively normal again.

But good news, no doubt, been lucky when so many are not. Means I can stop thinking of myself as a cancer patient, and go back to thinking of myself as someone who happens to have cancer.

As you were – stand at ease.

Look at that big hand

4

The last time I watched “High Noon” was 60 years ago. And that’s a sentence that seems odd to write. But a dear friend kept telling me I should watch it again, that it had (unlike some other once popular films we discussed) stood up well to the passing of the years.

Not easy to get hold of, but I suddenly spotted it the other day on one of those cheap remainders tables in the DVD store and so here we are.

And indeed it has stood up well. But I don’t really want to discuss the craft that makes it, or should make it, somewhere up among the all time film classics. When I saw it 60 years ago I would have watched it as I did any other cowboy movie. Thought it a bit slow-moving perhaps, long time to get to the gunfight showdown which was the set piece of any cowboy movie. But then, bang, bang, bang, and bang, and it was the baddies who would be, of course, occupying the newly made coffins.
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Fiery particles

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So here I am again. Blogging, one-handed, in the oncology day treatment ward. For the last time. Ever.

No, mustn’t tempt the fates, waiting with their deadly scissors to punish both optimism and hubris. This is hopefully the last chemo treatment (astonishingly number 19) for quite a while after two years and 4 days since my first one, an age ago.

Side effects a bit rough last time, hope better this time.

This whole process is a bit like burning the forest to get rid of weeds and then seeing the good green shoots appearing again through the blackened landscape. Chemotherapy burns up all the white blood cells, including the bad lymphoma particles, and then the blood ecology comes back.

But just as the forest is damaged by each fire, and the more you burn, the less well the ecology recovers, so the more you “burn” the good cells in the body the more you damage them, and the less your body returns to normal. Moderation in both are needed.

There, managed to combine my fire research with my cancer treatment, not a bad metaphor eh?

So don’t forget to vote for me as Best Blog at http://www.writerscentre.com.au/bloggingcomp/peopleschoice.html – page 5 under THE Watermelon Blog.

Concentrates the mind

26

Wonderfully.

Had tests this week and saw oncologist today to get results. I went in expecting to be hung in the morning, but it seems the reports of my demise were somewhat exaggerated.

Test results show I am in the clear for now. So two more reduced intensity chemotherapy treatments (one next Wednesday) then a program of monitoring – indefinitely or unless symptoms recur.

I’m not cured (there is no cure) and at the level of refinement of the tests I can’t say it has gone completely. But it has clearly been knocked down to a level which should give me some reasonably solid respite (though impossible to say whether this will be measured in months or years) from treatment. Also means that I don’t have to contemplate an alternative especially vile kind of treatment involving stem cells.

Best news I have had in the two years since initial treatment began!

You could raise a cup of kindness, or its nearest equivalent, to me, wherever you are. Your kind support over these two difficult years has been important and much appreciated.