My Cancer Journey: Part 11: Chemo is Done! What Now?
On Monday at around 4pm, I walked out of the Chemo room for the final time.
I was so happy.
The chemo protocol I was on is called GU-BEP, which stands for Genitourinary(the classification of cancer) Bleomycin, Etopiside, cisPlatin (the chemo drugs). It is one of the most aggressive chemo protocols, as the intent is to cure the patient. Read the BCCA protocol sheet here if you are interested in the details.
So chemo is done…is that it?
Are you cancer free?
These are just a few of the questions I have been asked since yesterday.
To be honest, I have asked them as well. Am I cured? What now?
The answer is, “Now we wait.”
The chemo drugs will continue to work over the next 4-6 weeks. In fact, over the course of this week my blood counts will continue to drop, and by this weekend my white blood cells will likely drop to the lowest point since starting treatment. So I have to be very careful with hand washing and visitors etc. But into next week, the counts will rise again.
I am continuing to go for blood work to monitor the tumour markers, then in mid January 2017, I have a CT scan of my abdomen. My oncologist is confident, based on the type of cancer I have, the staging, the size and location of the tumour, the way the tumour markers have been steadily decreasing, etc. etc., that this will cure me. I am cautiously optimistic. The odds are good, but my faith is in God, not the odds!
If the cancer is still present in January, we will discuss the options, which would likely be surgery to remove whatever is left of the cancer. Give me surgery over chemo any day. On that note, guys, seriously, check your nuts. If I had been, I would have caught the cancer early and not have had to have chemo!
In the meantime, I am happy to be done chemo.
I still have side effects, obviously. Neuropathy, tinnitus, brain fog and fatigue still plague me, and likely will for a while. But the worst of it is over. I am sleeping again, and my appetite is really good.
Our plans are still on hold. I hope to eventually get to seminary, but I will not be going to school this semester or during the summer. Instead my focus is on getting healthy and strong again, and getting back to work. I plan to start cardio and strength training again in the coming weeks to help speed up the recovery process and regain my health and strength. Likewise, I hope to start working again soon. The sooner I can work, the better, as our savings continue to take a beating…
As I have mentioned, the job waiting for me is in landscaping. Which doesn’t really work with the neuropathy in my left hand, the one symptom that seems to be getting progressively worse, rather than better over the past week. So, I have decided to take the plunge and start my own business – cleaning and maintenance, which is lighter stuff that my hands can do more easily – once the fatigue wears off. For now I am working on a business plan, researching, and networking in an effort to secure some clients for a January start. I may also return to security part time. Though I do not really want to do that, it might be inevitable. Once I am able, I hope to gradually return to landscaping for the spring or summer.
What I have learned.
The past 3 months have been a trying time. Yes it has been hard, and will continue to be hard for a little while longer, but there has been good that has come out of this.
What could possibly be good about cancer and chemo?
Well first, in my affliction I have experienced the nearness of the Lord in a way that I have never before. He is faithful to his promises. I have also become far more outspoken about my faith, which may make some people uncomfortable, but hey it’s who I am.
Second, staring down one’s mortality really has killing effect on sin. Those things I have struggled with, that seemed overwhelming to me, now seem so petty and ugly compared to the beauty found in Jesus Christ.
Third, I have experienced the communion of the saints like never before. The church has rallied around us with such immense love and support, particularly our congregation, but also from all over the world, that I am truly overwhelmed by it. I cannot imagine going through this on my own. I really believe one of the indicators (not the only one) of a healthy church is how it helps the wounded in her midst.
Fourth, cancer has given me pause to consider what is important in life. It is not how much money I have, or my plans, or any of the things that take and consume so much of my attention like work, school, this blog, etc. It is…
These are important.
So while I would never wish cancer upon anyone, I feel that I am a better person for it. I have become a hugger. Who’da thought? I smile more now. Which is really weird for little reserved introvert me. I am learning patience – though I still fail at that when Meagan displays her defiance 🙂 Despite the bad, there is much to be thankful for.
I hope to keep you updated, but I don’t know how much will change over the next 2 months before I find out the results. So, I don’t expect to write much more on the journey unless something happens.
And though it is not over yet, the hard part is done. So I am going to thank you now! Thank you for joining me on this journey. Thank you for your support of my wife and family during chemo. Thank you for the visits, the meals, the baking, the cards, the emails, the messages, the prayers, the well wishes, and the gifts. I am truly grateful for everything.