Tag Archives: scans

Oh, hey there

Yeah, it’s been a while. But you know what they say: with cancer, no news is good news. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but they should.

Things have been uneventful here. I was scanned again last week, and the good news is my scans were all clear! That’s two years worth of clear scans since my last treatment.

So why am I posting? Because I’m no longer convinced the scans are the whole picture. Um, pun not intended. I feel like I have an earache in my left ear, and while sometimes an earache is just an earache is just an infection, my overall pain levels (head, not ear) have been on the rise. And nerves in my face are twitching. The last time they did was before the oh-so-fun paralysis kicked in.

My oncologist knows. He’s examined my scans multiple times, felt up my face and lymph nodes, and poked around inside my ear and pronounced the skin normal looking. He’s not overly concerned yet. Although Betty was the master at hiding from my scans before, the docs have a pretty good base of scans since my last surgery to draw on for comparisons. So I’m supposed to be giving things another week and seeing if the pain goes away on its own. (I’ve had pain on and off for the last couple years; that’s nothing new. It’s just that this pain is different, and has twitching with it.) It’ll be a week on Monday, so I guess I’ll see what the weekend brings.

Preferably nothing cancerous.

Not Dead Yet!

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. Not much has been going on, and I almost forgot how to log into this blog.

Anyway… I had my most recent scans before Christmas, and I got the news yesterday that they came back clear. So yay! It’s been over one year now. Oncologist wished me a boring new year. I think I deserve one. Meantime, I celebrate with my third annual Fuck Betty tattoo next week.

May we ALL have a boring new year (health-wise). And happy 2017!

Scan Update

Yeah, it’s been a while. I know. But in the world of cancer, no news is good news. I mean, if I’d ended up in the hospital again, I’d have been posting like crazy to pass the time.

So, good news! Scans are unchanged since March. Betty is either dead or still being held at bay by my bad-ass immune system. Given the elapsed time, doc is “very confident” that this bodes well for the future. Unless things start changing for the worse, I’ll continue to get scanned every three months for the next couple years.

I might still be dealing with the aftereffects of the immunetherapy in the form of inflamed sinuses, but there’s a little debate as to whether the treatment can fairly be blamed. My ear surgeon (yes, my ear surgeon has been treating my inflamed nose, I just go with it) is going to consult the nose docs to see what they have to say now. Things had gotten better and are now on the downturn again. It could be as simple as I’ve been on nasal steroids for too long.

Anyway, it’s annoying, but it’s not cancer. And that’s really what life comes down to: cancer or not cancer. Anything that’s not cancer is tolerable (or is with a little a lorazepam).

In related news, happy birthday, Mom!

The Situation, 3/16/16

The Summary.
Still fighting and kicking butt. More scans to come. Stuck in a holding pattern.

The Details.
To quote my oncologist, my “scans show no signs of anything that looks like melanoma.” Break out the party hats!

No wait, don’t. Not only is that begging for trouble, it might be premature. While that is the strongest positive language my doc has used to describe the results yet (if you’ll recall, previously he’s always talked about remaining specks), I’m still dealing with ear and head pain. So, next week, I’m scheduled to get a brain MRI, assuming insurance approves it that quickly. If not, we’ll push it back.

Doc doesn’t think it’s likely something will show up on the MRI that the CT failed to uncover, but as usual, we want to be cautious. Just as my surgeon has theories about what non-cancerous issues could be causing the pain, so does he. In this case, he thinks it could be possibly be the nivo making my skin sensitive/allergic to my glasses. Strange new allergies are not an uncommon reaction to these immunotherapy drugs.

Assuming the MRI doesn’t show anything concerning or surprising, I’m moving into a holding pattern. Since I’m off the treatment, all they’re going to do is monitor me. Doc reiterates that the people who have the worst side effects and fastest responses, like I did, tend to show the best long term results. But ultimately, they can’t say for sure which drug it is (or whether it was the combo) that seems to be working. And if it’s the nivo especially, they can’t say how long the effects will last because the drug is too new.

In sum, let’s hope this blog becomes a lot more boring in the future.

Still Kicking and Kicking Ass

Scanxiety was for naught! Scans came back even better than last time. No sign of tumor around my ear, and “infinitesimally” small spots in my lungs. So small, it’s hard to say whether they’re tumor.

According to doc, people who show an immune response like this tend to keep going until the tumor(s) are gone. So no guarantees, but it’s a good sign. In fact, he suggested I might not even need the second round of treatment. But I’m going to get it anyway to be safe. It’s just not something we need to rush. He wants to get me off the prednisone first, so that’s what we’re working on.

And on that note… Happy Thanksgiving!

The Situation, 11/21/15

The Summary.
Scanxiety* strikes. Not much else.

The Details.
I’ve been slacking in my updates, but there really hasn’t been much to update. On Thursday I had my latest round of scans (CT and MRI), and I should find out the results on Tuesday at my regular appointment. I haven’t had any treatment since my last set of scans in August (thanks, colitis) so this could be… interesting. It’s quite possibly a test of just how long-lasting the effects of the treatment might be.

Also on Tuesday, I might be able to resume treatment. I’m on a low enough dose of Prednisone now, so my doctor gets to decide whether I’m ready. I might not find out until Tuesday, which would be annoying.

*Thanks to Sue for sharing this term.

Veni Vidi Vici Betty

I came. I saw. I kicked the bitch’s ass.

Or rather, my doctor, the treatment, and my super-powered/hyper-aggressive/attack-everything-it-sees immune system did.

*punches air* *stomps on Betty’s remains* *dances over her dying corpse*

Okay, enough hyperbole. Here’s what really happened, the good news and the bad…

Continue reading

The Situation, 8/31/15

The Summary.
No news is no news is purgatory. Poop is a 4-letter word.

The Details.
First, just a quick update. I had my scans last Thursday, but I still don’t have the results.

Now, the real reason for this update. Poop is a 4-letter word. So is crap, shit, merd, and probably a hundred other words for feces. In fact, feces looks suspiciously like a plural, so let’s just call it fece and throw it in the mix.

Medical professionals, however, prefer to refer to a patient’s bowels or stool. (Except my doctor, who likes to tell me it’s time for a poop talk. I guess oncologists have to get their levity somewhere.) Anyway, apparently, my doctor is concerned that my “stool” has not been fully “formed” for the past three weeks, nor has its condition improved. Actually, it’s probably getting worse. Toss in some increasing nausea (how one can think about poop constantly and not get nauseated is a legit question), and guess who gets scheduled for a colonoscopy!

Shittiest birthday present ever!

Yeah, that’s right. I turned 39 today, and my doctor gave me a colonoscopy appointment for a present. (I am totally repentant about any previous birthday disappointments, slights, or sadness.)

So that’s scheduled for tomorrow.

I’ll be in the corner with my laxative-flavored Gatorade. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be in the toilet with it. Please have a slice of birthday cake for me since I’m not allowed to eat solid foods.

In conclusion, Betty has become a little shit.

The Situation, 5/26/15

The Summary.
We’ve reached a milestone. That’s bad. Things are changing again.

The Details.
I don’t know why I bother to post things like “this is the plan!” or “this is the new plan.” Because then I have to make more posts, like this one, about the new, new plan.

The spots in my lungs that could have been aberrations do not appear to be. There are more spots than there were six weeks ago, and the older ones are slightly larger. Welcome to Stage IV. Sometimes it’s not good to graduate.

Because of that, radiation is pretty much off the table. Doc has also decided to hold off on giving me the BRAF drugs (which are sitting in my fridge) because while they shrink tumors, they only have a limited working window. He’s looking for something more permanent. We might end up using them, but only if other measures don’t work.

Those other measures are two types of immunotherapies. For shorthand, one will be called Ippy and the other PD1. Both work at different stages with the immune system. Ippy has been around a long time and has a 20-25% success rate. PD1 was only approved a few months ago, so it doesn’t have long term success, but its short term success is in the 30-40% range. The hospital is also currently participating in a clinical trial that combines the two, and so far that has about a 50% success rate (short term obviously).

Both Ippy and PD1 are administered via IV, but at least unlike interferon treatment, it’s only every other week (PD1) or once every three weeks (Ippy). Ippy is four doses over 12 weeks. PD1, well, they have no idea how long to give it for. It’s too new.

Both also have side effects. Naturally. They work on the immune system, so the side effects are like autoimmune issues. About 20% of people get fairly severe ones. In general though, if I’m not one of the 20%, they should be easy enough to tolerate and not affect things like work. As always, there are drugs to mitigate the side effects that come with their own side effects… Joy.

I’m waiting to find out if 1) I qualify for the clinical trial (my HepC, even though I’m virus-free, might preclude me), and if I don’t qualify, then 2) whether my doctor can convince insurance to cover both treatments at once. If not, he’ll probably give me the treatments back-to-back, starting with the Ippy. There’s also a more surgery first wild card in there, but that seems unlikely.

So yeah. Meanwhile, my ear is being a pain again. I don’t know whether nerves are just reconnecting or whether Betty has regrown enough to attack them. I do know it’s time to attack the bitch. Again.

The Situation, 5/12/15

The Summary.
I can hear again. My blood is still not lethal. Insurance sucks as usual.

The Details.
The good news first. My three-month HepC virus check came back all clear. So I’m still down one lethal disease. My liver functions are all normal too.

I also had the wick removed from my ear, and the surgeon said the inflammation has cleared up. I can hear again, which should make the husband happy.

And now your semi-regular rant about “health” insurance. The bastards decided the scans that I was supposed to have today were too near my last set, so they denied them. I found out two hours before I was supposed to have them. Gee, thanks. If I hadn’t needed to go to Boston to see the surgeon too, I’d be even more furious.

They’ve been rescheduled for next week, giving Betty more time to regroup. I think they’re in league with her. On that thought, could attacking an insurance company be considered self defense if you suspect they’re trying to wait out your death?