Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fellow Travelers

It's been a while since I updated, and I always feel bad when I go a long time between posts; I feel that if people are going to be kind enough to travel along on my cancer journey, the least I owe them is to call out the signposts as we pass.

The latest signpost was very encouraging. It's been twenty months since I spent five days in the hospital, with a radioactive plaque behind my eye, aiming its angry vibes at the tumor. Initially, everything was progressing just as it was supposed to. The tumor was shrinking as fast as the doctor could have hoped. Eventually, the rate of shrinkage slowed, but that was expected. Then came the scary day in the spring of this year when it looked like maybe, just maybe, the tumor had grown a minuscule amount.

I had to wait six weeks before it could be checked again. Mercifully, the news at that time was good. The tumor was back on the regression track the doctor would have expected, and he couldn't say for sure why it had looked bigger at the previous appointment. It did not actually occur to me that the tumor shrinking at the later appointment could have been the fluke, and not the apparent earlier growth.

It must have occurred to Dr. M., though. When I saw him Tuesday, there was unmistakable tumor shrinkage. He actually said, "I'm thrilled." When I said, "Were you worried?" he responded, "I'm not going to answer that." Which led to my inquiry about the likelihood of a recurrence of the cancer in my eye--something I had never asked before. He said that he couldn't say the likelihood was zero, but that it was low, perhaps five percent or less. He also said that the longer I go without a recurrence, the less likely one is. (Sadly, that is not true of metastasis--with this particular disease, mets show up any time they damn please. And then they trash the joint.)

The other good news is that the fluid buildup in my eye as a side effect of the radiation has gone down dramatically, thanks to the injections I've been getting in my eyeball. So we're going to keep doing the injections, but not as often, which is nice, because there's a reason for the expression, "It's better than a sharp stick in the eye." And I don't have to go for another checkup for six months, which is the longest I've gone. It makes me feel happy, and also a little nervous. Like roller skating without holding onto the wall.

The whole appointment, from vision test to pressure check to eyeball photos to eyeball ultrasounds to consult with Dr. M. to eyeball injections took longer than usual--about five hours. Ordinarily, I'd while away the hours in a doctor's office reading, but that's a bit of a challenge with your eyes dilated. So I wound  up talking to people. Like a mom I met in the ladies' room who was refreshing her mascara. It had gotten smeared when her eyes had teared up. Not from eye drops--she wasn't the patient. Her nine year old daughter is. She has ocular melanoma and another kind of eye cancer so rare that fewer than thirty people in the country have it.

"Is Dr. M. good?" she asked me. "The best," I assured her. I asked if I could put her daughter's name on my prayer list. She agreed, and put me on hers. I wanted to hug her before we left the ladies' room, but I didn't want her to start crying again.

These are my fellow travelers, too.

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