Thoughts On The Last Week

Tomorrow morning at 8:40 am, I report in for my next-to-last radiation treatment. After that, I have a two hour hydration. Tuesday, I have my very last radiation treatment… and that’s it.


I have more hydration for a week afterward to help my body recover, but the initial treatments are done. We’ll wait around a month and then do two consolidation chemo treatments–Carboplatin and Taxol delivered at three times the dosage I had them every week during radiation.

While I’m not looking forward to the consolidation chemo (understatement, and perhaps a worthy usage of the word “dread”), completing the chemoradiation is the big hurdle. Together they’re brutally exhausting and the side effects are multiplied. Having to deal with just one at a time–even at a higher dose–sounds more do-able.

Then comes the big wait. Inflammation and burns from radiation can light up a PET scan just like cancer, so they wait to do the initial PET scan until some time after treatments end–usually three months, if I’m remembering correctly. Until then, all I have to go on are a few tidbits from doctors here and there about “good progress” or “mass is shrinking.” At my final clinic (weekly check-in) with Dr. Lee, I’ll ask him how it looked on the scans. Radiation keeps working for a week after the last treatment and I still have the consolidation chemo so I don’t expect to hear the mass is gone… but it would be nice to have some sense of progress or success.

I’m feeling OK–not terrible, not awesome. The main thing I feel is tired. I can’t sleep more than a few hours without waking up, even at night, so my days have become a series of naps. I’d read the fatigue would feel like getting hit by a truck and yep, it does. It’s that “I need to be in bed in 5 minutes or I’ll pass out right here” Nyquil feeling, every 2-3 hours.

These are small complaints though. I went into this knowing it would be easier than last time, and it certainly was. If my worst complaints are that I throw up a couple times a week, I have trouble swallowing, and I’m absurdly tired, then I’m ahead of the game. I am, as always, grateful for these kinds of small gifts that come my way.


Related Posts

Be Your Own Advocate

I routinely encounter folks dealing with serious illness (mostly cancer, in my circumstances) who accept whatever the first doctor they meet tells them, even if what they’re told is that there is no hope. I

Read More »

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

April is head and neck cancer awareness month! Be aware of the causes and symptoms, summarized in the graphic at the bottom. For me, it was a swollen lymph node below my jaw that didn’t

Read More »

Clinical Trial Math

Clinical trial math example: Monday + every two months = time to start worrying about my scan the following Monday. Tuesday + pain below my right ribs = worry about that AND the scan the

Read More »

My Best Days Are Ahead Of Me

Last year, I was in the hospital from chemo for my birthday, not knowing the cancer would blossom again months later. This year, I’m walking around San Francisco–short of breath sometimes, but walking–looking forward to

Read More »

Unpredictability and Patterns

The every-other-week treatment schedule has become habit at this point. In at 7:45 am, IV and blood draw, discussion with the trial nurse, meet with Dr. Ani, get the blood test results, then infusion and

Read More »

Speaking Out and its Price

I’m exhausted and stressed and sad and angry. I try to keep my posts here focused and positive, but it’s really hard at this point. I was contacted last week by the Organizing Director of

Read More »