CT Scan Results: Hanging Steady
Sitting in a restaurant booth in Savannah with Kate and my folks nearly two weeks ago, I was arranging a collection of pills to swallow. They counted in the low teens and created a little rainbow on the tabletop. The waitress thought I was eating Skittles and wanted to know if I’d like to order a desert. The pills numbered a little higher than usual, and added a bright pink tablet to the rainbow, as I’d come down with an upper respiratory infection. I blame Josie. Poor little girl was hacking a few days before I came down with it, and I’d failed to have the foresight to make her sleep in the garage until her cold passed. The antibiotics and steroids prescribed by a local doctor in Savannah failed to address the wheezing that I was experiencing. Which is why I’d gone to see him in the first place. I still have the wheeze, accompanied by a kind of congestion of the airways when I expend too much energy. I run around with an inhaler now. Yeah, like that kid, the one who gets picked on in all the movies. (Except it’s Dena who picks on me.) The inhaler does help, though. However, the wheezing has been making me nervous. That, and a sudden onset of some more intense side effects.
All the past week, after returning from vacation in Georgia, I’ve been fighting some serious nausea, stomach pains, chest pains and the ongoing back/shoulder pain from the pinched nerve. Which is weird because I was feeling pretty energetic while on vacation in Big Canoe, a mountain resort in the Appalachian foothills where the family was taking our annual July 4th vacation. I’m reminded now of what the pharmacist had said when I picked up the steroids in the days before leaving for Big Canoe: These are going to (A) make you irritable and (B) unreasonably energetic. I could see my mother physically tense up: My god, the last thing we need is for a bunch of steroids making him more of an irritable and hyperactive freak than he already is. The pharmacist offered this parting advice: “When you feel yourself getting angry with somebody or something, don’t act on it; walk away and count to ten. Also, ignore the impulse to start new projects, like painting the house or cleaning out the garage — the energy is manufactured. You’ll wear yourself down.” Probably good advice. Which I ignored. I played ridiculous amounts of golf in record-breaking heat while at Big Canoe on our vacation. Which resulted in ridiculous amounts of irritation when I would snap-hook my drives into the woods.
Which, I think, may explain the crash this week. I found myself feeling seasick in a taxi more than once, worrying that I’d vomit on the driver and whether that would require an increased tip.
In any case, I went in for scans today and the results were positive — well, positive compared to my usual results: stable disease. I’ve not had a positive scan result — a result where there wasn’t disease progression — since IL-2 treatments back in 2009. Admittedly, we decided to take the scans early after starting the Inlyta regimen — it’s only been a month that I’ve been taking the drug. Nonetheless, we were happy with the results. At NCI we saw progression after just a few weeks. The next scan will be insightful; if we still have stable disease, I think we’ll have finally hit upon something that may be working. Of course, I’d rather see disease regression — shrinkage of the tumors — but at this point simple stability is a blessing.
Dr. Hammers suggested the nausea and pains could be a result of the Inlyta side effects culminating in my body. Some people don’t experience the worst of the side effects for weeks or months; others experience it up front and adapt. I figure I’ll adapt soon enough. He said he could find no specific disease-related explanation for the rattling in my chest. There is no tumor obstruction, which was my primary concern. He theorized it could be inflammation caused by the IL-15 treatments, and suggested I try an inhaler with steroids. Everybody is trying to pump me with steroids. Perhaps this is because of the fact that I’ve lost a fair amount of weight lately: six pounds since last month’s visit.
“You’re already a skinny guy, right?” Dr. Hammers observed.
I pumped my pecs. “Uh, yeah, I guess. I prefer athletic or wiry.”
“You can’t afford to lose this weight,” he said. “Eat anything you can. Like ice cream.”
On the way out I reached for the door in a way that would allow me to flex my biceps. “Thanks, Dr. Hammers.” I shook his hand squeezing hard and showing the veins in my forearms … nothing.
Our nurse observed the same thing about my weight. I told her I was drinking protein shakes. “Forget the protein,” she said. “Focus on calories. You have my blessing: eat junk and lots of it.”
I’m reminded of how Marlon Brando ballooned up to something like 300 pounds eating a tub of ice cream every day. Tomorrow I’m going on a grocery binge. Doublestuff Oreos. Pop Tarts. Three or four different kinds of gooey ice cream. Chips and salsa. Canisters of whipped cream. Brownies. Brownie ice cream. Brownie cookies. Brownie pizza. Red velvet cake. Chocolate chip cookies.
If you’ve got ideas, I’m all ears. Please, no vegetables.