I'm Glad That's Over With

Posted on April 4, 2018.

As the Calvinist said after falling down a flight of stairs, “I’m glad that’s over with.”  I just got back from my 28th of 28 radiation treatments – one every weekday since February 26.  The treatments themselves were a snap, in and out in about 20 minutes, and no discomfort at all during the treatments themselves, but the cumulative effect has been pretty rough from about the fourth week on. 

Eating has been a dreadful chore.  Lots of discomfort while trying to eat or drink and occasional pain even when I’m not trying to force something down.  It’s an odd sensation being hungry all the time, but dreading swallowing anything.  Taking the three Xeloda pills (oral chemo) in the mornings and evenings is a 10-minute ordeal, and sometimes feels like I’m trying to swallow a shoe (or three pairs of shoes every day).  My weight is down fairly significantly again, although the loss hasn’t been as fast or as dangerous as the 21-day 25-pound decline I experienced last year from my initial chemotherapy regimen.  Nevertheless, the radiologist said that I still “show evidence of having been a healthy eater in the past.”  Hmm.  Have I been insulted? 

I also told the radiologist that it feels like there are smoldering coals in my chest, and that I’m surprised I don’t burp smoke.  He actually seemed encouraged by that and other symptoms, more confident that the radiation has been hitting the mark.  He said that the burning sensation is expected, since that’s exactly what the radiation is doing, and that the esophageal tissue is “probably fire-engine red right now.”  He is confident and optimistic that the radiation has largely obliterated the malignant tissue, and also confident that as healing from the burn occurs over the next couple of weeks I’ll begin to experience some relief in eating, and that in a month or so I’ll probably be able to eat anything normally without discomfort at all. 

I think the timeline on recovering energy-wise is a little longer.  I have noticed an increase in fatigue since about week 4 of the radiation treatments.  Leslie Reynolds and I spent about three hours at NHC yesterday and it felt like I had run a marathon (or, how I imagine running a marathon would feel like), and I followed that up with 11 hours of sleep overnight.  Something like that doesn’t happen often, but again, I’m glad the radiation treatments are over.

My oncologist, Dr. DeVore, reports that my March 12 blood test saw a decline in the CEA to 7.2, as expected.  Results from a test of blood taken Monday are not yet available, but it is expected that the number will decline again. 

Thanks for your prayers.  I am confident that they are the central reason why I am still able to function (if it is not presumptuous for me to call my present level of activity “functioning”) now almost 14 months after diagnosis, with the doc insisting that I am ahead of where I was in February 2017.