Sunday, January 22, 2017

Progression: The News We Don't Want

Updated: I just came home from a three hour session with a wonderful radiation oncologist. He went over every scan and finding carefully, looking at each piece of data like I do. They are jigsaw puzzle pieces that paint a picture only when aligned properly. Inconsistencies in my scans made him look more and more deeply. We walked through every image together. He called the radiologist. 

Findings: I actually had those bone and liver mets when we started this current round. Since then, every indication shows improvement everywhere -- or so we thought. 

I will get a few more data points with a PET scan and blood antigens. 

I'm still not sure what the future will be for me.

Update to the update: welcome to the roller coaster. My antigens are up significantly. My body has stepped up its campaign. There's more cancer. It would have gone down otherwise. Crap!!! 

Now what!?

Original post:

I had a mid-treatment CT scan this Friday. I read the results when they became available, because I sure it would be good news. You can see the reduction in my skin thickening and feel the reduction in my tumors. I am not done, but I was making good progress. Or so I thought.

It really wasn't good news:
1. Multiple new sclerotic osseous lesions consistent with progression of metastases.
2. New subcentimeter segment 4 liver lesion may represent a metastatic lesion as well.
3. Stable bilateral lung nodules.

Well, at least my lungs are good! But four rounds of chemo and biologics later, and the disease is progressing and traveling to more distant sites. My spine, sternum and liver are affected. This is terrible news.

Sign from the Women's March, yesterday: Why does our treatment depend on who is elected?
This is a good question, posed at yesterday's
Women's March in Lansing: why does my
treatment depend on who is elected?
Another feature of metastasis is the periodic moments we survivors get to enjoy, in which you say: "OMG, I really am dying." This was another of those moments. We do things like plan for the insurance process to kick in. We research states that have assisted suicide and how our insurance will handle that, just in case. (It pretty much does not.) We start to think, "this will really kill me, and much sooner than I hope." We grapple the worst, and start to imagine what that looks like.

I am sure that the doctor will have another plan, as soon as I can speak with her. I am sure there's much more fight left. I still may have decades. There are vaccines and other trials that are really remarkable. But I've had the rug pulled out again. No wonder my fellow survivors hate scan days. 

Now, I have to replan my future and quickly. I will retire onto disability very, very soon. I don't care what's in store; I have to go now! I have to go before I can no longer take advantage  of what benefits I have left.

I stood on wet ground in front of the state capital yesterday, with 10,000 others, listening to people who, among other causes, are determined to have healthcare that makes sense. We are all frightened of the new mandates (or their lack): preexisting condition bans are gone; we can all be fired now. Lifetime caps are reintroduced: each one of my chemos is $30,000. I am an expensive date for any insurance company. I've probably already topped mine.

The high-risk insurance pools will become bureaucratically managed Hunger Games. It's so ironic that people were worried about death panels: you can call these pools "Death Pools. " They are taxpayer-funded pools of sick people, to alleviate the burden for insurance companies and make insurance more profitable.

Each one that has been tried so far collapsed with under-funding. Bureaucrats who have no skin in the game make decisions about where funds will be spent. We are going to have to fight for every dollar -- all while dying.

And let's not forget: I will be subject to even more out of pocket. It's a new year, so add another at least $7,500 to my $60,000 total out of pocket. But hey, some of it is in my tax-free savings accounts, so there's that!

I've said this before: the new healthcare situation may literally be the death of me someday.  But who knows? Maybe I won't have to wait long. I'll show them all and just up and die.

I know this is another dark post. I'll update you when the doctor gives me hope again. But it's good to understand how the cycle of bad news works. This is the beginning of another cycle.