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Really Good News!! - (Journal Date: July 13, 2005)

7/13/2005

We finally received the great news that we have been hoping and praying for!!! My doctor reviewed my CT Scan from Monday and concluded that I had a Complete Response (CR) to the chemotherapy treatments. The scan indicated that the lymph node has reduced in size from 2 cm to about 0.6 cm and is stable and has been since the fourth chemo treatment. Therefore, he is declaring my cancer to be in REMISSION!!!

Because the CT Scan is good to the nearest 0.5 cm, he felt confident that addition testing was not necessary, and he cancelled my follow-up PET Scan for later this month. Also, my blood work and cell counts were good and the "number" that was causing some concern regarding my liver function has returned to the normal range.

My follow-up schedule is to repeat the CT Scans every three (3) months for the first year; every four (4) months the second year; and perhaps every six (6) months thereafter. I have heard of other cancer survivors that started out on their follow-up schedules only to get a little sloppy or fearful of them and not go. After coming this far, it only makes sense to keep up with the scheduled follow-up tests. I intend to do so even though I know they will be anxious times for all of us.

The Doc also gave me the green light to resume exercise/workouts and to go on a sensible diet to take off the weight (23 lbs since February). The only precaution is to take it slowly at first, since I get tired easily and over exertion could lead to problems with exhaustion. I'm also good to go back to my dentist and schedule a cleaning. No extractions though!! The Doc said he doesn't like any dental work going on during chemo when the patient's white blood cell counts are low because of the release of bacteria during cleanings and other routine dental procedures.

I asked about the radiation treatments that so many patients take after chemotherapy as an insurance to make sure all the cancer is gone. However, he still feels that the location of my lymphoma (neck) would be very risky for loss of taste and other problems with saliva, etc. Also, radiation is used primarily on patients that have a much larger initial cancer site (size) than what I had. He has experienced excellent success with the Rituxan and six (6) chemo cycles so we will not pursue any radiation.

The porta-cath can be removed. Since I am very active and athletic, the Doc thought it would be a good idea to schedule surgery to have it removed at my earliest convenience. The surgeon that put it in has since retired so I'll have to find another. I'm looking forward to getting it out....not that it is painful, but you can always feel it pushing up on your skin. It does make a good conversation piece at pool parties!!

Finally, I had to ask about the odds of a recurrence now that we have achieved a full remission. I like that word... REMISSION!! Doc stated that there wasn't anything I could do to prevent a recurrence. He suggested that my outcome was really in the hands of the man upstairs. But then again, it always has been hasn't it?!! I really do appreciate all the love, support, and prayers that I have received from so many. It is truly amazing how family, friends, loved ones, and even strangers offer hope and prayers at a time when we need it most!!

Right now, time is my friend and the longer I go without a recurrence the less likely I am to have one. I did ask the Doc about a Plan "B" if it were to return because I have read so much about the autogenous bone marrow transplants. However, he thought that I wouldn't need to go that route, but rather he felt strongly that the Rituxan might be the answer again, but we didn't need to worry about that right now.

When we went to leave, my wife surprised me with a celebration party she had hidden in the car in the parking lot. She had packed two individual champagne bottles on ice in a cooler along with cheese, crackers, and grapes. We toasted each other with crystal (ok maybe they were plastic) champagne glasses and we had a great big sigh of relief and some laughs together. She was so confident that the news would be good all along!! We had to bust up the party at 5:00 pm when the nurses got off duty....didn't have enough champagne to go around. We'll have to have a celebration party with them later!!

It seems ironic to get such great news when I am feeling so poorly and weak due to the chemo. Yet, when I was first diagnosed with cancer (the bad news)and starting treatments, I felt so good and strong.

The metallic taste of everything is slowly going away, so food tastes great again just in time to diet. Energy is still very low, but exercise should help bring it back. Micro-fine hairs are coming back too! I am experiencing some swelling of the lower legs and ankles and will monitor to see if it gets better with exercise.

Again, I thank all of you who have shared your cancer stories with me and those who have enjoyed my blog entries. I plan to continue posting updates as I try to work myself back into a normal routine, however, I will never be the same. As I have mentioned earlier, one changes on this journey and I hope to be a stronger and better person from it all. As of now, I feel as though we have scored a major victory!!!

Remember..."If you have faith...nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20.

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