Half Life – 39 – round 4
July 23rd, 2021
Doctors see the world differently, talking to them can change your perspective significantly. It might have something to do with them knowing what they are doing. On the brink of giving up on the nuclear war with Nobby the Cancer, the decision was reversed after a short consultant discussion. The long-awaited PSA results after the last round were disappointing, generating a dive into, followed by a short swim around, the pool of depression and despair. In my amateur head, it had worked to start with and had now stopped; the same story as all the previous attacks on the tissue-invading interloper.
Dr D, the small, highly energetic, consultant in charge of the launch codes shooting Armageddon into my blood system via my left arm, described how he saw the data. What he saw was not only a gentle decline in PSA since the start, but more importantly a reversal of direction. He was right, of course. When it started the PSA had been doubling every six weeks causing considerable concern in all the oncology teams who deal with me, now it was going down. Not fast, but still heading in that direction. A greater drop would have been nice, but a reduction was a reduction however you look at it. There is still a chance a significant drop might happen; the original plan was for six cycles, so making a decision to stop half-way through is premature. Adding weight to his assessment, Dr D sent over a still picture from the pre-treatment spinal scan next to one from the latest scan of the same spot. Annotated with arrows and comments, to remove the risk of uneducated opinions creeping in, it shows how one of the tumours, an impressively large one, has shrunk significantly. He may not be completely gone, but Nobby is certainly hiding in a bunker in that part of my back.
The hot days and nights give pain an extra dimension. The comfort of snuggling into a duvet, propped up by a forest of pillows, is not on prescription but it certainly helps make you feel better. Sweating forces the pillows to be pushed away and a single sheet has no snuggle-factor worth mentioning. Add in endless changes in position to allow each damp body part to dry off and what was once broken sleep quickly turns into shattered sleep. As Round Four of therapy kicks off, the exhaustion is already deeply dug in, thanks to the weather. It’s hard to imagine how it will increase, but it will. The consistent side-effect every time has been to ratchet up the bone-aching levels of fatigue, and this time I suspect there will be new heights to climb to.
Heading into the week of solitary confinement, just as everyone starts on the first steps to freedom, is a shame, but delay is not advisable and it will allow some time for a family break once clear of it. Thursday was injection day, which was spent passing the time in a small room being measured for radioactivity levels every thirty minutes. Fortunately, The Boys, each in their own time and way, have already started to ask questions following the difficult discussion a few weeks ago. We knew they would need time and, luckily, both asked the one question we knew was coming, and have done it before I am isolated; allowing hugs once they got the answer. Neither of them had expected it to be such a short time. One, or possibly two, years was a lot less than Older Boy had assumed – he told me he’d had ten years in his head. Trying to be tough about it, he didn’t join in my tears even though he knows it’s a good thing to cry sometimes. Younger Boy, who was the first to ask by a couple of days, didn’t have a number in mind. He buried his head into the crook of my neck as he hugged me, his tears quietly soaking the collar and shoulder of my shirt, as mine dampened his hair. Then, he was gone. Off to play the PlayStation with an intensity such that no other thoughts could break through the concentration. He built a huge structure in Minecraft and then, after covering it with virtual dynamite, blew the whole thing up.
As the house is adjusted to accommodate the need for isolation, my expectations of the treatment are back to being optimistic in the way they were before starting. It’s not a cure, but it is kicking Nobby in all sorts of ways he doesn’t like. Seeing the world truthfully, even when it’s not always what you want, makes it easier to deal with in the long run. Dr D’s assessment of my test results put me on a path paved with realism, not optimistic fantasy. The Boys, too, have a had to deal with a serious dose of reality. They may take a while to get over the side-effects, but they will be better off knowing than having the bubble burst on them later.