Our trip to Hershey Medical Center on Sunday was well worth the time and effort it took. Stop-and-go traffic brought us to Hope Lodge later than anyone expected, but Krissy and I were up early Monday morning and arrived at the Cancer Institute shortly after 8:00 AM. One of the advantages of getting there early was the short wait before the phlebotomist drew four or five tubes of my blood for testing. Since my appointment wasn't until 11:20, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the cafeteria, then met with the Post Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator to get some paperwork out of the way. We were back at the Cancer Institute about 9:30 with nearly a two hour wait ahead of us. Finally a nurse led us to an exam room where she took my vital signs and updated my medication list. Everything looked good.
My oncologist walked into the room a short time later and greeted us warmly. He really seems to like me; I'm not sure why. He's told me that I'm one of the most treatment-compliant patients he has. Maybe that's the reason.
Checkups follow a routine that's very familiar to me after all this time. Dr. C. listens to my heart and lungs, and checks my lymph nodes for signs of enlargement. He shines a light around inside my mouth to see if I have any painful mouth sores that bone marrow transplant patients are prone to. I've never had any, but he checks every time just the same. He has me lie on my back while he taps on my abdomen in various places. I don't know what he's checking for, but as far as I know he hasn't found anything yet. He asks me if I've had any symptoms of Graft vs. Host Disease. GVHD is a kind of transplant rejection in reverse, where your donor's cells see your cells as intruders and attack them. He asks me if my mouth has been dry, and so on. I won't go into all the details.
The last thing Dr. C. did on Monday was check my lab results. Everything looked reasonably good except that my immunities were too low again. Now I'll have to be careful. People with low immunities have died because their bodies couldn't fight off an infection. But it could be worse. There have been times when I've had almost no immune system and I've survived. The annoying precautions will be the worst part. I'll have to wear a surgical mask everywhere I go outside of our apartment. People will stare at me and some will look anxious. I'll have to wash my hands so often that the skin will get dry and irritated. Large groups of people and anyone who is sick will have to be avoided. I've been through this so many times that it's now tedious instead of frightening.
Dr. C. is confident that I will get over this immunity problem. He decides to lower the dosage of my anti-rejection medication. This should make my immune system stronger. I hope so. We'll have to wait and see.
Earlier I wrote that our trip to Hershey was well worth the effort. Here is the reason why. My local nephrologist (kidney specialist) told me that an ultrasound showed a cyst or mass in my kidney. I was worried because a mass is often cancerous. When I was at my checkup in Hershey on Monday I asked Dr. C. if the mass could be cancer. He told me that the ultrasound showed no mass in my kidney and, furthermore, two other tests ruled out the possibility of kidney cancer. He told me, "You don't have kidney cancer. Go home and enjoy life." Krissy and I were thrilled.
I can't tell you how relieved we are that I don't have to deal with a third cancer. The first two were more than enough. This was my second cancer near miss in the past year. Krissy and I are very grateful to all of you who prayed for and supported us during the past two years of our cancer ordeal. We believe you played a large part in the positive outcome of my treatment. Thank you all!