Poster by Robert Lachenmann, artist, for WPA. (Courtesy of Library of Congress, “Free to Use and Reuse.”)

People have asked me to do a better job of posting news about the topic that has taken over my daily life, so here’s a bit of hopeful news. Last Thursday I had a follow-up CT scan to the first, on November 12th. The tumor on my pancreas has decreased from 3.8 cm x 2.8 cm to 2.6 cm by 2.1. That’s good news, especially in view of the average statistic my oncologist in Indianapolis quoted when we first met: Just 30% to 50% of pancreatic tumors respond to either of the two available chemotherapy regimens.

In other hopeful news, my CA19-9 tumor marker has dropped from 140+ before the first infusion on Dec. 28 to 28, well within the “normal” range of 0 to 37. I take no good news for granted.

In the cherry-on-top category, my side effects with yesterday’s chemo infusion number four are again astonishingly mild, with peripheral neuropathy (pins and needles in my fingers) being the worst. We reduced the dose of oxaliplatin, which causes this, by 20%, which is still within the range recommended for my body surface area. Having gone through three very unpleasant days on the first cycle, I have come to anticipate the possibility of finding myself nauseated and unable to do more than sit still in Mark’s grandpa’s recliner, waiting for the hours to pass until I can feel “normal” again, though at this point I’m pretty well down with the program (because it seems to be working).

It’s fascinating to see how, even when I feel perfectly chill about going in for an infusion the day before, my body is not. This is not to suggest that I subscribe to a worldview in which “I” exist separately from “my body.” I don’t, and my views on this reflect years of academic study as well as reflection on my own experience. But much of our bodies’ daily experience and work are unknown to our “thinking” selves — stuff like temperature regulation, peristalsis, and other functions of the parasympathetic nervous system. The night before my second and third infusions, I felt an ache in the area of my port and the tiniest hint of an upset colon. Nothing was amiss; my body was simply expressing its concern — or, as I have come to see it, my body is like our dog, Joey, begging “please don’t take me back to the vet!” and deserves the same kind of comforting reassurance I would give to a dog. This time, physical anxiety akin to a racing locomotive showed up at bedtime and kept me from falling asleep. I took one Tylenol PM, which did the trick. And Day Four at the infusion center went off without a hitch. Major kudos to the nursing staff in the infusion department at IU Health-Bloomington Hospital, especially Lori, Pat, and Nicole, along with nurse tech Paulette.

21 responses to “Numbers

  1. Thanks for the explanation about the markers. It’s Greek to those of us who (fortunately) don’t have cancer. Not to raise your anxiety levels (of COURSE this will!), but how many more treatments are ahead?

    • I don’t know. Initially the oncologist said this would go on for six months, which I think would be 12 infusions. I just had number 4 yesterday. But we’ll see about that. I have two more infusions before I’ll meet with her again.

  2. Thanks for sharing the contexually good news. Thanks also for including a brief refutation of mind/body dualism!

    P.S. My wife and I are reading Kitchen Think together in preparation for a renovation. Having an expert’s opinion in print has helped our conversation quite a bit. We’re both rooting for you to beat this cancer.

    • Thanks for your good wishes and for letting me know that you’re finding “Kitchen Think” helpful. I especially love the bit about refuting mind/body dualism. It takes a geek to know one.

  3. Good news, Nancy! I look forward to hearing more good news from you. Hang in there.

  4. Carol Lee Murray

    WOW, Nancy! I’m so delighted to hear this positive news. I’ll let Susan know, as she wanted to know what your outcome was with this latest CT scan. You’re a warrior, Miss Nancy! Big hugs and maybe we’ll see each other in Asheville next year!

  5. Good to hear some encouraging news, but really, you don’t “owe” anybody online such reports. Focus on your healing & wellness!

  6. W00t!

  7. Great news! Keep the updates coming!

  8. That’s wonderful news. I’m so pleased for you. Thanks for the update. I will continue to pray for your complete recovery.

  9. Thinking of you today.

  10. Great news! Lots of white light and prayers.

  11. So glad to hear the positive news, Nancy. All of your descriptions are so familiar, as a dear friend of mine went through the same process for his bile duct tumor.

    If I recall correctly, the treatment center called the pre-chemo symptons “chemo jeebies.” The body knows even if the mind hasn’t caught up yet.

  12. Nancy this is such good news! I’m keeping you in my heart these days and wishing you comfort and strength. By the way, my daughter has “commissioned” me to build a hayrake table for her new house so I’ve been thinking about you a lot actually. I got my copy of English Arts and Crafts Furniture last week. I hope to post progress shots on IG when I get started in the spring.

  13. actually, we already follow each other…my pseudonym @henry_garrison

  14. Good news, Nancy. I’m not alone when I say I hope you are around and healthy for at least a few more decades. You are changing the world, and I think you’ve got more work to do here. Bless you for sharing with us.

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