Pretty much at 4:45pm on Friday, January 28, I got a call from my regular oncologist (I have two, one's just for my brain). He wants to see me again in a month.
I wasn't supposed to see him for six months. Things were supposed to be clear.
Some of my blood work came back uncomfortably positive. Effectively in the red zone. Specifically, this was the [Alpha-fetoprotein][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha-fetoprotein]
. This protein is most common in fetuses and, as a result, in pregnant women.
There are other possibilities, mostly cancer-related, some liver related (cirrhosis, hepatitis). None of these are good.
As a reminder, for those who don't remember, or who don't know:
In June of 2007, I was diagnosed with an [oligodendroglioma][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligodendroglioma]
, which eventually necessitated the removal of a goodly portion of my left frontal lobe. I had two brain surgeries in 2007, one in June, the other in December.
In December of 2007, I was also diagnosed with [Testicular Cancer][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testicular_cancer]
. This eventually necessitated the removal of my right testicle.
Yes, these two cancers were completely separate instances. They just happened within six months of each other.
In 2008 it was discovered that the testicular cancer had spread throughout my body. I eventually went on a course of Bleomycin, Etoposide and cisplatin (BEP), a form of chemotherapy. The 'standard' for BEP is four cycles. My doctor decided things were advanced enough that I needed six.
Most of this was done outpatient. In the end, I wound up being hospitalized as a direct result of the treatment from BEP, and we stopped halfway through cycle six. In the end, I was pretty much pronounced clean, though there were a few concerning growths in my lymph nodes.
ALSO during BEP, my brain tumor grew back. Seriously, that blood/brain barrier is a problem. So I had another brain surgery (third time!).
So, in 2009, I had two more surgeries to remove the lymph nodes mentioned earlier, and also went through a radiation treatment on my brain, to stop it from growing back.
I was on disability (SSD) for most of 2009 and 2010 before I finally found employment.
Then I merrily went through life, as both cancers seemed to be in remission. Still went to doctors just for check-ups, but things looked like smooth sailing. Of course, that's how it is. See http://xkcd.com/931/
for a good illustration.
So, last year (2011) I go to my brain doctors for what has become a routine check-up. Things are moving apace, I'm almost out of the woods, and then suddenly, looks like the tumor's back.
Fourth brain surgery was in May of 2011.
Because of my brain tumor's stubborn recurrence, my brain doctors decided to put me on a course of "preventive" chemotherapy with a drug called [Temodar][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temozolomide]
The way my treatment with Temodar is scheduled, I take it for five days every twenty eight. I'm supposed to keep doing this until May of 2012 (effectively, a 12 month course of treatment). Every two months, I get an MRI. Every month, I also get blood tests to make sure I'm healthy enough to continue.
Luckily, this was not going to be anything like BEP, and theoretically I could work while taking it. For the first few months, this was true. But around November it started hitting me hard. (Conveniently, this was around the time of Thanksgiving... and then 28 days later, the Christmas holidays, so at least I didn't have to worry about burning off too much sick time).
Of course, now I'm at negative sick time, and am on their short-term disability.
But what about the OTHER cancer? I was on an every-six-month visit with my oncologist. Next year, I would have been free. One of those visits was on Wednesday (25 Jan 2012). It took two days for the AFP bloodwork to get to his office.
So, the next step is to get another blood test, "just in case." Then I'll see him again. Honestly, the chances of it being a laboratory screw-up are low. If this was not something to be concerned about, he wouldn't have called me especially to move up the visit that should have happened in June to February.
Blood test is going to happen on Feb 6. I'm supposed to call the doctor's office after that point to make an appointment.
Yes, there's a "chance" that this smoke hasn't led to fire, so to speak. But there's also a chance that if I buy a Powerball ticket, I will get the jackpot. But since there's a chance, I'm not crying wolf just yet.
A person can only take so much of this.