Just a brief update on activities this week. I had my first 3-month follow-up with Dr. L, the medical oncologist, on Monday. First, I went to the infusion center, as I used to do regularly not so long ago, so the nurse could draw blood. And of course I had to check….
The Popsicle Report: One lonely, half-empty box of neon variety popsicles in the freezer. None of my favorites to be found. I decided not to imbibe.
The good news is that my white and red blood cell counts are back in the normal range, so I’m no longer immunocompromised nor anemic, although some of the subsets of red cells are a little whacked out still. Dr. L tells me this is normal. As the bone marrow regenerates red cells after chemo, some of the cells are an abnormal size, but this should resolve with time. It’s been a year since I discovered the lump, and 5 months since I finished chemotherapy. I asked Dr. L what one uses to calculate the time of “survival” — the point of diagnosis, the end of treatment, or some other marker. The medical research talks in terms of 3-year or 5-year survival and recurrence rates but generally doesn‘t indicate the starting point. Dr. L says he uses the end of chemotherapy as the starting point for the survival clock. Though the nurses and psychologists define the period of survivorship as beginning the moment of diagnosis, the hard scientists apparently look at the end of treatment as the starting point for calculation. By the first measure, I’m almost a year into survivorship. By the second, it’s 5 months.
Overall, things look good. I feel like I’m back to my usual level of energy. Fingernails and hair have returned to their pre-treatment appearance (except that my hair is grey and curly). I still have some numbness/tenderness under the left arm where the nodes were removed. And I’m fighting a monstrous case of insomnia after I stopped taking the Ativan earlier in the week. Not just waking in the night but having trouble getting to sleep too. Some of it’s driven by night sweats, which I’ve tamed with some Vitamin E, but some of it’s that familiar variety of the brain speed racing in the middle of the night. The soundtrack — that underlying current of music only my brain hears when I’m awake in the middle of the night — ranged from “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess to “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line. Don’t know why I seem to be in musical theatre mode.
Speaking of music, I had the second of 2 sound healing sessions this morning. Sound healing is another alternative therapy based on the idea that sound waves, especially music, can affect the body’s ability to heal. There are a variety of applications and practitioners for this method. The one I saw also teaches piano and organ in the studio where my daughter takes piano lessons. In each session, we worked through a series of breathing exercises and humming, then some chanting designed to clear the chakras. She ended by giving me a “sound bath.” For this, I lay on the floor while she placed several Tibetan brass “singing” bowls of various sizes around me, which she then struck in alternating patterns to generate tones that wash over the body. She ended this section with a chant. As with the Reiki and craniosacral therapy, I felt an immediate effect, a sense of the body being clearer, better aligned.
The problem is, it doesn’t stay that way.
The photos I’ve included here, and the reason for this post’s title, relate to the cost of cancer treatment. At the top of the post is the stack of EOBS — those explanations of benefits forms sent by the insurance company — that I’ve received from the claims submitted by the doctors, surgeons and therapists during the course of treatment.
The stack doesn’t quite measure up to Shakespeare.