I have delayed writing my newest blog entry---and I know there have not been many, or even any, lately---until I had the latest test results and could digest them to make sense of it all.
The short report? To quote Dr. Howard Schlossberg, my oncologist: "Looks good."
Here's the unabridged version:
My final chemo session was at the end of February. The CT scan and then a PET scan shortly thereafter showed that my lymph nodes had shrunk pretty much back to normal. A couple were still a very little bit enlarged, but barely so. My eyes and my fingers cannot detect them, so I am calling them "normal."
My blood tests showed a very low white blood cell count (meaning an immune system that was still quite sub-par) and my red blood cell count was at the threshhold of being considered anemic. Dr. Schlossberg was not ready to use that term, but when I compared the numerical scores to standards readily available on the Internet, they were right at the top edge of "anemic."
Scoreboards aside, I sometimes felt anemic. I could ride my road-bike for 15 miles and feel good, but get winded and dizzy just climbing stairs. Definitely not normal. But also not uncommon for people who have had the chemo therapy that I had. My reading tells me this situation could be expected for a year or so after completing chemo therapy.
I had another PET scan on August 30th, although I almost cancelled it. I couldn't see what decision would be served by it, and was against the idea of soaking up more radiation for no apparent reason. However, Dr. Schlossberg convinced me that the PET scan would "light up" any lymph nodes that were abnormally active, even if still small.
And if they did light up? What then? Not sure. I am not sure the added PET scan was really useful in terms of possibly jumping into another round of treatment---the only possibly decision that could be made from the test, especially when blood tests at the same time showed no change from April or May; that is white and red blood cell counts still low---maybe a teeny bit improved.
The August 30 PET scan showed no enlargements of lymph nodes since the completion of chemotherapy, nor any that were particuarly "lit up."
Nobody is using the term "remission" and there is no cure, but the fact of the matter is that my CLL has been bludgeoned into a seven-month hibernation.
I'll take it.
Also, I have started taking vitamin B12 and iron supplements to try to boost my red blood cell level. I have had no blood test since starting, but I do feel more energetic.
Considering the cards I was dealt, not bad.