Penultimate cycle of chemo

Mayo's original ambulance

I’m currently back in the hospital for my 5th round of chemotherapy. About halfway through, it’s going well. Looks like I’m getting through yesterday’s lumbar puncture without a leak and the nasty headaches that happened during cycle 2. The big test, though, will be neutropenia in 5-6 days (when white blood cells drop to near zero and immunity is shot). We are hoping that last month’s successful reversal of the colostomy will remove the source of dangerous infections and neutropenia will go smoothly this time (but, of course, the intricacies of causes, conditions, and relational influences are often difficult to fathom so uncertainty continues to reign).

Mayo art

I’m suspecting that I haven’t been clear in my thinking and expression when speaking of chemo rounds or cycles (the two terms are interchangeable). Each cycle isn’t just the 4-5 days of in-hospital chemotherapy, tho that’s the most intense part. Each also includes out-patient chemo (less intense) and regular check ups, plus dealing with any surprises that erupt. Those who’ve followed these blogs know that most of the trouble actually comes during the neutropenia phase (usually 6-7 days but longer when infections occur). Once the bone  marrow gets back to work and white blood cells return to provide immunity, the recovery period begins. That’s a full cycle. This one will be four weeks long (we never really managed the aimed for three weeks in previous rounds), which should provide a week or so back in Norwalk before the final round.

There will be one more cycle starting in early June. The neutropenia will commence around my 54th birthday. Once the white blood cells start bouncing back, we will embark on the slow process of recovery, primarily rebuilding the immune system. My current prognosis is quite good, with no apparent signs of cancer. These last two rounds of chemo are more like mopping up insurance. Quarterly PET scans will follow to see of this highly aggressive cancer bounces back. Usually, it will do so sooner than later. That it didn’t during the long break after fourth cycle is a very positive sign.


Starting in later June, I ought to be be puttering about the cabin as energy allows, enjoying summer at LP, and eventually getting back into some local teaching, such as in La Crosse, Eau Claire, and the Chicago area. And it will be nice to do more formal meditation without the interference of lots of drugs in the system. (This morning’s meditation had an underlying steroid buzz, not the most calming energy, nor all that bad, just changing conditions.)

Best wishes to all. Your support continues to inspire and gladden. May your practice of Dhamma and life be rich, with much joy in letting go of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’

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