In a miracle of scheduling, my Christmas was free of medical appointments. I finished my fourth round of chemotherapy a week before the holiday and got a third PET scan a week after. Today I spoke with my oncologist about what the scan results mean for my treatments over the next few months.
The scans show nine tumors ranging in size from 2 to 15 mm. They have remained mostly unchanged since the previous scan. I am disappointed that they did not decrease in size or number, but it is still a positive result meaning that the chemo has prevented growth. I have also avoided the most drastic side effects of the chemo (despite having long passed the recommended lifetime total dosage), so my oncologist feels that I can continue the same regimen for two more rounds.
I expect that the next two rounds will progress similarly to the previous four. The most recent is representative: I get admitted on a Monday and get five, four-hour doses of
The dreams are the most unexpected side effect. I experienced nothing similar in my previous diagnoses, and my oncologist is surprised that I have such a vivid neurological reaction to drugs that normally have little affect on the brain. Here are three noteworthy examples:
- I attempted to design and solve a crossword puzzle wrapped on the surface of a cube. Such a puzzle requires special placement of the black boxes to prevent words from cycling all the way around four faces. Also, there would be no "across" and "down" since each face would have its own independent orientation. I overcame these limitations in the dream, but I can't remember how. One day I will attempt to recreate such a puzzle.
- I was flying through a cave with glowing green and blue walls. A small stream of water flowed among the rocks at the bottom of the cave. Its banks were lined with all sorts of trinkets: candles, broken board games, firecrackers, and half-eaten birthday cakes. Pieces would break off these items and melt into drops of oil that would float and merge on top of the water. Inside each drop was a person telling me his or her life story.
- An artificial intelligence that directed the crosshairs in an aim-and-fire computer game somehow escaped and created a body from twisted strands of shiny red fiber. Infinitely deformable and with perfect aim, she could build nearly anything out of things she found lying around the towering neon and glass cityscape in which she found herself. These talents eventually destroyed her. She unraveled when she attempted to use her own fibers to make copies of herself. The "children" she created, however, lived on.
I could fill several books with the strange stories from less well-remembered dreams. They all seem to have deep, interwoven subplots and casts of thousands. Fortunately, the dreams and most of the acute side effects of chemo decrease two or three days after returning home from the hospital.