Off to see the wizard.

If you were to look at my cancer treatment in phases, the first phase was my diagnosis in June of last year and the subsequent chemotherapy treatments at Duke, as part of a clinical trial.  Lasting for about 6 months, phase one was successful in eradicating the cancer cells throughout my body, with the exception of one lone persistent lymph node in my abdomen.  That node seemed to able to resist any of the effects of the chemotherapy, and the scans at the end of treatment looked just like the scans at the beginning.  But at least everything else was gone.

Phase two was my Bone Marrow Transplant, also at Duke.  While much shorter than phase one in duration, it was definitely much more intense.  My particular type of Lymphoma is a very aggressive cancer, and has a strong tendency for recurrence.  The decision to undergo a BMT was based on the fact that even though the best available testing techniques (PET/CT scans) did not indicate the presence of any cancer cells (other than that one node), there could still be some cancer cells present that defy detection.  The high dose chemotherapy utilized in the transplant process, while certainly not a guarantee, would further increase the likely hood that all cancer cells had been destroyed.

The PET/CT scan after my transplant provided a somewhat unexpected determination that the one persistent node had been completely resolved, and I was now considered to be in complete remission.  When I say that this determination was somewhat unexpected, it serves as yet another example of how God can work above and beyond all that we often ask or hope for.  As a friend of ours often says, "You can't put God in a box".

Phase three will begin next week.  Even though there is no detectable evidence of cancer cells anywhere, that formerly persistent node is still concerning. My team of physicians, in whom I have the utmost confidence, advise that if my Lymphoma should return, it would most likely start in that node.  So to add another level of insurance, starting next week I will begin radiation treatments to further "zap" that one node.  So for the next four weeks I will undergo radiation treatments 5 days per week, for a total of 20 treatments.  That is 20 times I will travel down the yellow brick road to see the radiation wizard.  Fortunately, the radiology department here at our local medical complex has the requisite equipment and capabilities that I need.  So the wizard is only a ten minute drive down the yellow brick road, rather than a 1 1/2 hour trip back to Duke.  The difference in travel time is huge.

So next week I begin what I expect to be the final phase of my cancer treatment journey.  I suppose you could say that there is still a phase four because for the next 5 years or so I will need to get periodic testing to confirm that the cancer is still gone.  But this phase will be the final active treatment phase.  It should conclude within just a few days of the one year anniversary of my initial diagnosis.  And what a year it has been !!!

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