60 Days of Mantle Cell Lymphoma Chemotherapy

On April 10 of this year, 52 days after being informed that something evil had established its reign of terror in my body, I received my first of several infusions of chemotherapy drugs.

mantle cell lymphoma

A God-cell fighting for my survival.

These man-made poisons were designed to prevent the invasive Lucifer-like renegade cells from multiplying and accomplishing their malevolent mission: outnumber and overtake my healthy, God-like cells. In so doing they would destroy the body parts/systems the good cells comprised (in my case the entire immune system, including thymus, spleen and bone marrow) leaving them, and ultimately me…dead.

(Hah! The joke’s on them! Where they gonna live once my meat suit is gone?

They’ll end up in the same ashes-to-ashes incinerator that the rest of me ends up in; lifeless little carbon remnants devoid of structure or purpose beyond being recycled into some unknown cosmic “who knows what?” Hopefully something picked up off the ocean floor by a poop-eating crustacean only to be pooped back to the ocean floor where the cycle is repeated for eternity. Meanwhile, my Spirit lives joyously on and my God-like carbon remnants become part of a big ol’ oak tree, or a really cool dog that runs free and plays with happy, loving children.)

The Lucifer-cells are formidable foes…

…and bringing them into remission (modern medicine has not found a way to eradicate the tribe that inhabits me-yet) carries the potential of some very unpleasant physical side effects. I was warned of chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, night sweats, shortness of breath and just plain feeling shitty. These potential side effects would be the result of collateral damage to the good cells; what kills the goose can also kill the gander if he ends up in the line of fire.

mantle cell lymphomaMy first chemo session consisted of one 9-hour day of infusion on Thursday, followed by another 5-hour session with a different drug on Friday. The drugs were administered slowly and carefully so as to monitor me for any of the aforementioned symptoms. Should I begin sweating, shivering or vomiting, the infusion would be halted long enough to counteract the side effect with more drugs; at that point the chemical dump into beleaguered body would resume.

Thankfully, and somewhat to my surprise, no additional drugs were required. None of those things happened to me. And except for this past Friday and Saturday, none of those things have happened to me in the 56 days since my first infusion of chemotherapy drugs (I endured a second session on May 8-9).

mantle cell lymphomaOn Friday morning I took the dog for a walk. We do a 1.5 mile loop around our picturesque neighborhood. Then I drop him off and repeat the first loop for a total of 3 miles. This day we got about a half mile from home and Peyton decided to relieve himself in the solid sense, even though I’d given him ample opportunity to do so at home before we left (I think he thinks he’s playing a joke on me).

Like the good suburbanite I’ve become, I whipped out the poo-bag and bent over to reclaim the dog’s “bizzness”;

I was un-vertical for about 30 seconds. (Note: I lived in rural Boone County for over 20 years and never had less than 2 dogs. In that time I never-not even once-picked up dog poop. Now each morning when I walk the dog I find myself part of a procession of urbanite dog owners parading around the block with a dog leash in one hand and a plastic bag [usually with a lump of something in it] in the other. Oh well; small price to pay for not spending every free moment cutting grass, mending fences or dealing with horse doo-doo.)

mantle cell lymphomaWhen I stood up the world started spinning forcing me to move my feet awkwardly in a drunken dance designed to keep me from falling into the remnants of Peyton’s elimination that remained on the surface of the grass. Good thing I was stone sober (as is typically the case at 8 o’clock in the morning), for I was able to remain upright until the earth stopped wobbling and returned to its naturally stable orbit.

Once I got my feet firmly planted on terra firma I found my heart beating noticeably quicker than normal.

For the next two days, every time I stood up I had to steady myself for a few seconds. And the 14 stair ascent to the upper chambers of our home left my heart pounding and me sucking air to catch my breath.

I was tired those two days and allowed myself the luxury (though they sometimes are more of a necessity) of a nap-or two. The morning of the dog walk I had to stop and sit twice before I made it home. The scheduled second solo lap was cancelled due to lack of interest and strength.

Only two or three days out of sixty feeling the effects of chemo, and even then they were manageable. I admittedly was not my usual cheery, chipper self, but with plenty of reminders of how much I had to be grateful for (and the fear of my sister-in-law admonishing me to “Be Strong!”) I was even able to keep a pretty upbeat attitude.

Sixty days with chemo drugs coursing through my entire body, battling to save me from the diabolical Lucifer-cells, and very, very few physical problems.

But the physical component of my challenge is only one of three I’ve had to face since my diagnosis on February 17.

There have also been some mental and emotional struggles. Those are two topics that warrant blog posts of their own-but not today. I have a few miles to walk before cocktail time and I never write while “Under The Influence.”

13 comments

  1. Nancy O'Kane says:

    so just curious, would you consider having company during your routine walk? would thoroughly enjoy some relaxing and strolling time with my buddy…..

  2. Sandra Grinkmeyer says:

    Oh Roone, you write well enough that I was feeling dizzy as you described that incident which had to have been pretty awful, but here you are back with your pen and again knocking us all over with your talented writing. I do feel for you Roone but I do know you will come out of this in the best way. Again, you must write — you will be so successful. How did I not know this about you in the past. All the best from me and Ernie.

  3. kerry says:

    Brother Roone, if you’re not writing two hours a day five days a week you’re not respecting your gift! Here’s a title for your book. “Come Walk with Me through Hell, it’s the Shortest Route to Heaven”

  4. admin says:

    Sandy, once again your comments inspire and humble me. Thank you, and I’m hoping for a quick end to your own “discomfort.”

  5. Nita says:

    You are such a great writer and thank you for keeping us up to date. There are so many cancer patients that get sick and can’t get up to enjoy exercising. Peyton is a good companion who knows that you need the walk and demands you get out and enjoy the fresh air.

    When I feel bad I just think of you and Shannon, strong people, and that humbles me to shut up and move on. God and I have talks every day and night; they are sometimes very loud, as parents ask there children use your inside voice mine is my outside voice. I am afraid that he will not hear me so many people praying.

    Keep moving Roone, you are awesome. Love you Nita

  6. admin says:

    Nancy, Joan has a strict policy against me taking walks alone with babes! Seriously though…

    Walks are far from routine, more like “random”. How I feel has more to do with it than anything and as this post alludes, some days are better than others. However, summer is upon us and I look forward to a stroll or two before the leaves turn again. Thanks for the invite.

  7. admin says:

    Brother Kobie, so far I’ve been spared the “Hell” part of being a cancer patient but I suspect that could change. As for the “Heaven” part, I suspect there will be a whole lot of reconciliation needing to take place before I experience that first hand!

  8. admin says:

    Nita, did you recognize yourself in this post?

    “I admittedly was not my usual cheery, chipper self, but with plenty of reminders of how much I had to be grateful for (and the fear of my sister-in-law admonishing me to “Be Strong!”) I was even able to keep a pretty upbeat attitude.”

    Your encouragement and cheer-leading is always welcome, and I truly appreciate your yelling at God on my behalf.

  9. Joe Dietz says:

    Roone all of our hearts go out to you. In my mind I have not adjusted to the fact you are ill. I just saw you a couple of weeks ago and you looked great. Judy and I look forward to reading more of your entries.

    While I have no answer for cancer, I do know what to do about your dog problem. As you know I lived in your neighborhood and I always had a dog(Heidi) that I walked there. When my dog started signaling the desire to stop and relieve herself, I just dropped the leash and kept on walking and acted like I didn’t recognize the animal. A block or so later Heidi would catch back up with me and we would continue on our path. I often had the bag conspicuously hanging out of my pocket, but it was just for show. This worked for 4 years.

  10. admin says:

    Joe, I’m feeling about 60% today; far from suffering but a little weak and unsteady. Like I said in the post, “…not my usual cheery, chipper self.” I just read Joan your remedy for my “dog problem” and we both laughed out loud. Gotta say, Joe, I admire your critical problem solving, a real asset for someone in your line of work. And by the way; I have not adjusted to the fact that I am ill, either.

  11. nita says:

    I was not sure if you were talking about me but I am glad that you are listening to “Be Strong”. Heading for Atlanta tomorrow to sit with The Boy. Have a great weekend. Love you, Nita

  12. Larry Gorske '62 says:

    Yes, you share a talent with your brother. The writings of both of you would make the English and grammar teachers at NCHS proud.

    I wish you God’s speed as you travel this trek and I believe you will beat this Lucifer cell, with the help of God.

  13. admin says:

    Larry, thanks for taking a moment to leave input. And yes, with the help of the Simon Cancer center and a lot of things that I believe in but don’t understand, I will beat the Lucifer cells!

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