This is just a quick update post, to fill in the details moving forward for those who are interested. As noted in the last post, I had my last chemo treatment last Wednesday. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the last day I take the steroids, so starting Monday I wipe my hands of the drugs all together. We have scheduled a PET scan about four weeks out. As I may or may not have ever mentioned (I'm too lazy to read back through to find out either way), I've been getting a shot to boost white blood cell production after each treatment. The activity resulting from the shot can register as "hot" on a PET scan, so we need to wait until it has worked its way out of my system before doing the scan.
By way of background, and based solely on my limited understanding, a PET scan is one of the more precise tools for diagnosing and staging cancers. I will be injected with a sugar tagged with some radio-nuclide. Cancer cells metabolize the sugars at a much higher rate than healthy cells, meaning they take up the radio-nuclide in greater numbers. I then lay beneath a camera, my cells emit radiation, and the film records the hot spots. I had a PET scan following the original biopsy, and as is apparently typical for NHL patients, I lit up like a Christmas tree. The expectation is that that is no longer the case. We'll meet with my oncologist following the scan to discuss the results.
Assuming everything is a-ok, I'll continue on a routine of maintenance drugs, in which I'll get a dose of Rituximab twice a year for two years. Sprinkled throughout will be regular checkups with the oncologist, once every three months to start. We'll do additional scans on a 6 - 12 month basis, and over time the appointments and scans should get fewer and further in between.
In other news, I've signed up for a rehabilitation program that the local cancer center offers. It basically amounts to personal training. I had my first session last Friday. They start off pretty conservatively, and try to keep your heart rate at about 50% of maximum. So instead of diving right in to speed work, I spent 20 minutes on a tread mill walking at about a 17 minute per mile pace. I've lost something between 10 and 15 pounds over the course of chemo, a fair bit of which is probably muscle mass. The program also includes some weight training, which should be beneficial. My intent is to quickly but safely rebuild. I have lots of ideas for fitness goals for next year (so called recovery races), but will hold those in abeyance pending a better understanding of where I stand now and what goals are realistic.
Throughout treatment, I have at least managed to get a few runs in towards the end of each cycle (some more than others). The fifth cycle was the hardest hitting, but C and I were still able to run hilly terrain at Kincaid for 3.5 miles last weekend. I can't help but think that having maintained some level of activity provided a base which it is now time to strengthen.
So, kind of a dry post, but I thought some of you might be curious as to what the end of treatment means. Enjoy the weekend.