As I mentioned in my last email, I met with the doctor today. I was disappointed that I did not meet with Dr. Rybka himself. But he is sick, while on vacation, no less! So other doctors were covering his patients today. I was glad, however, that I did not have to wait another week to meet with Dr. Rybka, as would have been the case had he just canceled all his appointments. Dr. Rybka was concerned that we have this meeting so we can get on the ball sooner with everything.
As expected, the biopsy shows the same cancer type that I had before: diffuse large B-cell non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. He did give me copies of the biopsy report, and it does state conclusively that the cancer is there and active. No doubts or maybes this time from pathology.
As also expected, their recommendation is once again high dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant, followed by radiation. The statistics are the same as given previously: a 50% chance that the cancer will return after the chemo and transplant. As the doctor today clarified, and as I do not know that I have made clear before, the point of the stem cell transplant isn’t curing the cancer. I know; that sounds strange. The stem cell transplant itself does nothing treatment wise for the cancer.
The point is actually the high dose chemotherapy. The chemo is so strong it kills the bone marrow, and would therefore kill me, unless I am given bone marrow after the chemo to rebuild my blood and immunity. Hence, the true medical term for a stem cell transplant is a stem cell rescue. They “kill” me and then rescue me. That sounds crude, but in basic terms, that is exactly what is happening. Because this would be an autologous (auto meaning “coming from self”) transplant, I would not have rejection issues after the transplant.
My problem with the procedure isn’t the procedure itself. Tough though it might be, it would be totally doable. Though not devoid of risk, the actual mortality risk from the procedure itself is low, comparable to that of open heart surgery. My problem is that little number: 50%. I just don’t know if that is enough of a chance to punish my body so severely. Then too, if the cancer does return after the transplant, my options are much more limited. Plus, all this will cost through the roof. Is 50% worth it?
All that said, I’m looking far more seriously at the high dose chemo and transplant than I had previously. For one thing, I’m healthy now and could more readily handle such an extreme procedure. Also, as much as I’ve tried to downplay the growth that has occurred, I know that a 25-30% increase in the tumor size is nothing to ignore. Most of all though, I’m at the point where I’d almost prefer to do it and if I live, I live, and if I die, I die. I want to move on with my life into a future unhampered by cancer. As long as this thing keeps poking its head back up and gradually worsening, it does narrow my future. However, I don’t know if that feeling is a good enough reason to do a procedure so intense….
So a decision awaits me….your prayers would be appreciated.