Tuesday morning, 11/30, Gloria and I left Royal City at 6:30 a.m. It was snowing, the roads were covered and there was fog part way. Yes, one might say we should have called in and rescheduled my appointment. NO, that was not going to happen again this week. We made a decision, packed our emergency box of blankets, lights, food, water, etc. and headed out for my 11:00 a.m. oncologist appointment. It was slow going, and we stopped twice, but made it in plenty of time. Along the way is a business called Country Mercantile. Out front they have a large sign advertising homemade ice cream. We actually stopped for the restroom, but were sure tempted by the ice cream. Crazy... early in the morning, cold temperatures outside, and snow/ice on all available outdoor surfaces.
When I arrived at the doctor office, everyone was surprised that the snow had not stopped my travel. Yeah right, and wait another week for information. The doctor advised me of my test results.
The official diagnosis is CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia). Normally, CLL originates in the liver and spleen. Since I never do anything by the book, and mine started in the kidney area, everyone had a difficult time determining the name of my particular cancer. So, now we know.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually gets worse slowly. It is the second most common type of leukemia in adults. http://www.cancer.gov/
One can live a long time with low grade cancer such as this. According to the doctor, I have already lived with this a long time.
In CLL, too many blood stem cells develop into abnormal lymphocytes and do not become healthy white blood cells. The abnormal lymphocytes may also be called leukemic cells. The lymphocytes are not able to fight infection very well. Also, as the number of lymphocytes increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This may result in infection, anemia, and easy bleeding. http://www.cancer.gov/
Lymphocyte is a type of immune cell that is made in the bone marrow and is found in the blood and in lymph tissue. The two main types of lymphocytes are B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. B lymphocytes make antibodies, and T lymphocytes help kill tumor cells and help control immune responses. A lymphocyte is a type of white blood cell. http://www.cancer.gov/
Leukemia is cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. http://www.cancer.gov/
After reading the stage process, I feel that my situation fits in a Stage 3 or Stage 4. I forgot to ask that question, but will next time I see the doctor.
CLL may cause complications such as:
- Frequent infections. People with CLL may experience frequent infections. In most cases, these infections are common infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract. But sometimes more-serious infections can develop.
- A switch to a more agressive form of cancer. A small number of people with CLL may develop a more aggressive form of cancer called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Doctors sometime refer to this switch as Richter's syndrome.
- Increased risk of other cancers. People with CLL have an increased risk of other types of cancer, including skin cancer, such as melanoma, and cancers of the lung and the digestive tract.
- Immune system problems. A small number of people with CLL may develop an immune system problem that causes the disease-fighting cells of the immune system to mistakenly attack the red blood cells or the platelets. http://www.mayoclinic.com/
- There are others... but this gives you an idea.
I start this coming Monday, 12/06, with chemotherapy. The doctor will treat me with what he called F and R. F is fludarabine (Fludara); and R is retuximab (Rituxan). If after two months the scans do not show enough change, another chemical may be added. That chemical is C, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). The medical staff use initials. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be chemo days.
Saturday I will go in for a Neulasta injection, helping the white cells. Now, from what I read this is not a pleasant injection. Not so much the needle, but the effect for days afterwards.
This schedule will take place the first week of each month, for six months. After that, the doctor will review my case.
In addition to all of this, the port that was placed in my upper right chest is uncomfortable. Think I told you that already. Well, the doctor sent me for an ultra sound on the area. It is tight, and right up next to my thyroid. There were murmur's that it may be possible the doctor will want to re-install my port. Yippee, that excites me! Note the sarcasm there?