Today, I had my eleventh radiation treatment - only 22 treatments to go! The shrinking of that number does my heart so much good. This morning, one of the family said, "After today, only 22 treatments to go!" I have a rule against that, though, which I quickly disclosed. If you choose to declare how many treatments are left before the current day's treatment has taken place, you have to say the number that is currently left - not the number that will be left after that day's treatment. Meaning, it would have been fine for them to say that there were 23 treatments left, but not 22 after today. Even though it is true, it is jumping ahead, and it messes up the savoring of that moment right after treatment when I get to declare the new remaining number. Get it? I only have 22 radiation treatments left!
That's the good news about radiation. The possibly bad news is that I have hit the point during radiation when most patients start to have the worst side effects, including an unusual pairing of thick mucous and dry mouth, both relentless in their attack, along with mouth sores, sore throat, more difficulty swallowing, and dramatic skin burn. I call this possibly bad news, because I pray, and ask you to also, that God will lessen the intensity of these side effects if it pleases Him. I know He may not choose to do this as I am reminded of the thorn in Paul's flesh that was never removed, but I am also reminded of the fact that He has promised not to give me anything more than I can endure. Even more, I am reminded of the suffering our sweet Lord Jesus endured for us, and I know what I face cannot be compared to what He graciously endured for all of us. Even still, He has invited us to ask! And, ask, I will. I trust you'll do so, as well.
I also saw Dr. Gilbert today, and she made the comment that she thinks my tumor looks "much better." Now, that's the kind of thing you like to hear from your oncologist! I have also gained three pounds since last Tuesday, which is such a blessing. I am tolerating my tube feedings extremely well since the switch to pump infusion. Thank God for His provision. Eating had been such a source of stress. I'm very relieved to have that pressure removed.
One of the long-term side effects of radiation therapy to the oral cavity is persistent dry mouth due to salivary gland damage. Obviously, with my job and my singing, that would be an extremely disconcerting and maybe even debilitating side effect. Tomorrow, I begin a medication called amiphostine, which is designed to reduce this possibility. The jury is still out on its effectiveness as there is a lack of rigorous research available. Unfortunately, its main side effect is nausea, but not in everyone. Given my profession and other interests, I have decided to give it a try. If it nauseates me, I will just stop it. My first dose will be given tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. before radiation at 10:00 a.m. That will be the schedule going forward if it is tolerated.
My next chemotherapy infusion will be next Tuesday, the 15th. Again, it will be about a 5-6 hour process. Remember, I did not have bad side effects with the treatment, which often happens. We trust this will be the case again. I may or may not have a third infusion on August 5th. That will depend on tumor response to the next chemo, the remainder of radiation therapy, and simply how I am feeling. Just to remind you, after radiation ends on August 7th, there will be about a six-week break after which a CT will be done. If the tumor appears to have been eradicated, no surgery will be required on the tongue. If the lymph nodes look clear, no surgery will be required. On the other hand, even if the tongue looks clear, but the lymph nodes do not, I will have to have a partial neck dissection to remove those questionable nodes.
Some things for which to thank Him specifically (there are so many):
1. The tumor is responding.
4. Such generosity from all of you.
5. Nausea and vomiting under control.
6. Pain is SO much better.
7. Such excellent care at Vanderbilt.
8. Prayers that I can feel!
9. Technology that keeps me connected with all of you.
10. Traveling mercies.
1. Always and above all, God's glorification throughout this journey.
2. Complete healing - yet, not our will, but His be done.
3. No nausea or other side effects with amiphostine, but successful protection of my salivary glands.
4. No surgery at the end - yet, not my will, but His be done.