Well, I’m most of the way there. One MRI, one set of blood work, one CT, one echocardiogram, and two doctor appointments down–one double MRI (c-spine and t-spine), one set of blood work, one doctor visit in RVA and one doctor visit in Philly to go. It’s more than my “usual” quarterly imaging session (whatever “usual” qualifies as at this point)–but it’s been six months, which feels like an eternity in medical time, so my neurologist needed to get involved again. It’s kinda important to make sure that the weirdness I’ve been feeling is just the Sutent wearing off, and not something happening in my spine or in my lymph nodes.

Because some not-fun words got thrown at me in the back-and-forth discussions over the last two weeks: potential early metastatic disease in my spine, or lymphoma. Please note, neither is a diagnosis, but rather a possibility to explain those weird symptoms. It’s a measure of my permanent shell shock that I heard both those possibilities and my sum total reaction was to shrug. Pffft. Nothing I can do but go through imaging to find out, right? And what was already scheduled? Imaging out the wazoo. So, was there a need for freaking out? Nope. 

The fact is, I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to be in TJU’s trial. I’m glad I randomized to Sutent. I’m glad I was given a shot at the only treatment out there that *anybody* thinks might work. I hope I’ve helped them make some good science along the way.

That being said, I’m just as glad to be off the stuff. If Sutent is is a well regarded, commonly used, and well tolerated form of chemo, I don’t ever want to experience the others. I’m very tired of feeling both awful and *weird*. The fatigue, gut trouble, and bleeding were all tolerable. But the phantom stuff–random swellings and palpitations and pains and infections and creepy tumor-like effects on old, existing injuries…wow. Perversely, I will be glad to finally sort Sutent *away* from my ongoing vigilance for cancer. Because honestly, Sutent frequently imitated metastatic symptoms. Strange, huh? Which is worse, the treatment or the disease? That’s a bizarre and rather ungrateful thought, but when you’re flat on your back on the couch for two days with the shaking chills and pain in your liver, it’s *really* hard to differentiate…until the pain lets up. And that’s not something I can *know* will happen until it does.

There’s a tradition in Buddhism that the peacock can ingest poison, and that’s what makes his feathers so vibrant; he can convert poison into radiance. Sometimes Buddhists meditate on this as an ideal–to be able to take the evils that afflict everyone’s life and sublimate those lessons into the astonishing plumage of spirit. 

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been inundated with reminders that the angels are looking out for me. And peacock feathers are a symbol of Michael, the bad-assedest of the archangels. When I was opening a Christmas present from a friend last year, before even *I* knew the Buddhist story of the peacock, before I even knew I was going to be part of TJU’s trial, I somehow knew what the present was going to be: a peacock. And it was, a gorgeous cloisonne and golden metal Christmas ornament. My friend doesn’t even believe in angels.

I’ve spent most of the last six months deliberately ingesting poison. Here’s hoping that the plumage it bears is better than the mental state I had while taking my medicine.


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