Friday, January 30, 2009

Remission

Gentle readers: Yesterday was a day to retrace some steps from my recent past, and in so doing to find the line of sight I've been seeking on my future.

The day started with a half day at Bridgespan, where I worked from 2003-04 and met my fellow blogger and lovely wife. The senior management team at MY TURN has been through an intense month of scenario planning with the help of my old friends and colleagues. Like every other enterprise on the planet, we're trying to figure out how we navigate the depressing recession. Going through several increasingly specific iterations of our loftiest expectations and worst nightmares opened a lot of eyes. Bottom line is that after a month of hard work, I have a clear line of sight to how we are going to get through the next 24 months. We'll be smaller, but we'll also go deeper and deliver consistently strong results to the kids who we do serve. We'll have to swallow some bitter medicine to get there, but I am now clear that there is a there to get to, which is more than half the battle.

Do you feel a metaphor coming on? Yes, so do I.

I picked up my car and drove over to Kenmore Square to run a few errands and found myself driving past the Harvard Vanguard on Brookline Avenue, a place that makes me shudder with a combination of pain and indignation. Pain for the two CAT scans I had there back in October and all that they ultimately revealed. Indignation as I recalled the surgical consult with the most socially inept doctor in Boston, the one who walked into the session and while looking down at the chart told me in a matter-of-fact voice that I had lymphoma, in a tone that you might use to tell someone that their front tire was a little low on air. Needless to say, that was the end of that medical relationship ("It's not you; it's me. No actually, it is you.").


All in the past, Steve. Shake it off.

I continued my drive out Rt. 9 to Hammond Pond Parkway to Beacon St. and finally to Newton-Wellesley Hospital for my half-way point CAT scan. I spent two hours drinking small sips of an orange-flavored barium shake before heading into the room with the SciFi machine where they inserted an IV into my arm and then injected contrast die while a pre-recorded stern male voice commanded that I INHALE AND HOLD as I was robotically passed through the machine and then allowed once again to BREATHE. Ten minutes later, I was on my way home with a sore arm and a stomach full of barium.

Today, I woke up early and hopped on the bike for 18 miles of intervals. Lest you worry, I am continuing to "dial it down" thanks to my low red blood cell counts. I am just happy to get through these sessions and not completely lose an activity that has been my passion for over 20 years now. I wish I could cover the 400 miles I rode last January, but I will count myself lucky to have made it through three rounds of chemo and still be up on that horse.

OK, now for the good stuff, and I hope I havent' already lost you with all of my digressions and botched metaphors. After breakfast, I headed over to my oncologist's office, where I learned that my white blood cell counts are normal, my platelets and RBC are still low, blah, blah, blah. My doctor then pulled up my CAT scan results and asked slyly, "You don't want any good news today, do you?"

He read through the technical jargon: "No evidence of lymphopathy. Nodes normal." Translation: I am in remission. There is no evidence of lymphoma in my system. The treatment regime is working.

So, of course my first question was if I could skip the next round of chemo and have a Guinness instead. No such luck. But, to be halfway through this and not simply hear that the lymphoma was on the retreat but that all evidence of it was GONE from my system, I don't think even an optimist like I was expecting such news.

So, there are still three more rounds of chemo awaiting me, including the second in-hospital treatment next week with the ERAS-C and the screaming patients keeping me up all night. But rather than lying awake at night asking WTF, I will lie awake saying "Holy shit! We're going to do this!"

There are many rivers to cross, as Jimmy Cliff once sang. Or to use my bicycling analogy from an early post, we've just made it through mile 25 of this 100-mile race and my split suggests a personal best. Rounds 4, 5 & 6 represent the next 25 miles. Halfway there come mid-March. And then some more big hills over the last half-century as they extract my marrow stem cells and transplant them back in.

As I've written before, we'll continue to ride this race one mile at a time. But just as I wrote about MY TURN at the beginning of this post, I can now say that I have a line of sight on what was previously visible only through the lens of faith. There is clearly a there to get to.

6 comments:

Mary said...

Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! Let's hear it for the Good Fight! I'm still all weepy!

Blaze said...

Holy Health, Batman! Stevarino, great news! Amazing, inspiring, encouraging, touching. Keep on pedaling, you're making it!

Crista and Harry said...

Never had a doubt!

Kieran said...

YES! KICKING CANCER'S A$$! So excited and happy for you (both of you)!

Kieran

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Great news. Mazel Tov.

Adam

Jessica said...

Steve,

Horray! I was thrilled to share this news w/ my colleagues at New Sector (Matt sent us your blog). Keep fighting the good fight!

Jessica