Penny’s Blog

Archive for May 2009

Hey, pardners. Wednesday was my follow-up PET scan and oncology visit. The pertinent info is that everything looks good—the scan was clean, and my blood work showed normal levels of LDH (what Dr. Van Deventer calls “the poor man’s cancer marker”).

I’ll go back for follow-ups every 4 months for the next year.  My lymphoma almost certainly is cured…  what they’ll mainly be checking for at the follow-ups is secondary cancers (an occasional, unfortunate late effect of chemotherapy).

My T-cell levels should be about back to normal in a few more months.  Dr. Van recommends that in the fall I get vaccines for flu (routine for me anyway), pneumonia, shingles, and DTaP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis).  Before chemo, I had good levels of antibodies gained from childhood vaccinations (DPT) and illness (chicken pox—helps protect against shingles). But chemo can knock down the antibodies to useless, non-protective levels.  Thus the re-vaccination.

It was a long morning at the hospital.  Four hours of tests, discomfort, and waiting around, with the payoff (i.e., the info I’ve listed above) coming in the last 5 minutes.  I must say, I love the nurses in Hematology/Oncology.  They always act like they’re just delighted to see you. And when the lady who takes my vital signs saw that the lab person had caused me some unnecessary pain, she picked up the phone and bawled her out.  I need to bake some cookies for those ladies, I truly do.


It’s been almost a month since my last post. No news is good news.

My hair looks less like duck fuzz and more like adult human hair. People comment daily on how fast it’s growing, and everyone has a different guess as to what color it is—blonde, grey, brown, “reminiscent of red,” platinum, striped, etc.

I’ve had some pleasant surprises lately to remind me that the low-level functioning to which I’d become accustomed is not permanent:

  • Two weekends ago when on a tour with some friends, I saw that one of the tour guides looked familiar.  Within a few minutes I correctly remembered where I’d met him (volunteering at an event a year ago), the subject of a book he’d told me about when we were volunteering together, and even his NAME.   I was so amazed and excited at this feat of memory that I had to go grab one of my friends and tell her about it.
  • A couple of times in the past week I’ve come home from work or errands and prepared for my customary post-exertion collapse, only to realize that I didn’t need to collapse—the energy reservoirs were not totally drained.  And I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  This is still a new development and I can’t yet rely on the energy consistently being there*, but now I’ve had a taste of what life might be like in the not-too-distant future. The time will come when I can make plans again, and can expect to do more than just endure each day’s activities.

*I’m reminded of the sign outside OWASA [the water utility], which currently reads:

Water supplies are at 100% of their capacity. PLEASE CONSERVE.

My first post-treatment PET scan and follow-up with the oncologist are in two weeks. I expect I’ll start to get a little anxious as the appointments approach.  I think I’m better, but *what if* the PET scan or the blood test show that something lymphoma-y is still going on inside me?  This morning I went in for a repeat Panorex (panoramic X-ray of my mouth). The technician showed me the image, but apart from the teeth I couldn’t differentiate anything among all the blobby shadows on the screen. I’ll have to wait until the oncology appointment to get an interpretation about whether it looks like my jaw is healing or has gotten worse.

On a final note, Sole Sisters has continued to be a source of positive, forward momentum for me.  Although I no longer expect to run any of the 5K race next month, I do feel confident I can walk it at a respectable pace.  (And after my low-energy early spring, I’m actually pretty impressed that I can walk 5K.) Our team hopes to raise $10,000 for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. If you’d like to make a donation to support my team’s goal, please go to my participant page.

Thanks, everyone, for your love, support and head rubs.

UPDATE 5/20/2009:  Thank you to those of you who made donations in support of the Komen Foundation and helped me exceed my $150 goal! I appreciate your financial and moral support.


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  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!