Today I got the answer, which was… no answer

I have some stories from the last few months of chemotherapy. I intend to tell them here someday. Maybe even soon. That first day I learned what “Red Man Syndrome” is. It’s pretty rare, apparently. I have marks on my skin, slowly fading, that are echoes of the burns inflicted on my veins. I have thoughts, now, about hospital food.

But today was, I thought, the beginning of the next chapter. I sat down with my oncologist to discuss life after chemo. I expected he would schedule another scan to measure the success of the drugs, as well as a shift in regimen to fit my current circumstances. Instead what I got was much less… page-turny.

There is one number I live and die by, and that’s PSA. That number is very low now, and apparently as long as it stays low, I’m just coasting. I will never not have cancer. Remission is not to be hoped for. But if that one number stays low, then I may have a chance to die from something else instead, preferably a long time from now.

I was expecting today to hear “Here’s our plan of action!” and instead I heard, “there will be no action for the foreseeable future.” That’s actually a GOOD THING (I keep telling myself). Much better than “shit, I guess we better try something else.” On the other hand, the fact that there will be no full-body scan recognizes that even though we know there is cancer all over the place, exactly where doesn’t matter. That information is not actionable.

The number, PSA, will be measured every month for at least the next year, when I go in for my bone-strengthening goo (the goo slows the spread of cancer in the bones, as well as shoring up damage from the chemo). After that, the measurement might be quarterly.

It’s going to be very difficult for me to not obsess over the number (the measurement on the blood sample taken this morning STILL ISN’T IN YET), but perhaps it will be even harder for the Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. The number will be good until it isn’t, and we can drive ourselves crazy anticipating that ominous measurement, or we can just get used to the fact I have cancer and always will. The barbarians are in the forest, and it is only a matter of time until they rush the gate again. All we can do is watch closely and be prepared for when that happens.

The chemicals I ingest each day are getting nicknames: “Abbies” and whatnot. This is my life now, being gently awoken each morning by Official Sweetie to take my Abbies while my stomach is empty. Filling the pill planner each week (more about that later). Going to work like nothing ever happened. Maybe even writing again. Who knows?

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How to Name Your New Drug

The medicines you take generally have three names. There’s the actual chemical, there’s a registered name for the chemical or chemicals that make up the medication, and there’s a slick marketing name.

As a simple example, the slick marketing name for acetaminophen is Tylenol.

Almost all new drug names have three syllables, with the emphasis on the second syllable. They all use the minimum number of letters to achieve this (it’s a competition), and x, q, and z are required. Only a chump would follow a “q” with a “u”. Run the algorithm, and your next prescription will be for Qzyliq. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

I have a little writing project going right now and I need a few popular drug names that when you squint, might look like active verbs, in the gerund or past tense. Names that end ‘-in’ (to suggest ‘-ing’), or end ‘-ed’. The more well-known the name of the drug, the better.

Drop a line if you have a suggestion. Thanks!

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