Puzzled

May 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Tuesday, I realized that the numbness in my fingers, hands, and toes had become more pronounced. I wasn't even certain that there weren't places on my face that seemed to be less sensitive to touch. I soon discovered that this numbness could be the result of either the lymphoma or one of the medications I receive in chemotherapy: vincristine.

There are lots of warnings with each of the 10 medications I receive as part of my chemotherapy. I have avoided most of the nasty-sounding ones. But I had not noticed this paragraph regarding possible side effects with vincristine: "Effects on the nerves are called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands and feet. It may be hard for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk as usual. The effect on the nerves may get worse with more doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped, but it does not get better in all people."

As a result of phone conversations with my doctor's nurse, I now have pills for nerve pain (if I have any pain). But I was most troubled about whether this neuropathy is temporary or whether it is permanent and may become more significant. I also realized that I had begun to think I was going to get through cancer treatment with only a good outcome and no difficult consequences. My numb fingers challenged my rosy assumptions with a scary reality check. I still have another chemotherapy treatment ahead with an additional dose of vincristine, possibly.

My prostate cancer treatment last year came with a significant permanent loss. Will I have another loss as well in exchange for my lymphoma treatment? I don't know and won't know until weeks or months afterwards. I began treatment with the hope that I could say one day that I am cured or that my cancer is in "durable remission". That is still my goal, even if I have to make some adjustments to usual practices. 

It's definitely a puzzle that has no immediate answer. I do like puzzles, especially ones that can be solved like this one made of six identical pieces. This puzzle that I am facing now has an answer that I won't know for some time. I plan on making the best of whatever happens.


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