A couple who missed the holiday cookie baking and decorating extravaganza joined me a few days later to finish making the candy cane cookies. It’s a very delicate cookie, and dough, being made with powdered sugar instead of granulated and with the addition of pure almond flavoring, so it’s not surprising that while transferring one cookie to the baking sheet, some of it split apart. Not to worry, I said… it’s nothing a little plastic surgery can’t fix, as I molded the dough back together and popped the pan into the oven. It struck me as an apt concluding title for 2017. To accompany that, I’m hereby declaring the great Nina Simone’s Feeling Good as the theme song of this post.
I closed out the year with a flurry of follow-up appointments. Might as well take advantage of having hit my catastrophic max for the third year in a row, right? First up was the ID doc, preceded by a CT and labs to check on the pneumonia recovery. Here’s the skinny: the CT showed greatly reduced inflammation (inflammation being a sign of infection) and also a slight enlargement of the cavity in my upper right lobe. It tends to fluctuate in size over time, so I’m not terribly concerned about it (nor was she).
The labs generally looked good, all in all an improvement over the previous round. The labs required a personal call from the ID doc to the laboratory to request that yes, they actually carry out the special test she ordered to quantify the level of aspergillus (the type of fungal pneumonia I had, which they think has colonized) remaining in my blood. Last time it was so high, the exact level could not be quantified. This time it was still high, but at least half what it was before – progress! So now, in addition to being more willing to start me on an antifungal sooner if/when this flares again, she is also proposing to check this lab much earlier (like immediately) after symptoms begin. Imagine if they’d checked this lab in August when I got back from Maine… I might not have ended up in the hospital at all! Might have never gone into heart failure! So I endorse this plan wholeheartedly. But I’m still not throwing away the specimen cups I lifted, lest anyone forget the plan and a sample of something I cough up requires culturing. I’ll follow up with her again in three months.
Next up: pulmonary. I had my annual pulmonary function tests, and they were basically the same as last year. I’ll take it! The doctor asked if I’d gotten the results from my CT (I said yes) and with a sly smile shared how my primary care doctor had reached out to him with great alarm when she saw the images. I can imagine how startling they must be to someone who doesn’t live and breathe them professionally or personally. Although I had taken myself off oxygen after performing my own walking tests with a pulse oximeter, I went in that day with the oxygen to make him feel like his orders mattered and also in anticipation of his releasing me from its vice-like grip. We did a walking test to check how my oxygen saturation levels looked off oxygen, and viola, he sent the order to Apria to discontinue supplementary oxygen. He also gave me a sample of a different inhaler, which is a combination of the two drugs in my current inhaler plus a third. Never have I ever ever ever experienced such release from an inhaler. Seriously, it was like the concrete that had been encasing my lungs shattered and disappeared. Unbelievable. Amazing. Endorse! We’ll follow up again in three months.
Directly after that appointment was my four-month follow up with New Oncologist. She is fantastic. I heart her. She listens to me and believes me. She asks after Polly Bear! She explains science to me when I ask why this or that. She accepts without judgment decisions I make, even if she has recommended something different. (Glares in Old Oncologist’s general direction.) I told her about my latest UTI and repeated my conviction that it was related to the letrozole. Unlike Old Oncologist, she allowed as how that was not only possible, but at this point likely and referred me to a urologist for further investigation. I then went back to the infusion suite and got another dose of zomeda. This time I didn’t feel the slightest bit achy afterwards, so I think it was just the first couple times while my body adjusted to it. Phew! Next oncology follow-up and zomeda infusion in six months.
I closed out the year with a follow up to the eye doctor to check the level of dryness in my eyes. You know, since basically all meds have dry eye as a side effect. Surprisingly, my eyes don’t qualify officially as “dry.” If that’s the case, I can’t imagine how uncomfortable actual, official dry eyes are! Still, she gave me a new kind of eye drop and was pleased with the response my eyes have had to the new kind of contacts she prescribed.
So if we circle back to the framing questions I posed in the beginning of the year, the answers are YES, I hit my health insurance catastrophic max for the third straight year, and NO, I didn’t meet anyone who could compete with Polly’s soft ears. Come to think of it, those seem like appropriate framing questions for the year ahead as well. Let’s hope both answers are reversed!