How is your immune system doing? It’s the end of the treatment…
Last November 19 I made my best. This occasion deserved it: it was my last chemo cycle, so the white cops with a golden star on their chest woke up and recruited everyone they found in my veins: 5570 neutrophils per uL!!! I had never before during treatment had the blood test results in the bag, hahaha. It sounds like all these neutrophils agreed at the same time: they resonated -yes, this last comment was a little bit nerdy, but what can I do? 😅
I can’t really say much about this last round: it was again the same old story, but the last time I was going to hear it. Those would be my last chemotherapy liters, the last Filgastrim -growth factor or GF- shots, the last nausea, the last general malaise… Do you remember the last day of every school year where you were exultant before the summer break? The same scene could be repeated at the high school or at the uni, once you had finished all the final tests and a horizon of relaxation spread out in front of you…
On November 21 I experienced somehow the same feeling. It was one of these moments in somebody’s life to put in a frame. The finishing line of the double marathon race -2×42.195 km- that I had started one year ago was there, standing in front of me. The last round, the fourteenth, of this EMOM -every minute on the minute- WOD came to its end. The timekeeper threw the red bean bag in the last round of my kyokushinkai fight. And that’s the reason why I wanted to recreate the scene that I had watched hundreds of times in the videos posted at forums and at Facebook patient groups: to ring the survivor bell! This is an American/Canadian tradition that I wanted to import, no matter at what cost. My hospital – ICO- doesn’t have any bell, so Nathália bought a beautiful one for me on Amazon.
OK, I already had the bell, but I still had to find out how to attach it to the wall. Luckily my nurses are great McGyvers and attached it to an IV pole thanks to a mesh. Not only I had a nice bell, but it also had four wheels! And, when I rang it, it was a magical moment: my parents, Nathália and the team of nurses and assistants applauded my joy.
I must swear that the video doesn’t really show what I lived there, it only shows the end of the feat. During that glorious minute when I was ringing the bell, magic flowed through that corridor. Some tears were dropped for me, but I couldn’t hide the bliss. Thanks a lot, girls! You’re wonderful! I love you!
Everything happened like a dream! And not like a regular/conventional dream, but one of those that wake you up making you grin from ear to ear. When I got out of the hospital I found this:
A huge banner and many known faces from friends and family… The one to blame for the show was Nathália! Thanks to everyone that could make it and be there! And also thanks to those who couldn’t! I love you all so much!
Celebrating the end of the torture
On the occasion of the end of my battle, and taking advantage of a long weekend, we arranged a last-minute road. In the beginning, we wanted to visit Ainhoa -a comrade-in-arms, virtual friend, and natural-born fighter- and also go across the region of Gipuzkoa, but when talking to her she revealed that actually, she was planning to come to Barcelona during that long weekend. So, as we truly needed to escape from the city, our visit to Euskadi will be put off some months 🙂
Therefore, being attracted by their charm and also trying to avoid a snowstorm, we gave it a try to La Rioja, Álava, Navarra, and Zaragoza. Those were good gastronomic, cultural and… cold days! I had almost forgotten Swiss winters, but those days reminded me what they are. And the fact of not having a single hair on my head didn’t really help: my ears got so frozen that the least hit could break them. Here you have four pictures to summarize those days.
This term describes the anxiety that every cancer patient faces whenever they have diagnostic imaging tests -scans. It’s a very common word in forums and cancer survivor groups on social networks. As I was feeling so good after the last chemo cycle and our last-minute trip, I thought that it wasn’t necessary to think too much about it. So, I decided not to experience scanxiety this time.
Anyhow, even though the fight was already finished, I was still waiting for the final decision. The judgments, in this case: the tests’ results, were delivered within different weeks of December: MRI, CT-scan, bone scintigraphy, PET-CT, and blood test, in that same order. I will only talk here about the most relevant test.
I had the PET-CT -the test of nuclear medicine where Nathália works- made on December 13. She was in the control room while I was being scanned from head to toes. Once it finished, I left the room waiting for Nathália to appear as she did last time, when she hugged me and kissed me passionately. But when Nacho -a male nurse and Nathália’s partner- called me in the control room, I saw her shaken face, crying and hugging herself, lacking the energy to even come close to me. She was so frozen when she saw me coming into the room that my world fell apart: I knew that something was wrong. Javi, the radiologist that analyzed my scans in situ, told what he had already told Nathália some minutes before I entered the room: he had seen a couple of spots -one measuring 4 mm and the second one of 6 mm of diameter- in the lungs… WTF! Dammit! I must admit that I was scared, but, as Javi explained to us, we had to wait until December 18, when I had an appointment with my oncologist so that he described more thoroughly what was that and how to treat it… Anyway, that day was very sad and I was very unhappy to see Nathália, my parents, and my mother-in-law so downhearted. Whatever it was, I hadn’t suffered during this whole year for nothing and if now I had to pay the cashout to finish the WOD, or fight some extra assaults, o run another marathon, I was gonna do it… By whatever means.
It was like traveling back to the past, to that horrible November 16, when what I had finally took a name. Yet this time I told myself that it was enough, and I didn’t want to cry again. That afternoon we drove to the Llobregat river delta in order to see the sunset and go for a walk. To be honest, that walk was awesome. We talked about everything but the disease as if that morning we had been somewhere else than at the hospital. To see the birds, the sky and waves come and go was like an ointment for the soul.
The following day I prepared a long list of questions together with my wife for my appointment that Monday, December 18. I didn’t want to leave with something unsaid and even less now that -unfortunately- I know so much about the disease. However, I never collapsed: the circumstances couldn’t remove my smile during the whole weekend. We even organized a surprise party for Nathália’s 28th birthday. Thanks so much to all of the participants! You made us really happy!
And December 18 finally arrived, together with my appointment with the oncologist. Dr. J.M.L. told me that he hadn’t received the CT-scan yet and that although they had found those two nodules, he said that they would probably be nothing. He even mentioned that 90% of people from the street who are scanned, can have such nodules… They can even show up during an inflammatory lung process – bronchitis could do-. So, we left the consultation much more relaxed than when we arrived there, even though we had to wait for the report that I’ve just mentioned. We both agreed that it wasn’t necessary to ask all those questions on the list, basically because many of them depended on the confirmation from the CT-scan report. Three days later, December 21, all the doctors forming the committee had a meeting and discussed my case. The following day, day 400 after my diagnosis, I got the best piece of news I could have: I was NED – No evidence of disease!!! I’m not totally healed yet because I’d have to remain NED during several years in order to reach that status, but the first step has been already done!!! 😊
You can’t guess how much we’ve celebrated: Christmas with our family and cheering for this God’s life gift! I’ll have to keep on doing tests every 2-3 months, but it’s certainly nothing compared to the winding way I’ve gone through. I’m not gonna let Ewing’s sarcoma or scanxiety take control of my life again!
It can seem somehow banal, but I’ve been avoiding human contact long time. I’ve only kissed my wife and my mother, only if they didn’t have a cold. I haven’t kissed or hugged anybody else. It’s been tough, very tough… But it’s worth it: thanks to the extreme preventive measures and hand hygiene of every single person entering my parents’ apartment, besides the face masks, made me avoid going to the hospital many times. My radiotherapist said to me that I was lucky, but I believe that a great part of this success is due to my wife’s methodic obsession – although she is too obstinate many times, I should admit that this time she’s been right 🤭
Besides that, I’ve also registered a patent on a very original greeting: the “elbow-to-elbow touch”! Some friends of mine prefer to keep such greeting with me than the typical ones, and I like the idea. However, after that show, we will hug and kiss, hahaha. To be able to do such things again with the ones you love is a real pleasure.
Last January 5, Relva, a brazilian girl that lives in Turkey, who’s also been struck by Ewing’s sarcoma and was diagnosed the same day as me, and who finished chemo treatment also the same day as me, got the results from her tests: she was also NED!! I’ve got to know her through a Facebook group of patients and survivors, many months ago, and despite the distance, we’ve been exchanging tips, feelings, and pieces of advice. The personal achievements of each of us are victories to all of us, so my joy is twofold. We’ve gone through this path in parallel, separated by some thousands of km distance, but with a similar result. Love and will to live win again! Um beijão enorme para você! Você também merece ser feliz! 🎊🎉🤩🍾
And now what?
I must have the periodic checkup tests to verify that I’m still NED. I’m quite conscious that the scanxiety I’ve told you about would probably make an appearance, despite the fact that I’ll try hard to avoid it. Perhaps not in me, but in my wife or my mother. It’s something unavoidable but I hope that it decays as time goes by.
Now I have a month to make the event I posted at the beginning of December come true: Al càncer donem-li recerca! – Let’s give research to cancer! I’ve invested lots of time, effort and dedication to carry this out and now I’m just missing the cherry on top. My blog will be frequently updated with several pieces of news, but it will lose some prominence in my daily life.
Once again I’d like to thank friends, partners and other people who have donated blood in 2017 and in these 16 days of 2018. You’re one-of-a-kind! Let’s keep on donating, please! Once isn’t enough, ¡vamos!