He Can't Be That Sick -- He's Blogging!

In day two of antibiotics (Zithramax/arithromycin), my temperature swings are now from 98.6 to just 102 instead of 104. This is the strangest fever I've ever had: the only real symptom of sickness is the fever. Just started to get a little wheeze in the lungs (bronchitis) but as I'm on antibiotics, if it's bacterial, that'll get beat. Even at 104 degrees, which is often productive coughing, wheezing, can't sleep fever, I've been clear headed and just tired. My body has probably never been so strong and well; I can't imagine what this fever would have felt like even a few months ago. Go body, go!

I engaged in a lot of productive visualization when I was going through chemotherapy. Some of the books and articles I was reading said to think about chemotherapy as a positive force: don't reject the drugs (or the later radiation), but embrace it, and convince your body to work with it. I did, and I can't say it actually helped, but it made me feel better. Overall happiness contributes to the immune system, and I would argue that visualization contributes to systemic well being. (I picture radiation as a healing white light, which is sometimes difficult. I was just looking at my tiny positioning tattoos, four blue dots, the other day and thinking about how far out I'm at from the treatment.)

Apparently, researchers have discovered a statistical problem with cancer survival rate predictions that matches what I thought, intuitively, even though I didn't have the math. When I looked at 5-, 10-, and 20-year survival rates for Hodgkin's Disease, in my mind I thought: these are a few years out of date (I was treat in 1998 and some of the figures were no more recent than 1995), and they're based on people who got treated 5, 10, and 20 years ago. Two of the major improvements in Hodgkin's Disease happened in the last 10 to 15 years.

I cut myself some better odds: I knew that given the current treatment and the current five-year survival rates that I had pretty good odds. When you add in the fact that many people get Hodgkin's when they're older and/or when they have compromised immune systems, my otherwise generally healthy body gave me extraordinary odds of getting through it.

The new statistics will use some kind of methodology to offer advice backwards in time relying on results from newer treatments. This doesn't mean that cancer treatment has become, overnight, more efficacious: each year, some number of people have cancer, and some number die from it. But it does mean that you can face your own odds with more certainty when considering courses of treatment.

I'm sure it's pie in the sky of me to believe it, but I think the day is less than 20 years off, and possibly less than 10, when many forms of cancer will be staved off or cured with chemotherapy that's substantially more intelligent than today's stuff. A few pills, a few injections, and you're done. Ten years ago, estimating 20 to 30 years made sense, and I do believe we've moved closer.

When I hear all the criticism about Big Pharma (the major pharmaceutical companies), I say, yes, they pushing too many pills to too many people; yes, they need to change their marketing; yes, they need to understand how to charge for what they sell; but Big Pharma saved my life. They probably didn't invent much of my treatment; I'm sure a lot of it originated with doctors at cancer institutes and academic institutions. But Big Pharma threw giant heaping piles of cash beneath it and lit bonfires, producing large, stable, high-quality supplies. I'm no apologist for the industry, but I do thank it.