As he entered the room, the oncologist said, “Your scans are good, Merry Christmas, let’s plan to do a PET scan in three months for due diligence.”
His terse greeting was especially good news because I was concerned about episodic chest pain during November. I had mentally prepared myself for a recommendation for radiation to zap those tumors at the lymph nodes in my chest.
When asked about pain, he suggested that chest pains don’t necessarily indicate tumor growth. Other factors which might cause occasional chest pains could be changes in barometric pressure, activities, posture, scar tissue, and continuing side-effects of Interleukin-2 treatment. This makes sense to me, given that the CT scans are not showing tumor growth.
In response to chest pain, I had developed my own self-prescription. I reasoned that both my Interleukin-2 treatments and personal life changes are oriented towards strengthening my immune system. Why not increase the revving of my metabolism with more activity and body warmth? Seems like that couldn’t hurt.
My self-prescription included more yoga, swimming, hot tubbing, and infra-red sauna sessions. Within a week, my chest pains reduced and my joint pains were increased. This feels like progress to me — I’ll take joint pain, which I have learned to associate with IL-2 side effects.
In response to my self-prescription disclosure, my oncologist cautioned that increased body temperature alone is not enough to “fight cancer.” That said, he definitely supported the idea that increased activity and metabolism will promote more effective immune system functioning.
We also talked about the observation that tumors at the lymph nodes in my chest remain visible in the CT scans. My oncologist casts that in a positive light. He says that often CT scans which don’t look normal but show no results of tumor growth are nonetheless good news. He added, “If we are still seeing abnormal scans with no activity a year from now, it is very unlikely that your cancer will reactivate. We can’t give you a lifetime guarantee, but the odds are very good that those tumors will not come to life again.”
When asked, the oncologist clarified why this happens: T-cell changes wrought by the IL-2 treatment and the battle with melanoma remain active for years following the IL-2 treatment. T-cells programmed to fight melanoma remain more numerous and active. They are able to stop cancer before it gains a foothold.