Ok-remission achieved. Next stop: the stem cell transplant (SCT).
But, doubt had already started creeping in; slowly inching its way into my thoughts and making me question the SCT choice. To Dr. Scotty it was not even a question. He was sure that I needed to get the SCT to maintain my remission; he said my chances of relapse are really high if I do not get the SCT. That did not satisfy me. I argued back that he is basing that on statistics of patients who had clear-cut cases of being refractory or relapsed to treatment. After all, the SCT is done for Lymphoma patients only when they don’t respond to the chemo treatment or they relapse after hitting remission. My case was different. Was it really refractory? I questioned. Yes, I did develop new tumors while going through the first chemotherapy treatment, but that was because as it turned out I had a different (or mixed) kind of lymphoma that required a different chemo regimen for me to respond. After we utilized the second chemotherapy regimen, I did achieve remission. My case is clearly an outlier, but they were treating me by the statistics, I kept arguing. Dr. Scotty heard my arguments and acknowledged that my case is different, but they have to go by what is out there, what has been researched and studied, and apply it to my situation even if it might be not exactly the same.
I wrestled with the idea of just going through with the SCT, but I was not comfortable with that decision yet. However, I would be ok with the decision once I got further confirmation of its necessity. I needed to seek a second opinion from a big cancer research center. I told Dr. Scotty that and he replied with “yes, go get that second opinion. At this point it would make me feel better too.” Poor Dr. Scotty, he has to put up with my questioning of every little step in my treatment-I had a feeling that I am probably his most difficult patient! I told him I wanted to go to the cancer center in Texas (MDA). He said it should not be a problem, and he will try to get me an appointment as soon as possible, so that we can go ahead with the transplant without much delay.
I wanted to be at peace with whatever decision I made, and I did not want to be influenced by the voices in my surroundings. I was the one who was going to have to live with the consequences of whatever choice I go with, so I should be the one to have the final say. I did seek advice from my most trusted sources-mainly my dad. He is always so rational and logical that it is hard not to seek his wisdom during difficult times. I made up my mind that if the 2nd opinion confirmed that I needed the SCT then I would go ahead with it without further doubt. However, I dreaded to think about what would happen if MDA differed in view from Dr. Scotty and MC. Then I would really be confused!
After a few phone calls and information transmission between MC and MDA, I got an appointment that was less than two weeks away with a doctor at their Lymphoma Center. I immediately made the arrangements for me and my sister for our trip to Houston, Texas. For some odd reason I was excited. I know I was still celebrating my remission, but there was still a lot that lay ahead of me and I knew that. Yet, I was excited I think because I felt like I was doing the right thing, and I would be content with the decision I would be making as a result of it.
Flying to Houston was a scary experience. I have never been one to fear flying or airplanes. However, this time it was different. I was immunocompromised in a tiny plane full of people with too many germs and too little ventilation. I had not travelled by air since my counts had been low. Needless to say I got a little claustrophobic and was counting the seconds until we landed. And praying that I did not catch anyone’s bug!
We landed in Houston, and I was fine.
We checked into our hotel, and waited for morning to arrive to go to our appointment at the MDA Lymphoma Center...