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Now Comes The Hard Part: Waiting, Wondering, Worrying

Now Comes The Hard Part: Waiting, Wondering, Worrying

This is Chapter 12 in the on-going story of Pelotonia rider Alex Kip, 23, and his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Type B) cancer.

The hard part – the stem cell transplant – is over.

Now comes the really hard part: waiting to see if it worked.

“Let’s get your CAT scan and PET scan in about two weeks,” said Dr. Sam Penza, during Alex’s visit on Monday to the Hematology and Transplant Department on the 11th floor of The James.

Dr. Penza: "We can't make any decisions until we see where we're at."

These scans will determine if the cancerous tumor in his chest is gone, if it’s still there, and if so, how much is left and exactly where it’s located, which in turn will help determine what course of treatment to follow. No matter what the tests reveal, Dr. Penza told Alex, it’s all but certain he’ll undergo radiation treatment, every day for several weeks. This could start soon after the results of the scans are in.

The Kips – Alex and his parents, Cindy and Nick – and Dr. Penza discuss a lot of “what ifs,” as in, what if the cancer is completely gone, and what if it’s still there. If traces of the cancer remain, the radiation could wipe it out; if a larger mass remains, there’s the possibility – after six months – of another stem cell transplant, or putting Alex on a clinical trial.

“We can’t make any decisions until we see where we’re at,” Dr. Penza said. He spoke in a calm and assuring voice, answered all the Kip’s questions and prepared them for all possible outcomes.

All the waiting and worrying, which has pretty much been going on since the day Alex was diagnosed with cancer, has been difficult and stressful for all the Kips.

The past several months have been stressful and difficult for Alex and his parents, Cindy and Nick

“Let me ask you a question that may annoy my son and wife,” Nick said, and then asked Dr. Penza if it’s OK for Alex to take out the trash if the bags are properly sealed. It seems this has been a bone of contention between Nick and Cindy. She read in the stack of information supplied by The James that germs in the garbage could be bad for Alex after his stem cell transplant, what with his immune system being so weak from the transplant.

The real point of this question – and the on-going debate about it between Nick and Cindy, is each is trying in their own way to deal with the stress and fear of what their son is going through.

Nick desperately wants Alex to be better, right now, and for everything to return to normal – and what’s more normal than having your son take out the trash?

Cindy wants to do everything by the book. It’s her way of controlling an out-of-control situation and taking care of her son.

Dr. Penza said Alex’s immune system is still not fully recovered, but has built itself up to the point that it’s OK to take out the trash.

“Sorry,” he told Alex.

Nick smiles, thinking he’s won. But from her expression, it’s obvious Cindy has not yet conceded defeat.

"I try not to think about it too much," Alex said of the possibility cancer remains in his chest.

“I try not to think about it too much,” Alex said of the possibility cancer cells remain in his chest, multiplying and threatening his health.

“But I can’t not ever think about it. The biggest thing is I just want my voice back, that’s as important to me as whether or not the cancer is gone.”

When Alex was first diagnosed, he was a couple months from graduating the University of Michigan’s prestigious School of Music, Theatre & Dance – and then it was supposed to be on to New York and Broadway to audition for musical shows. He did graduate, but is living at home – and in career limbo while he battles cancer.

In a totally annoying bit of irony, the cancerous mass in his chest pushed against his vocal chords, creating pressure on the nerves – and all but ruined his voice, which is now a hoarse and gravely shell of what it once was. It’s gotten a bit better the past few months, but is far from what it used to be – which was a wonderful singing voice that seemed destined for a place Broadway.

“Even if all the cancer is gone, there’s no guarantee my voice will come back,” Alex said. “Recently I was talking to someone who had almost the exact same cancer – and the same thing happened to his voice. It was even worse and he could barely talk. But it came back, his voice came all the way back. When he told me that, it literally brought tears to my eyes.”

Click here to read Chapter 11.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: A Rowing We Will Go: A Kip Family Outing | The Blog | Pelotonia

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