Thursday was a Great Day August 20, 2011

Friends and Family,

Thursday turned out to be full of good news. First, we got the best news we could possibly hope for at this stage: My MRI scan showed that the cancer has not spread to my brain. The only downside... I have no excuses for my mental lapses now.

Next, Genevieve researched oncologists who specialize in lungs, and three different sources came up with the same two names. We saw one of these doctors at OHSU Thursday, and we thought he was excellent. He was also more encouraging than we expected.

Dr. Lopez-Chavez told us that the survival statistics that I found on the internet are too general to apply to me. I'm in the lowest risk category for for this lung cancer for a lot of reasons. First is my youth. (A little slack here please - It's all relative.) Next, cancer behaves differently for non-smokers than for smokers, even when it is the exact same type of cancer. Third, I have a category of cancer called "non-small cell", which is less aggressive. Finally, my physical condition is excellent, with the exception of that pesky cancer problem. What makes treatment more successful is if you can treat it more aggressively, which you can do only do with people who are in good physical condition.

Dr. Lopez-Chavez also offered the possibility that I may qualify for one of two new therapies that are targeted to the genetics of that specific cancer. My biopsy will be tested. If I qualify, I will start on one of these treatments first. Odds of shrinking the cancer go from 30% for chemotherapy, to 60-70% for the targeted therapies, and there are no major side effects.

In most cases, the targeted therapies and regular chemotherapy are expected to shrink the cancer, not eliminate it. The plan is to try one therapy for a full course, then stay off all therapy until the CT scans show cancer growing again. Then the process is repeated with the next therapy. Some people are fortunate enough to become cancer free. Otherwise, it simply buys more time. Meanwhile, new therapies keep coming out that are more and more successful, so the more time we can buy the better. Someone very close to us is a wonderful example of this, which gives us great hope. She had a breast cancer that had a 10% survival rate. After a new therapy was discovered, the survival rate is now 90%, including her. I just need to hang around long enough to have her success.

The plan is to start chemotherapy September 1st. If we hear that I qualify for the targeted gene therapy, we would try that first, and start around the same time. We'd like to start NOW, but I have to heal from surgery before I can do either.

I'm preparing in advance for the hair fallout. A very short haircut is on the way. I've been there before, and I want to be ahead of the curve this time - Get used to it so people will recognize me, and so I'm not shocked when I look in the mirror.

A heartfelt thank you to all of you who have reached out to us this week. I have been brought to tears more times this week by your reaching out to me than by the cancer itself. It is awkward and uncomfortable to talk about myself, something that you wouldn't guess by the length of my emails. However, I value sharing and connecting enough to get over this. Feel free to ask to be taken off this list, or to delete them from your inbox before reading if this is far more detail than you care to get. They're probably not going to get any shorter. It's the only way I know how to share, and it helps me keep up my own optimism.

Love to you all.