Breathing May 17, 2012

Friends and Family,

For the past few weeks my breathing has been noticeably more difficult. Even after taking a few steps from the bathroom to my bedroom and lying down, I'm breathing harder. I'm still doing the same exercise, but I'm pretty much at my limit every day.

I became increasingly distracted, then worried, and then preoccupied. I've felt pretty useless and distant the past few weeks. The only thing I could think of was that the cancer had started growing again, and rapidly. How else could my breathing get so much worse, so quickly? Tarceva (the genetic therapy) has been my "safety net" option, but if the cancer was growing that fast, it felt like the net had a lot of holes in it. Death started looking like it was just around the corner.

Last week I finally admitted it to myself, and then to Genevieve. She encouraged me to email my doctor. He responded in the best way possible. He had me see him again the next day. Before I got there he met with the treatment team of pulmonologists and oncologists, and got a consensus on what it could be. None of them thought that the cancer could have grown that rapidly. It felt like my lifespan just grew by a giant leap in that moment.

The two likely options didn't look good, but they did look better. One was that the Avastin caused my lungs to develop blood clots. The other was that the chemo had triggered the lungs to develop a pulmonary fibrosis - a thickening of the walls in the lungs that prevents the exchange of oxygen. We didn't get into the "what if's" until I had a new CT scan and some lung function tests and met with Dr. Lopez-Chavez again today.

The test results are in, and it's all good. The cancer hasn't grown, there are no blood clots, and it doesn't look like fibrosis. The doctor now thinks the cause is most likely to be side effects from a blood pressure medication. I'll stop the medication, and we should know in a week or so. Even if it's not the med, it's unlikely to get worse any time soon. I can live with that!

I have wasted the better part of the last few weeks with worry about things that never happened, and aren't going to happen. It has been a great lesson for me about living in the present. When I can't do that, I'll at least try to save the worry for things that I know to be true.