A Little Growth February 12, 2013

Friends and Family,

Yesterday I got the results from my latest CT scan. This time I was feeling so good that I even had the fantasy that the cancer might have shrunk. But once again, the news was the opposite of what I was expecting. This time there was some growth in the cancer.

My oncologist showed me a side-by-side comparison of Friday’s scan with my scan from 6 months ago. I could see growth in some of the cancer nodules, and there were new ones that weren’t there six months ago. For background, this isn’t the typical cancer pattern, where there is one big tumor. Instead, the CT scan looks more like what you would see if you were looking up at the stars on a clear night. The cancer specs look countless and distant. Distant is where I’d like them to stay, but on the most recent scan they look closer than they used to.

Actually seeing the growth of the cancer made it real again. I can’t pretend that there’s nothing wrong with my lungs. But I was doing a pretty good job of it for a while.

Time for a reality check. I should have had to start treatment six months ago, but the cancer is growing much slower than expected. I am way, way ahead. I haven’t felt this good since before I was diagnosed, which was 18 months ago. I’m feeling great! My year-long Avastin headache is gone and I’m off pain meds, which has to be a big part of it. I’ve also increased my cardio workouts, so I don’t feel so winded after exercise.

Once I took a step back and reminded myself of how much better off I am than was expected at this stage, I started feeling much better again. The cancer has grown so little that I don’t need to start treatment again yet! How many people with Stage IV lung cancer are still alive 18 months after diagnosis, let alone feeling great? This is a fresh reminder to treasure every day. I don’t know how many I’ll have.

A friend of mine told me about a group of retired nurses who had worked with terminal cancer patients. Every one of them said that if they had the choice of how they died, they hoped that it would be from cancer. Their reasoning was that it would give them time to decide what was important in life, and time to say what they needed to say to the people that are important in their lives. Despite the negatives of cancer, I completely understand what they are saying. In some ways it’s a real blessing. Another time I’ll tell you about what I see as some of the other blessings of cancer. But do you need to wait for cancer to set your priorities? Can you treat yourself as important enough to do this if you aren’t facing death? It takes a lot of commitment if you aren’t facing a deadline.

One more short story. A few months ago Genevieve called me on the way home from work. There was a lottery drawing that night for a half a billion dollars. She asked me to stop by the grocery store and buy a ticket, which meant standing in line for about an hour after a long day at work. A big smile came across my face. I started thinking, “Why do I need to buy a lottery ticket? I’m deeply in love, I’m still alive, and I’m feeling good. What more could I ask for? I’ve already won the lottery.”

So here is what I said to my sweetheart:

“How many tickets would you like?”

The things we do for love.

I hope you win the” lottery”, and decide who and what are important to you. While you still have the time.