Think Genetic Mutants Aug 30, 2011

Friends and Family,

Let's start with this: Not everybody wants as much detail as I feel the need to share. If you would rather just get the highlights, respond to this email with "Give me a Lite!" or something similar. If you have heard enough, just tell me to take you off the list, and you can catch up on the blog ( if you want an update. I will also not be in the least offended if you change your mind at any point in the future. Be warned: From this point forward I feel free to make these emails as long as I feel the need!

The waiting process to begin treatment got extended a week due to miscommunication between Providence and OHSU regarding what tests are being done, and when, to determine if my cancer has the genetic mutations that would respond to targeted therapy. We found out that my cancer doesn't have the first genetic mutation, so we are waiting for test results to see if I have the second mutation. There are only two mutations that have targeted therapies with proven results. We should hear the results by Thursday. If my cancer has this second mutation, then I will qualify for the targeted therapy, which is more than twice as likely to be effective, and has almost no side effects compared to chemo. GO MUTANTS!!!

Regardless of which path I end up taking, treatment will start next week. I'll send you an update as soon as I hear the news.

I want to share two stories from a woman who has been a great inspiration in my life. I used to work in a related field with a cancer counselor at Providence Medical Center named Katie Hartnett. After working with her for many years, I heard that she was diagnosed with cancer herself. I ran into her one day at Providence, and after a couple of minutes of polite chit-chat, she said, "I don't know if you've heard, but I've been diagnosed with cancer. It's a Stage IV cancer that is so spread throughout my body that they don't know where it even originated." I awkwardly told her that I had heard the news. She said, "Isn't it a blessing! I've had all these wonderful patients over the years to teach me how to deal with it!" When we finished talking, I walked away feeling a tremendous rush. I was inspired! It's odd, but I thought, "WOW! If I ever get cancer, THAT is the kind of attitude that I would want to have!"

About seven years later, in 2006, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Katie was one of the first people that I contacted. She was still alive, and cancer free. With that kind of attitude, of course she was! She shared a couple of things that were very meaningful to me, and I want to share one of them with you. She told me that when people are diagnosed with cancer, she is much more concerned with how the family members are coping than with how the person with cancer is coping. I trusted that she knew what she was talking about, but I didn't really get it.

After surviving cancer for the past five years, I get it. All the support comes to me, but Genevieve's whole world is being rocked. Her lover and partner may not live, but she has no control of this. Her financial situation may change dramatically, but it would feel heartless to start making financial plans to be without me. People ask Genevieve, "How is Dann doing?", but very few ask her, "How are YOU doing?" Even if they ask the question, how does she answer? If she's doing OK she looks heartless, and if she's not, then she should "suck it up" because I'm fighting for my survival and need support. It's hard to show her fears to me, since she is sure that faith that I can make it is one of the most important things that she can offer me. Where does she find room to feel what she really feels, and still be supported? If you have had any similar experience and have thoughts about this, I would love to hear them.

OK, I'm off my soap box for the day. More to follow when we have some news.

Love to all.