Thursday was my last day of chemo, and it turned out to be a real treat. Genevieve and her twin sister Charlotte came with me for the first part of the day. Genevieve has been with me for every minute of every appointment, and Char was with me in chemo for the first time. Since I knew they had to leave to drive to a workshop at Mt. Shasta, I invited my friend Buck to sit with me for the rest of the day. This is a full day process - We start at 8:00, and finish at 4:30 - so having the support is a real gift. However, Buck went way beyond, and absolutely floored me. In support of me, he shaved his head bald!!! It is one of the few times in my life I have been left nearly speechless. We spent the rest of the day arguing about who looks better bald, and in mock indignation when people told us we looked like brothers.
I spend a lot of time wondering how well the next phases of treatment will go, and what will come next. I don't know how much time I have left to live. We all start thinking more about what our life meant, and what it still means, and what we have left to do as we get older. That process has been accelerated for me. I think about what I can do that will make the treatment more successful so that I can live longer. Then I remind myself that these positive steps will not only improve my chances of living longer, they will also make my life better. Isn't that what it's all about? Why wait until a moment like this to think about what will make your life better?
A few weeks ago Genevieve and I went out to dinner with some close friends, Chaz and Virginia. Chaz always asks the most thought provoking questions. He asked what I was learning this time that is different than what I learned when I had cancer five years ago. I told him that last time, the number one thing that I was focused on was removing the cancers from my life. This includes negative people, negative conversations with otherwise healthy people, some of the negative news, terrorism in television shows etc.
This time is different. Although there are others, I'm focusing on asking for what I want and need. Next comes the even harder part, accepting it when it is offered! Both are about love. Five years ago I wouldn't have asked my friend Buck to sit with me in chemo, and I would have missed out on something very special.
I'm also focusing on giving love to others. It has been trivialized in greeting cards and songs, but it seems more true the more time I spend thinking about it: We need love more than anything else in this world. I wouldn't be alive without love today. Would you?
On to the practical details. Here's what comes next for treatment. I'll recover from this round of chemo in three weeks, and then start a "maintenance" phase. I'll be on Avastin, which prevents blood vessels from expanding into the cancer, which keeps the cancer from growing. It won't shrink the cancer, so it just buys time. I'll be on this drug by itself for anywhere from 2 months to two years, depending on whether ongoing CT scans show any growth. Avastin is one of the three chemo meds I'm already taking, but it's the one with minimal side effects. My hair will grow back, I'll have all my energy, and I won't have nausea.
When the Avastin stops working, I'll switch to a pill called Tarceva, the genetic drug. It works for months, or years, or permanently. It will shrink the cancer, or keep it from growing, with minimal side effects.
Here's another great source of hope. Five years ago when I had cancer, there was no Avastin and there was no Tarceva. Cancer treatment is advancing at an amazing pace. While I'm buying more time, being treated with Avastin and Tarceva, new advances are on the way. I don't have to rely on the hope that new advances are coming out every few years. I'm BENEFITTING from those advances right now! What better source of hope could there be than this that more advances are on the way?
Love to you all.