Message Received - November 17, 2012

Friends and Family,

I had CT and MRI scans last Friday, checking for cancer growth in my lungs and to see if it is spreading to other parts of my body or brain. I had a pretty good idea what to expect when we met with the oncologist this week to get the results, based on increased problems with coughing and even just breathing. In my mind, the best case scenario here is that the cancer has grown a little, and it’s time to start Tarceva. I was gearing up to accept this, but otherwise trying not to give it a lot of attention. However, what we heard from my doctor stunned me.

The cancer is not growing.

Since you’ve read my emails, you know I rarely run out of words. But this time I was speechless. I was almost certain that I had already used up more unbelievably good fortune than anyone could possibly hope for at this stage.

Eventually, I was able to get out a question. “I don’t get it. The survival time after diagnosis of Stage IV cancer is usually 6-8 months. It’s now been 15 months since I was diagnosed. I haven’t even had any treatment for five months, and the cancer is still not growing. Is this unusual?

Dr. Lopez-Chavez agreed. Then he paused, looked like he just realized something and surprised himself, and said, “It’s VERY unusual.” He has no explanation.

I have my own idea, and you keep hearing it from me. Your love and support are working!!!!!!!!!!! Combine that with attitude, determination, and healthy choices like exercise, and we’re beating this thing one day at a time. I’m grateful for your emails, your comments, and your other acts of kindness every day, though sometimes I feel a little too awkward and shy to say so directly. Let me say it again: Thank you, from the depths of my soul. I appreciate every word, every gesture.

The only explanation for the cough and breathing difficulties we can find is that I have the remnants of a cold that has been going on for almost eight weeks. I can’t fight off a cold to save my life, but we’ve stopped cancer in its tracks. Go figure.

The headaches have decreased. I no longer take enough pain killers to tranquilize a horse. At best, I could make a small pony groggy with what I’m taking now. But headaches – shmeadaches! I’m having less pain and there’s no growth in the cancer. Who wouldn’t take that in a heartbeat???

If you’ve never had an MRI, you’re missing a one-of-a-kind experience. The machine is so loud that they give you earplugs. Even with earplugs, it’s pretty loud. They packed my head in a helmet-like brace, and stuffed foam padding between my head and the brace to keep me from moving even slightly. The tests take about a half-hour, but if you cough, scratch (everything itches when you know you can’t scratch!), swallow, or think too hard in the wrong direction, they have to repeat one of the five or six minute tests.

I was moping for about a day before the test, thinking it would just confirm that the cancer was growing in my lungs, and hoping it wouldn’t show that cancer had spread to my brain. Then the loud machine started up. It made a lot of different noises. One of the first noises sounded like a nasally, mechanical “NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW”. Still moping, it hit me. “Maybe I should try living in the now.” I laughed at this message pounding in my ears, which was pretty hard to do while not moving.

So I get another giant reminder not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Stay in the NOW, and let everything sort itself out. Message received, loud and clear. Even through earplugs.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite day of the year. There’s so much to be grateful for.