We're Smiling! July 18, 2013

Friends and Family,

Genevieve and I met with my oncologist today to get the results from my CT scan. We got the best news that we could have hoped for! THE CANCER IS SHRINKING!

Many of the little cancer dots throughout my lungs have disappeared, and the rest are getting smaller. The cancer is also retreating from my bones. My doctor estimates that the cancer has shrunk by roughly THIRTY PERCENT!

After we got the news, Genevieve and I had to stick around for another hour so that I could get a bone-strengthening shot. During that entire hour we couldn’t pull the grins off our faces. My smile muscles are now officially sore! What a great day this turned out to be!

I have never felt more confident coming into one of these appointments than I did today. I have been feeling so much better that the only doubts that I had were of the “It’s almost too good to be true” variety. I’m not breathing hard after simple tasks, my bones don’t hurt, and my energy level is climbing. People around me have noticed the difference too. Genevieve tells me I’m not wheezing in my sleep any more, and out of the blue an acquaintance at the gym told me that I looked like I was doing better. But my friend Ed from work said it best. The other day he said, “I can tell you’re feeling better because you’re giving people pooh-pooh again.” (OK, so he might not have said “pooh-pooh”.)

While we waited for my bone-strengthening shot in the chemo infusion room, the couple sitting next to us showed us a great example of how to get the most out of the life you are given. They were both laughing and almost giddy the entire time we were there. Veronica was bald and hooked up to an IV line. She told her nurse, “I told Larry that it’s been five weeks. It’s been too long. I want to get back to chemo!” I think she had been getting chemo every week or two, before they gave her five weeks off for her body to recuperate. This was her second time having ovarian cancer. She said that this time her tumor had been the size of a cantaloupe. Larry had a bout with colon cancer, and was now doing fine. A couple of years ago he went through chemo, followed by radiation therapy, followed by chemo. Through all of this discussion, the two of them were having such a good time that you would think that they were having a party, rather than having toxic chemo drugs injected into Veronica’s system. Watching them was a great reminder that, even though you may be facing death, you can still focus on the joy of living!

For me, the other takeaway from today is that the combination of everything that we are doing is paying off. This means you, my friends. Your support gives me the added strength to continue to live, long after my expiration date. I feel an enormous sense of gratitude for the inspirational cards from Lynn and Marlene, daily texts from Rebbecca telling me how the “Tarcevian Army” is battling on my behalf, Barb and Pete wearing customized Livestrong-type support bracelets every day, and countless other messages and conversations that tell me that you care. I don’t think I can tell you just how much what you do means to me.

And of course, there is Genevieve. She has taught me that there is nothing more powerful on this earth than the love of another human being. I could fill up a page with JUST THE HIGHLIGHTS of the things that she does to show that she loves me and to help me stay alive.

I won’t deny that I’m doing my part. Attitude, diet, exercise, sleep, and good treatment decisions. These are the things that are within my control. Equally important, I try to let go of everything I can’t control.

The last piece of this success formula is treatment. My oncologist is wonderful, and Tarceva, the new “wonder drug”, is doing the job we hoped it would do. On average Tarceva works for about 8 months, although for some people it has worked for seven years and counting (five years before the drug was even officially approved). My hope has been to live long enough to outrun this cancer, and have new treatments continue to be developed before I need them. So far, it’s working. My oncologist told us today that there is a brand new drug that has been shown to be effective after Tarceva stops working! They are also working on new drugs to overcome cancer’s eventual resistance to Tarceva, so by the time I get to that point (if ever!), another option may be there. Beyond that, he said that there are “softer” forms of chemo available to me that can extend life. All of this gives us more reasons to be hopeful than we have had at any time in the two years since I was first re-diagnosed.

Two months ago it felt like I was sliding faster and faster down a steep hill, heading for a cliff. There was nothing to hang on to that would stop me from going over the edge. Next it felt like I grabbed a tree root just as my feet were dangling over the cliff, and then held my breath while I waited to see if the tree root would support my weight. Now, I have my footing again. Instead of fearing the cliff, I get to look out and admire the view!

How else do I say it? I must be the luckiest guy alive.

With love and gratitude,