90 More Reasons for Gratitude January 18, 2014

Friends and Family,

We got the results from my latest quarterly CT scan on Thursday. I had the scan nine days earlier, but my appointment was rescheduled for a week later due to a schedule conflict for my doctor. Usually the time between having the scan and getting the results is the most anxiety provoking time of all, because SOMEBODY knows if the cancer has grown, but it’s not us! Other people with cancer have referred to this as “scanxiety”, which seems like the perfect word. Genevieve and I have lost sleep and been preoccupied many, many times leading up to these appointments.

But this time was different. Even with nine days to wait for the results, I didn’t give it more than ten minutes of thought. My breathing didn’t seem to be any different, and until I got a cold I hadn’t been coughing any more than usual. (The cold was a killer that has lasted for two weeks so far, but “killer” turns out to be a very relative term!) Genevieve was also less concerned than usual. Every night she listens carefully to me breathing after I fall asleep, and she has been reassured by the lack of congestion.

Since I’ve left you hanging this long, you’ve probably already guessed that the results were excellent. There was again no growth at all in the cancer!

I want to put this in perspective. The only reasons that people go off Tarceva are because of side effects (rare that they get that severe), or because it stops working. The average length of time that people remain on Tarceva is eight months. It has now been nine months for me, and it’s still working perfectly. I have to believe that all of your love, and my own good attitude, are big parts of why it’s still working so well. And I’m even more grateful, because I’m now in the “bonus round,” beyond the average time of effectiveness.

That is only part of the perspective. There is more. I have been alive and doing well for seven and a half years since I was first diagnosed. I am way, way ahead of the survival statistics. During that time, I have lost two friends as well as my cancer mentor to cancer. I have also lost my young nephew to an accident, and my stepfather (such an inadequate word for someone I loved so much) to Parkinson’s Disease. Things happen, and people die. I have mourned their passing, while at the same time being all the more grateful that I am somehow still alive.

I have seen the hopeful side as well. Genevieve’s twin sister Charlotte has survived breast cancer – twice! – in the last 15 years. And my brother Matt’s wife Vicki has survived three different, unrelated forms of cancer, all within the last twelve months! Both of these remarkable women have positive attitudes, both do not consider cancer to be a part of their identity, and both are cancer-free. My sisters-in-law are giving me great hope and inspiration!

I met someone recently who is going through cancer and is at an almost identical stage of treatment as I am in. He asked me what I was doing to research future treatment options. I told him I was doing nothing! He looked completely surprised. “Aren’t you checking out every option? You have to be your own best advocate. You can’t rely on just one doctor’s opinion.”

That’s when it hit me how much this journey has changed me. I realized that I started out with that perspective. I armed myself with survival statistics and alternative therapies, all of which made me worry even more about when the then-current treatment was going to fail. Now (or at least most of the time) I live for the present and don’t worry about what the next step will be. I trust that if or when the time comes, I’ll have enough time to do the research, get second opinions, do anything else that I need to do. For now, living in the present is just right. And more than occasionally I look to the past, realize just how fortunate I have been, and have another reason for gratitude.

In fact, I have had 90 more days with no change in the cancer, which is 90 more reasons for gratitude.

If you will, please take a moment and think about those you know with cancer or other serious conditions, and send some positive thoughts and/or prayers their way today. Special thoughts today for Vicki and Charlotte.