The Man with a Plan

I believe, like many people, that things happen for a reason.  Some of those things are not always clear, and we find ourselves asking ‘why is this happening to me?” But having faith in one’s purpose in life and setting your intentions and most importantly— believing in the knowledge that God and the universe will sort out all the details— is a very comforting thing.

And, every obstacle is an opportunity.

And now I’ve got a new opportunity, and I have a man with a plan. It’s not Wyatt, (although it could be, he’s that amazing) and it’s definitely not Donald Trump, because he’s got no plan and will be impeached before the end of this year. (Setting intentions!)

The man is Dr. Ezra Cohen, and he’s my new oncologist at UCSD. And somehow, he has me feeling pretty good after a day of setbacks.

The bad news we received yesterday is that the cancer is not only in its original location, but has spread to my lungs and diaphragm. Two weeks ago we found out I was having a local recurrence, the third in just two years, and had a PET/CT to look at what else was going on in my chest, as I’ve been coughing a lot lately. He broke the news yesterday afternoon, and I will admit I was a bit numb. But okay.

The plan, while I can’t divulge all of it (yet) will be starting with a targeted therapy called Inlyta that has been used successfully in renal cancer and has the same marker as my cancer, following a month of tumor sequencing and all kinds of genetic stuff that I’ll never really understand, let alone be able to explain. : ) I plan to start in the next 2-3 weeks and continue on until phase 2 is ready. (More to come on that, later)

When I said there’s a reason for everything, it has become clear that our move back to Laguna was a bit of synchronicity. Having faced so many issues with the last recurrence, I needed a good, closer-to-home cancer team to follow up with me monthly, instead of making the long haul trip to Boston every time I had an issue.

My lead surgeon in Boston prompted a meeting with the new head of Head and Neck Cancer Surgery at UCSD, Joseph Califano, and our meeting with him led us to Dr. Ezra Cohen, the new head of Oncology for Head and Neck Cancers. Let me just say I have landed with (what I believe to be) the most exciting researcher and clinician dealing with immunotherapy for these cancers in the country. Not only that, he was appointed Chair of the NCI Head and Neck Cancer Steering Committee, so it’s safe to say he is well revered. Even my wonderful oncologist in Boston said, “There’s no one better” which fueled my confidence even more.

This man has a plan and has exciting things in store for me. I can’t believe I just called cancer treatment ‘exciting’ but who knew…

I feel so grateful and so prepared to get rid of this cancer, once and for all. I envision my healthy, full-of-energy body, taking me on a ski trip next spring, even if Wyatt has to drink hot toddies in the lodge all day, which you know he won’t complain about. Fellow skiers, get ready to hit the slopes.

XOXO, Kristin

img_8302

p.s. My matcha tea was just made much better thanks to Heather Snow. (Love you, H!) It feels so perfect, drinking my daily ritual in such a profound reminder cup. (Sorry if I offend, Grandma, or any other old friends who don’t see that this man is going to wreck our country and our planet…I still love you but am exercising my 1st amendment right.)

Third time’s a charm.

i-cant-adult-today-cancer-sucks

It’s been five months now since I celebrated my one year anniversary of being in remission.

But I’m sad to report it’s back.  (insert very unhappy face!)

But the good news: it’s small, it’s contained, and I’m going to get that scrappy little genetically mutated piece of garbage out of my body.  

So here’s how it all went down.

For those who don’t know, we moved back to Laguna in August on a whim.  We sold our house while on vacation, which wasn’t even on the market, and rushed back to Austin to pack our house and move in two weeks, just in time for Heaton to begin first grade.

The allergies in Austin were just killing me- on top of all of the other issues I have now following 90 Gy radiation (that’s three times what a normal cancer patient will receive in a lifetime) like my throat closing up, mucositis, a half-paralyzed mouth and vocal chord, vertigo and what seems to be a chronic infection in my right ear. I am just a hot mess of cancer treatment symptoms.  Anything I could do to alleviate one more issue was a no-brainer.  So here we are, back in Laguna with some fresh ocean air.

But back to the tumor.  All summer long, I had a small wound behind my ear that randomly opened up one day, and just wouldn’t heal.  This was a leftover wound from radiation and surgery from eighteen months ago now.  And that stubborn little thing just wouldn’t close up.  Even my local ENT tried to cauterize the wound two times with no luck, so we were running out of options.

On a random chance meeting with my lead Boston surgeon who was in San Diego for the annual ENT conference, he suggested I meet the new department head of Head and Neck Cancer at UCSD, saying I needed good consistent care on an everyday basis. It’s not easy (on us or the wallet) to fly to Boston every time I have an issue.  So we met this wonderful doctor, Dr Joseph Califano, four weeks ago.  After looking at the wound, and considering this crazy cough I’d had for weeks, the laryngitis, and the ongoing pain, he decided to biopsy it.

Sadly the news was not at all what we expected.  The cancer was back.  But if there’s a silver lining in this grey cloud of mine, it is that the cancer appears to be localized, superficial, small, and hopefully easy to remove.

We spent the last few weeks looking high and low for alternatives to another surgery. My surgeon told me last time that there wouldn’t be another surgery in my future.  But here I am, going in again.  I have been so excited about the advances that have been made in the last couple of years with targeted therapies.

We tried to find an immunotherapy treatment that was available- either FDA approved or in trial, but sadly my cancer is rare, also referred to as an orphan cancer.  (Stay tuned for an orphan cancer fund….there isn’t anything worse than a cancer diagnosis, only to learn that you have one that isn’t researched unless it happens to get picked up in a basket study)

We leave for Boston today, and I’m scheduled for surgery tomorrow at 11AM EDT. The surgery could go one of two ways.  The main issue is the closure of the wound.  My poor skin is so battered from all of the radiation and the nine big and little surgeries I’ve had, that we may have to do a skin and nerve graft from my arm and leg….just adding to the patchwork that makes up the quilt I call Kristin.  But that will come later, and only if I absolutely have to do it.

I will confess, this time is so different from the last recurrence.  When I recurred on my five year anniversary, I was so full of energy, and wasn’t living with any symptoms that affected me physically.  But I’m in a different place now, with intense neurotrophic headaches that can take me down for a full day, and the emotional fatigue that goes along with it.  I am doing my best to muster up the strength to go through this again, but it is going to be a challenge, for sure.

My dear old friend Rod Seymore shares these beautiful quotes every Monday morning, and last week was especially relatable.

“Every challenge we encounter in life is a fork in the road; and we have the choice to choose which way to go – backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough.” -Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

I’m going for the breakthrough.  Even if it’s a little harder to get there. Asking you all to send prayers, love, light and any long-distance healing (and blood conservation) meditations that will help me get through surgery Wednesday morning.

I’ll report back soon, post-surgery.  Praying that I’ll have good news and clean margins to share.  Love to everyone, K

p.s. another shout out, this one to Lina Flake for the photo opp.  That sign (and other silly props) arrived in the mail yesterday and it just couldn’t have said it any better! XOXO

p.p.s. let this serve as my out-of-office reminder.  I’ll be back on task this Friday. Monday, latest. : )

Good news..one year clean..sort of?!

365 daysAuthor’s note: for those of you who want the good news, skip to the last paragraph and enjoy that glass of wine.  For all you others who want the real story, keep your glass of wine and read on.]

 

One of these days, I am going to report back that we have taken the long journey to Boston, I’ve done a few MRI/CT scans, visited eight of my doctors, and received the awaited call from my lead doctor.  “Everything is perfect, Kristin!  Looking great!  Keep up the good work! Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”

But for now, the conversations are more like this.  (picture me in my house, doorbell rings, I’m walking to open the front door, and my lead surgeon/oncologist is standing there, with a giant check in his hand)

“Kristin, it’s me, Derrick, with Publisher’s Clearing House! You’ve won a million dollars!”

Me:  “Wait, Dr. Lin, you’re with Publisher’s Clearing House now?  What about that surgeon job?”

Dr. Lin: “Oh, don’t worry about that now!  You just won a million dollars!”

Me: “Oh, that’s wonderful!!!  Yay!  Can I cash the check now?”

Dr Lin: “Yes!  Of course, but just remember to pay the taxes first- not exactly sure how much they will be, but I’d go ahead and write that check for $999,990.000.  That should cover it.  The other $10 is yours.”

Ahem.

Starting to feel like this is my story.  And yes, I am delighted to be alive but I would like a simple Hail Mary without an asterisk and fine print.

So the story goes like this:

We got home from Boston a week ago, tomorrow.  After two crazy days of appointments, we finally heard back from the doc this afternoon.  According to the lead radiologist, the scans appear as if there are “no new changes.” And for that we rejoice!  But then, he says, “But there is slight enhancement in Meckel’s Cave” and that means there is something new near my brain, and the previous 4 seconds of elation we felt just got reduced to a moment of bliss followed by a question mark.  He finishes his thought, with something about possible radiation damage, but it’s really hard to absorb the good when all you can do is ponder the negative.

I live this life…days with yoga and physical therapy and gentle meditation, followed by invigorating work for a business I adore, and most importantly, the joy of a family life that is full of love, but I have to admit that living scan to scan is a tough life. Making life plans on a quarterly basis is not ideal.  And contemplating the longevity of your family unit is even more painful.  As I wrote about many months ago- life is fragile, and we all know that.  But many of us do not live our daily lives that way.  Even with my really dreadful health and history of cancer, it is still hard, even in my body, to be mindful all the time and live each day to its fullest.

Those with crappy health like myself can relate to this.  A few weeks ago, in the midst of a hotel booking, the agent asked for my credit card expiration date.  “4/20,” I repeated. And as I stared at that date while I read the numbers aloud, I wondered, will I make it to 4/20, or will this piece of plastic outlive me?   

For someone with my type  of cancer — mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the parotid gland– and there aren’t that many of us,  we all know that living past the five year mark is something to celebrate.  And as of now, I am at almost seven!  But for someone like me who has this insane will to live, that isn’t good enough.  Because I want to be the model patient…the one who dies of old age with a bourbon in her hand.

I’ll say that at some point it becomes difficult, when running into friends at social events or making small-talk at work, to answer that question, “How are you??!” without saying “Great!”  Truth is, I am thrilled to be alive.  But the side effects of the treatment I’ve received (3 X the amount of radiation they give to people in a lifetime) plus the nine surgeries, have weighed heavily on my health and my spirit.  If I were to list all of the issues I have today, from vertigo to a half-paralyzed tongue with speech issues and twenty other things, it would remind most of the side effects rambled off at the end of a commercial on tv for a new drug.  But the problem is, I’ve got all of ’em.

My only hope today is that tomorrow I wake up with a whole new outlook on life and healing.  Because frankly, 92% of the days that I rise, I wake up with a spirit that is focused on healing and love and life.  But the other 8% wants a barely legal frozen margarita and plastic cheese queso (Austin people, you know what I’m talking about!) and a three-day bender with Netflix and Talenti gelato.

To end on a high note, for tonight, I am officially at the One Year Mark. And I am three months away from my next set of scans.  I do have something pretty awesome to celebrate!  That means another quarter-year of (mostly) bliss, and some beautiful sunshine in Laguna with my amazing family. But if you see me between now and then, and I’m eating queso, please go ahead and kick me.

Love to my friends and family, K

 

Life is fragile.

IMG_3013I don’t know how to say it other than life is so fragile.  And while I’m at it, life is also cruel and unfair.

I spend my days thinking about ways to get healthier, ways to prevent the cancer from coming back, my crooked smile, my mortality, etc. etc. etc.  All pretty ridiculous things to occupy my time on this earth.

But the awful reality is that tragic accidents happen.  I learned absolutely horrible, gut-wrenching news of a dear family friend whose life was taken yesterday.  And I just can’t believe it.  I have been nauseous all day.  And I can only question how they are managing to get through each waking minute.

I haven’t posted in ages, probably because I haven’t had much enlightening news to share. But today I have a simple message for my friends:

Hug your loved ones.

Kiss your loved ones.

Bury the hatchet on unproductive grudges that paralyze true happiness.

Be grateful for each and every day that you have in this life, and say it.  Or think it.  Or scream it at the top of your lungs.

Tell the people you love that you love them.  Even if you feel like a broken record.

And if you aren’t getting the love you deserve, get out and find it. (take care of business first, though)

Life is too short.  Too fragile.  And too precious to waste on people (and things) who do not make life more meaningful.

Thank you for hearing my emotional rant.

Sending love and prayers and healing energy to a family who has already had enough challenges for one lifetime.

Kristin

 

 

 

 

1 CT, 2 MRIs, 8 doctors, 24 hours and a heaping cup of gratitude

As any cancer survivor can attest, the dreaded quarterly follow-up scans can be the most nerve-wrecking, Xanax-inducing time of your life.  Then throw into our mix, a plane ride to Boston on an airline that will remain nameless. (but if I told you bad customer service and delayed plans I bet you could guess.)

Wyatt and I made the trek for a quick overnight stay in Boston, with appointments starting Monday at 1PM and ending Tuesday at 1PM. I can hardly believe we had eight doctor appointments and 3 imaging studies.  I actually DO feel like Wonder Woman! (thank you Leslie Needleman for sharing that power)

The big stress on the front end of our trip, which I chose to keep relatively quiet, was that a biospy had been ordered by my Austin ENT because he found suspicious ‘granulation’ in my ear canal, near the most recent tumor site.  So the CT had been scheduled for my surgeon and I was prepared to have the biopsy Monday afternoon.

But low and behold, let the good news begin!  My surgeon reviewed my CT scan, did a thorough exam, and said there was nothing to biopsy. Lucky me… I will always avoid those when possible!  And I could never be upset with Dr Fyfe, my Austin doc, for being overprotective.  He is watching out for me, for sure.

And then it got better.  I visited my plastic surgeon, the awesome Tessa Hadlock, and she couldn’t believe her eyes.  She actually saw some movement in my smile!  And frankly, I had quit looking for it.  At my last appointment with her in April, just before we left town, she suggested my gracillus muscle had been fried by the proton treatments. I had pretty much resolved myself to losing my smile forever.  But it didn’t matter as much as it used to, because I was alive after two battles with cancer and living life had become way more important.  I had a beautiful son to live for, and the best husband on the planet earth.  And family and friends who are so wonderful, who surround me with love and laughter every single day.

This is where the heaping cup of gratitude comes in.  I just can’t express how lucky I feel.  Sad at times, to have been dealt this hand.  But fortunate on the other hand to have this opportunity to live life with such meaning and clarity.  I remember that daily, and I say it to myself…thank you for the gift of this day, and thank you for the people I love, and who love me back.  This gratitude thing…it has become my favorite ingredient in life.

And to my final (and best) news of the day: we spoke with my surgeon late Tuesday.  He shared my MRI report from the radiologist- and that my scans are unchanged from three months ago. Even some decrease in the ‘uptake’, which in cancer terms means I’m washing that cancer right outta my hair. He was thrilled no doubt, but not near as thrilled as we are.

My sweet love Wyatt, we made it through another scary week.  Yes, we did. 🙂

This post is dedicated to one of the most amazing men I will have ever had the pleasure to know, Mr. Guy Ready.  I know you are with us in spirit and I will always see you smiling from up above.

“And when there was no crawdads to be found, we ate sand.”

Tags

, ,

chandon

You ate what?

We ate sand.

Thank you Raising Arizona, one of the funniest movies of all time for this reference. Now can you fill in the blank when you see the picture I posted for this blog.

“And when there was no champagne to be found, we drank Chandon.”

And for you smarty-pants out there (you know who you are) this is EXCELLENT news on the Heaton-Peabody front!

After a whirlwind day of appointments in Boston, the one that counted– my follow-up with the amazing Dr. Lin and a review of my MRI report from yesterday– the news is in: “It looks great!”  And then he said the word “great” two or three more times.

Yay, me!!

The report had some scary stuff in it as expected, things to watch and all of that stuff we knew would be included, but overall he was super-duper pleased.  He credited himself a couple of times for being such an awesome surgeon, and that’s why the MRI looked so good.

We concur, Dr. Lin.  You are awesome. : )

The final radiology report will be out next week, with a group review during the tumor board, so we expect to hear from him then to re-confirm that I am clean….but for now, we are feeling pretty squeaky.

Please allow me to end on this note, so I can finish this glass of bubbly with my amazing husband.  (who no longer needs a Xanax but will soon be getting a quality airport massage)

Love, K

Big day in Boston: follow-up #1

Tags

, , ,

boston common in summer

Good morning from Boston! It sure looks a lot different here than it did when we left. (disclaimer: I did not take this picture!) All I can say is that time flies and seasons change when you’re healing. 🙂

It was a late arrival last night, partially due to the 2-hour delay on American that seems to be the norm rather than the exception these days.  But, we’re here and that’s all that matters.

We have a super-hectic schedule with my MRI this afternoon and doctor appointments all day tomorrow.  We are feeling VERY good about things and praying for excellent news.

I will admit, the first follow-up is always a little scary.  But for me and my experience, the second, third and fourth are more cause to get the blood pressure rising.

Based on my limited understanding of these things, the first scan is most likely to show what appears to be cancer.  It could be inflammation, which I know I have because the outside of my ear is still not 100% healed.  It could also show scar tissue, and I certainly have a lot of that in the region, with so many surgeries I’ve lost count.

So what I find myself asking is whether a three-month scan is even really necessary, and why do they do it in the first place?  I guess that (and maybe there’s a doctor out there who can confirm or deny) it’s to look for larger, scary things that were not there before; those that wouldn’t be surgically related.

Either way, we are not expecting to hear “you’re clean, looks perfect!”.  We are hoping for a simple “it looks just like it should, and we will continue to watch it.”

So I lovingly ask for your prayers and love and light and all of the good things that can be teleported our way for a successful follow-up visit in Boston. Just believe, along with me, that there’s nothing big, new and scary inside my head this time. That’s all. 🙂

I will report back with news on Friday and then we’ll have that well-earned glass of champagne.

Love K

Memorial Day

It’s hard to believe we’ve been home for more than a month and I haven’t had anything to say.  I’ll chalk it up to a bad case of writer’s block coupled with sheer exhaustion after three long months in Boston.

So I’ll quickly bring you up to speed.  I’m feeling pretty good. 🙂 Tired but good. My wound is almost entirely healed and I’ve been doing physical therapy twice a week to help with the pain in my neck and arm.  It’s been so great to sleep in our own bed, see family and friends, and reacquaint ourselves with the growing swarm of mosquitos who are breeding in the constant rainfall we’ve had in Austin over the past few weeks.

I wrote this post two nights ago…on our connecting flight from DFW to Austin, after a quick trip to Laguna to deal with a home repair.  I had this experience and I needed to share.  (a quick side note…our flight took ninety minutes instead of the typical thirty-five, and it was very turbulent flying over the tornado warnings underneath our wings. So I am blaming any melodrama on that moment in time!)

We got a complimentary upgrade to first on American that night (a nice surprise) and as they were closing the doors to the plane, they invited a soldier from the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry to move to a seat across the aisle from us.  And I thought to myself, that was a nice gesture.

I couldn’t help but watch him, this young kid in his gear, the stress that he wore on his sleeve, and the way he yawned as were taking off.  His eyes told the story, the story you couldn’t stomach if you actually heard it.  I was fixated on how he was doing.

Much like my friends and family who were fixated on my cancer treatment and my recovery. I was constantly surrounded by that love and deep concern.

And then I remembered it was Memorial Day weekend. I thought about the NPR broadcast we heard in the car on the way to the airport.  It seems all we hear about lately are the challenges we face as a country…as a world.  With ISIS taking over countries and extreme militants pledging allegiance to a leadership that commits horrible crimes against humanity.  

It took me back to a moment; or to many moments, actually. To the last six months spent fighting for my life. Doing everything in my power to cleanse my body of an evil militant that wanted to take me down.

And for what?  I didn’t sign up for that.  I never asked for cancer to invade my body.

Yet, these men and women who serve in our military sign up for a fight.  They are knowingly signing up for a service that will most likely result in a moment–or a year, or a lifetime–spent fighting to protect the lives of people they will never meet.  They know they are putting their lives at risk–and could very well die serving their country. And most of the people they protect they will never meet–except for a quick glance and a humble ‘thank you’ on an airplane.  It seems so disconnected.

And back to Memorial Day…what has it become in this country?  Another opportunity for Sears to have an appliance sale and every car dealer in town to get rid of the avocado green cars they thought would sell?  It’s truly pathetic.

We need to remember that it’s a time to honor those who died serving our country. While protecting our rights as Americans.  For free speech and religion and every other right.  But we as Americans need to start protecting our own rights and quit relying on our military to do the heavy lifting.  It’s time to be conservative and reduce our footprint on this earth.  To use what we need.  To get solar panels and donate the SUV to a charity and purchase an electric car.  To turn off the water while brushing our teeth. To xeriscape our yards. To buy and eat only organic and non-GMO and show the food manufacturing companies that we want the real thing, not processed hot pockets. To downsize, not supersize. 

To end our dependence on foreign oil.  Scratch that.  All oil.

And can we please find a way to do this that won’t result in earthquakes in Texas? A place that has never had freaking earthquakes?!  (Yes, natural gas–the fracking industry–I’m talking about you….wolf in sheep’s clothing, with nothing more than a brilliant “clean air” marketing campaign)

It feels like the general population is on auto-pilot and has become so far removed from the big picture that is our existence on this beautiful planet earth.

When will we wake up as a country?

How can we say thank you to our servicemen and women?  How can we do a better job of caring for our veterans and for the families who lose someone to the ultimate sacrifice?

How can each of us lessen our impact on the planet?  And save a little piece of this precious green earth for our kids, and hopefully their kids too?

It’s a sketchy parallel I’m drawing between Memorial Day and the love of our planet and my personal fight against cancer.  But it’s my blog and I can write whatever I want.

Thank you 1st Amendment.

And while I’m here, thank you Dad for serving our country, and to the brave man you were named after, my great uncle Kencil, a pilot who fought and died in WWII.  And on that note, thank you mom, who cared for this newborn (me) when my father left home to defend our country. And to all of the others who protect our country whom I will never meet.  Thank you for putting your life at risk.

Today, I’m happy to be alive and sad for those who have lost their lives fighting for this country.  Let’s give thanks to these people by making an effort–any effort that resonates within us–to protect our planet.  We can all do our part.

Happy Memorial Day.

Single digits, piglets for sale!

Tags

, ,

It’s a mixed bag of emotions here this week.  Today was the countdown into single digit territory, which pleases me to no end. 🙂  After today, I have a mere 8 radiation treatments to go and one final chemo session next week.  That deserves a woo-hoo!

I also had a reprieve from chemo today, which was an unexpected yet very welcome turn of events.  I had hoped they would give me next week off so I could celebrate my 45th (gulp!) without the wet paper towel syndrome, but the doc said I might enjoy my birthday more if I took this week off.  Why, you ask?

Well, these apoptosis-inducing radiation blasts to my head have finally eaten through my skin and we have some bleeding and weeping to take care of.  And apparently the weekly chemo “turns up the volume” on radiation symptoms.  Add to that proton therapy, which is more damaging to the skin than traditional radiation, and you have a grapefruit-sized strawberry on the side of my head that is going nowhere for a month or so.  Bottom line, no chemo this week so yippee for me!

Overall, my spirits are up, but the lethargy from radiation is making me one sleepy girl.  These days I just hang out in bed and get waited on.  I am starting to feel super lazy and I need to thank Mom and Wyatt publicly for putting up with me on a daily basis. (Thank you! It’s almost over!)  I’m feeling pretty good about myself just walking the .6 mile journey to the hospital and back each day.

I am going to get through this crazy chapter in my life, and I just need to remember that we’re on a plane headed to Austin, TX in only twelve days.  Some days are better than others, and as long as I continue the daily affirmations that I am healed, I will get better.  I’m just waiting for the rest of my body to catch up.

On a lighter note, I got this text yesterday.  I just can’t delete it because I love it so much.  Apparently I’m now in the piglet business.  Just don’t get me started on the inappropriate use of apostrophes, or we’ll be here all day.   XO K

piglets

Natural Killer Cells, reporting for duty

Tags

,

natural killer cells

It’s another big day in Boston.  And I’m here to report the feelings of ‘Blah’ finally waned over the weekend, passing the baton to a head cold and a couple more days in bed. I’m feeling much better today, just in time for the blahs to kick in tomorrow.  I would like to think I can will myself out of feeling bad and just get through it with positive thinking, but after five consecutive weeks of chemo under my belt I think I know what to expect.  No Jedi-warrior-mind-tricks will work for the chemo cocktail hangover.

On a positive note, because I don’t want to lose all of my readers after the first paragraph, 🙂 today is my highly anticipated 2/3 mark!  I’ve now completed 24 of 37 proton treatments and 4 of my 7 weeks of chemo…unless I’m lucky enough to get away with 6. Jury’s still out on that one, but I’m holding out for a reprieve.

On another VERY EXCITING note, I had a call with my nutritionist yesterday to review the body chemistry blood panels we’ve been taking every few weeks in addition to the regular panels my doctors draw.  I’m only low (or high) in a couple of areas but it’s to be expected when you’re undergoing both chemo and radiation at the same time.  Lots of inflammation, proteins getting zapped by tissue in need, and vitamin D sinking. (Hello Boston’s Mother Nature, can we get some sunshine already?)

But she was thrilled about my Lymphocytes in the white blood count number. Lymphocytes are the ‘Natural Killer Cells’ that eradicate bad cells, i.e. cancer. When your body is functioning the way it should, your lymphocytes are taking care of all the foreign enemies that need to leave the body.  And it is expected that they will take a plunge during treatment, but mine are actually on the elevated side for someone at the tail end of treatment. So that means my NKCs are reporting for duty, not allowing cancer cells to proliferate in my body.  Yay, my own body doing some heavy lifting!

She also noted that my thyroid levels are nice and low, which is highly unusual for cancer patients.  High thyroid levels are related to stress, and that means my stress levels are taking a La Casa Que Canta-style vacation.  This has been a consistently low number for me throughout treatment, and I can chalk that up to daily yoga (I’ve only missed three days in six weeks), meditation, prayer, and lots of hugs and kisses from the family and visiting friends.

I’ll toast to that. 🙂

On a somewhat related note, last night we watched the second of three episodes of Ken Burn’s six-hour documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies.”  Wow, is all I can say. The first episode was a complete downer.  The second started to show signs of hope. I’m holding out for the silver lining in the finale tonight.

There are times I watch these documentaries and realize that this disease is a lot scarier than I give it credit.  When you’re in it, you just muster all the strength you’ve got and make a plan as to how you choose to handle it. But when you watch other people going through it, I feel profound empathy, witnessing this potentially defeating human experience in others. Especially watching the children going through it.  That is heartbreaking with a capital H.  I see these young kids and their parents every day in proton therapy and it just makes my heart ache.

What I realized yesterday is that even though I’m 44 years old, I am my parents’ child (duh), and it brought some clarity as to how hard it must be for them to go through this. I’m so lucky to have the love and support I do.  They’ve been with me every step of the way, showing up in every way.

For all the others I see in the halls of the cancer center, all I can do is send love and light and healing prayers, and hope they get the same opportunity I’ve been given to embrace life and enjoy this beautiful spiritual journey.

Thank you for listening.

Love, K