My oncologist-Dr. Dietrich-retires from United States Army today. He has been by my side for 6 years. Two times, he literally saved my life. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me more time to do the things I want to do in life. His kind manner has changed the way I see the medical profession. I am headed to his retirement ceremony now!
This is the final port of call-for the port. Time to scuttle the metal that has traveled with me for over 5 years. It served its purpose, delivering life-saving chemo drugs (Carbo, Taxol, Gemzar, Avastin, and various blood draws. My last PET Scan showed good news…no hyper metabolic activity. (broken rib from falling/coughing? …but no cancer)
I don’t know why….but that was it.
Dr. D and I agree it was time for my little friend to go.
I was thinking about Neo in the Matrix (go to the end of the scene-worth it!):
But the doc assured me it would not be that traumatic.
Finally, it is out! I think a necklace would be a good plan! My Trophy!
Thanks to the Kym Roley Support Team (KRST) who waited in the freezing waiting room (Ross, Lesli, and Ben.) Ben and Lesli made me a little brekkie when I got back home.
In the Book Thank God It’s Monday, Roxanne Emmerich says, “I don’t care how many hours you work, how many obstacles you hit. Just show me the baby-I want to see the result.”
The Result is now! Time to focus forward!!
Each year I choose #OneWord to focus on for the following year:
(Oh wait…that is for the Astrological Cancer sign)
I’m calling it. Over….done….owarimashta…hallas…finito
How do you know when the end is really the end? Actually, you don’t. Move forward anyway!
What to consider…
Yes, Cancer will always carry emotions….beginning, middle and end. Allow yourself to feel the emotions. Each time a new friend or friend of a friend is diagnosed or re-diagnosed, you re-live the shock and awe of the original diagnosis all over again. Even when it’s over, it doesn’t feel like it’s over. Making a clean break is a good plan. You may have to go back in the relationship, but isn’t it better just to be over and done?
Get your port out!
Yes, get your port out!
Maybe losing the port is like getting rid of crutches…
Yes, it will leave a scar.
Yes, it is a minor surgery.
No, general anesthesia is not required.
When should we do it? December 22….Christmas gift!
We keep moving forward! Motivation is seeing my 84 year-old father fishing in 25 degree weather. #Neverstop
2018 will be a positive year of good health, family, and friendships!
Great news!! (definitely worth two exclamation points) Another clean PET scan! Diagnosed in 2012 Stage 3C…Three and a half years later…2 surgeries, countless chemotherapy infusions, 25 radiation treatments and a year of maintenance. Finals are graded and it’s time to enjoy the family and a much needed relaxation time.
Do you remember the childhood party game Musical Chairs? I used to love going to birthday parties and playing that. When the music started, you would walk around the circle casually, sometimes touching the chairs, just listening to the music playing a happy tune until some unseen hand took the needle off the record (Yes, we played that game with vinyl albums!) As the music suddenly halted, you lunged into the nearest available chair-hoping not to be the extra child without a seat. If you were unfortunate enough to be the last one standing, you were out of the game.
I compare my current situation to that childhood game. I go along living my life, teaching classes, walking, going to church, watching movies, listening to music, and then suddenly, it’s time for a PET scan. There is a breath holding few days where we wait for the results…Will I still be doing the daily drive to work (#hitraffic), watching Chopped on the Food Network, hiking the Aiea Loop trail, and generally being “normal” OR will I be thrown back into the grind of surgery, weekly chemotherapy, blood testing, and hospital visits. Each scan, I wait for the music to stop, and then determine if I am with or without a chair.
Last year on Valentine’s Day (incredibly bad timing), I received that call that my cancer had returned. Since March 14th, I have earned frequent flyer points at Tripler Army Medical Center. The current status is a monthly (which really means every three weeks) maintenance plan of Avastin and careful monitoring of my CA 125 levels to continue indefinitely (like in forever). Side effects of all of this include some pretty unkind migraine headaches and fatigue, but this is small “kine” stuff compared to the radiation and frontline chemotherapy.
In the meantime, I am listening to the music and focusing on my One Word for 2015! That word is Strength. Rather than making a series of New Year’s Resolutions about working out, eating less, and reading more, I am choosing to focus on a single word-focusing all my efforts towards building strength…in my body, in my mind, in my faith, and in my relationships. My plan for 2015 is not a single day event, but hopefully a series of activities that will make me stronger. Physically, I feel better now than I have felt since January of last year. I plan to run (haha-just kidding) walk in the Great Aloha Run in February. Am I ready? Absolutely not. But, the training process has begun.
I believe I’ll still have a chair in the game come next week! You are not behind. Start now. What is your One Word for 2015?
One of my favorite magazine (and now internet) features has always been the “Where are they now?“ segment. Something about being in the dark with zero information regarding a person, and then “BAM” right back into all the nitty gritty of their lives-some interesting, some bizarre, some tragic…….is so compelling. I thought I’d take you on a little Where are they now? trip.
1. David Cassidy-former star of 70’s show The Partridge Family and frustrated hard rock musician (I learned that in VH1 Behind the Music) in a pop music world has plummeted to the world of drunk driving in NY, garnering what appears to be a second DWI (the first from Florida).
The rookie cop evidently didn’t recognize the former teen heartthrob. (I think I would have.) Let’s hope he’s back on track now!
2. Mary-Kate Olsen My kids were fan of the twin powerhouses (to include Ashley Olsen) from the television show Full House. The favorite movie of our family was I am the Cute One. You can find this gem on http://www.youtube.com
Now, she has a jewelry line that makes a BILLION dollars in sales a year.
3. Haley Joel Osment Evidently I was not the only one who wondered whatever happened to the Sixth Sense boy. ABC news had a recent feature on him with this photo (and article)…What?!? That’s Haley Joel Osment? He is still making movies and currently is filming a movie in which he pays a Nazi.
4. Walter Cronkite-As a child I used to watch the CBS Nightly News with my parents and listen to Walter Cronkite say, “And that’s the way it is.” Sadly, he passed away in 2009.
I could spend hours searching the internet and dropping down a rabbit hole of information, but I wanted to share with you one that recently stuck with me.
5. Diem Brown–You may or may not know of this reality TV star who made her mark in the show MTV Real World/Road Rules Challenge. What impresses me so much about this woman is that even though she diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at age 23, she fought relentlessly and optimistically against this cruel disease until she passed away at 34. If you follow Twitter, you may know that her last tweet (posted days before her death) showed her resilient spirit.
Her fight (chronicled in People Magazine) focused attention on this silent and slippery disease. Here is a reminder of the symptoms:
Common myth: Your annual PAP smear does NOT detect Ovarian Cancer!
Where am I now? Doing well! After a total of two surgeries, 25 radiation treatments, and 28 frontline chemotherapy infusions, I am undergoing maintenance Avastin infusions every 3 weeks to keep this disease at bay. In the meantime, I can be found teaching Physics to some pretty darn amazing students on most days!
At one time, not too long ago, I was actually able to walk up Koko Head Crater-it was challenging, yet not impossible. The popular Oahu hike was approximately 1 mile…straight up…1048 stairs/railroad ties up the side of a enormous cinder cone. The view from the top was spectacularly breathtaking. These days, I think I could only walk from the parking lot to the trail head. However, even when I was able to successfully complete the hike, there were a few other folks that passed me like I was standing still. On the way down, still others were barely making it up. My challenge was a cake-walk for some and an impossible dream for others. Food for thought as I refocus my efforts toward getting healthy.
Now, I’m trying to get up the hill of recovery! What’s the plan? It’s a work in progress, a multi-pronged work in progress. Exercise-check. Ableit, in a much smaller fashion than BC (before cancer). My immediate goal is to walk up the hill in the neighborhood (all the way to the top). Healthy eating-check. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but for now, it’s plenty of veggies/protein and bags of spinach (they say it’s washed, but I am suspicious, therefore doing that hard salad spinning myself). I am re-acquainting myself with plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of Grape Nuts and fruit on top. It’s not as terrible as it sounds…really. Reading-check. On order from Amazon:
This Thursday marks my second maintenance treatment along with a Doc appointment on Monday. I haven’t been to Tripler Army Medical Center in three whole weeks (3.3 weeks). I am focused on getting myself sussed each day and up by 5:17 am and back into bed by 9:36 pm (this has something vaguely to do with sleep cycles and a sleep calculator). Still a long way to go, but the view on the way back up again is pretty rewarding. Plus, I am enjoying the lack of vomitting more than you can possibly imagine.
In a reflective mood? Maybe a little, but I’m looking backward and forward simultaneously. Musically, maybe some 4 Non Blondes will help you start your day with What’s Up?
I am scheduled for another PET scan today. I have the routine down fairly well. Cut back on carbohydrates two days before the scan, and go carb “free” on the day before the scan. I am not a huge carb fan, but the moment you tell me that I can’t have carbs, that is all I want. This photo is the “good” carbs, but I am thinking any carbs would be good about now.
The PET scan uses a radioactive tracer with glucose (sugar). Once you starve your body of sugar, and then re-introduce it in the form of glucose, it happily travels to all areas of your body….particularly areas of high metabolic activity. High metabolic activity is not good. My recent scan (Sept. 5) was good, so that bodes well for today. My number one goal is to focus on getting my body back to eating well, feeling well, and exercising well. So, what’s the hitch? My latest CA levels (the markers that they use to check Cancer) have notched up a bit. Could be nothing, could be something.
So, I am waiting. No food since last night at 6 pm. I am allowed to drink watery water (not my favorite) and I’ll be to Tripler Army Medical Center in a bit. First order of business is accessing my port, and then they’ll start the radioactive tracer. One hour of complete solitude in a dark room will follow. No music, no TV, no books, no company, nothing. (I guess they don’t want my high-intellect from listening to Morrissey or watching The Walking Dead to light up the scan.) After that, the tube. I am fairly good with the claustrophobic aspect of the tube, but my hands usually fall asleep during the scan. They used to tape down my forehead and hands, but evidently, I have graduated from this (or someone complained). Now, I just have to hold them above my head.
Results? Probably in a day or two. So much of this disease is waiting and watching. I know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I thought I’d put in a plug for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Simply put, if you have had unexplained digestive issues for more than several weeks, it would be a good idea to get it check out. I urge you to go and check out the symptoms.
Do the words “on the edge” connote something good or bad? I am hopeful as I take my first steps into unknown territory that is the start of something amazing. Today will mark (assuming all my blood work is in order) the last of the frontline chemo. If anyone was counting (me), there have been 28 treatments in total (16 in 2012 and 12 in 2014). Twenty eight infusions of chemicals into my bloodstream and 28 mini-battles to get myself back together again. But now… NO MORE Carboplatin and Gemzar….only Avastin. As Ross says, “I’m no mathematician,” (he is) but that is a 66.7% reduction in drugs. That is definitely worth a celebration!
The good news is that the weekly grind of treatments will disappear, but in its stead, is an extended regimen (while not as physically debilitating) which will extend for a full year. Done, but not done. The last time I did this, done was done, until it came back. This time, we are hoping that the Avastin will keep any new tumors from developing and growing. This monthly every three week therapy is one of the hot new cancer treatments that they are using on me. The word on the street The nurses are telling me that it will be much easier to bounce back from these infusions.
Even though 2015 is around the corner, this is my own personal New Year’s Celebration! The “journey” isn’t over by any means, but hopefully, it won’t be as rigorous. I am excited to begin exercising without catching my breath, drinking a glass of wine without getting a headache or vomitting, and spending more time with friends/family instead of crashed on the couch.
The next hold-your-breath moment will be at the end of this month. Doctor has ordered a PET scan to make sure that done means done.
The words that every cancer patient wants to hear-No Evidence of Disease! I was sitting on the exam room table when the nurse came in with the report and flopped it open for me to see. At first, I had no idea what I was seeing, but then, the words jumped off the page-NED!
A special girl, Morgan, brightened my day with a bouquet of Star Lillies. And yes, I want to keep “filing batter” for a long time.
What’s next for me? Three more chemos to knock out any remaining or developing cancer cells. Then, monthly (and by “monthly” they actually mean every three weeks) chemo for a year. I still have a long haul ahead of me. Blood pressure is too high (from chemo, of course) and platelets keep dipping (from chemo, of course), WBC (White Blood Count) is all over the place, and RBC (Red Blood Count) is dipping into transfusion land.
BUT, I am blessed! I feel lucky every day I get into work and am able to do my job and see those students. I’ve been through the ringer-surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, but because of friends like you, my battery is recharged. I can officially say I am a two time cancer survivor!
Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.