Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great scan #2 results

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NEIL!! 37 TODAY! You are endlessly patient with me, and I did not so much as get you a card today. Talk about a self-centered wife. ("My cancer this! My cancer that!") But you still came with me to chemo and brought me blankets and juice and a burrito and you sat with me happily while I took a three-hour nap. You rule. I love you.

So below is my humble gift to you. I worked extra hard on it. Blood, sweat, toxins and tears:

**My tumors have reduced in size over 50% again! They are now tiny. Just millimeters long.**

My doctor repeatedly said this is "fabulous news" and we have "reason to celebrate". He also told me on a scale of one to ten, these results are a "10". He never sugarcoats news, either, so he means it. Believe me, I tried to read his face for a trace of falsehood, but I get the feeling he's not in the business where you lie to patients.

I asked him to compare my results with others in my boat. He said that if you took 100 people who have the same situation as me and compared our test results, my results today would probably put me with the top one or two.

Greedily, I asked him if he was surprised the tumors weren't completely gone. He said that would have been exceptionally rare. But he also said that the results I'm having are consistent with the results he sees in a person who gets well again. (This bit of news makes me stop breathing when I think about it. I almost can't bear to think it could be so good again. My heart will explode.)

I am completely aware how incredibly, incredibly lucky I am. Most people who have my diagnosis do not respond this well. I don't know why I am the lucky one (age? overall health? just dumb luck?) but I'm beyond grateful to be going down this road now. I also know that NOTHING is certain and I have to keep fighting, so this thing doesn't dare come back. I have some work ahead of me still.

My next scan is in two more months. Late June. Assuming it's GONE by then, I still will have two more months of chemo after that. So any way we slice it, I'll be in chemo through August. Not my favorite thing to think about, to put it mildly, but with great results like I'm having, I'll take it.

I'm really tired today, having just gotten chemo (which is getting a little harder each time. I've now had 9 of them), but I wanted to pass along the GOOD news, and I'll chat with you all soon. Feel free to call, but if I don't answer, I might be snoring in the couch. It doesn't mean I don't love you.

A big thanks to everyone-- you included-- for caring about me. It means the world to me to feel supported. I wonder if I would be doing this well if I were alone. I kind of doubt it.

Here's your free pass to party tonight. Do it for me! I would join you if I could. And I promise I will in September.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Speak your mind!

In response to several requests, I somehow managed to hack into the mind-bendingly complex settings of BLOGGER.COM and alter the "comments" settings. It's probably never been done before, but hey: I went to college in the mid-90s. I know a thing or two about the WW Interweb.

Now you should be able to post comments without any trouble, no matter what your email address is. So bring 'em on, amigos!

Love ya(s)!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Big day manana

My big scan is tomorrow, to see how much of this crapola cancer has decided to stick around. And how much longer I'll get to take part in the experience of chemotherapy!

Good ol' chemo.

Inspiring chemo.

"Chemotherapy: Not quite aspirin!" (TM)

"Chemotherapy: It really deLIVERs" (R)

Perhaps one day I'll put it all down to music.
"Chemotherapy: The Musical"

or an epic novel.
"Chemotherapy: The story of a girl and her lung."

Lots of inspiration to be found there. Anyway, stay tuned for my test results. Get ready to party, because I know they're going to be GOOD.

Maui. Wowie.

Neil and I just returned from 5 days in Maui, COURTESY OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Once again, I find myself completely indebted to others. Honestly. What kindness. How can I pay everyone back? Cat-sit for you? Do your mending? Spell-check your resume? Let me know, and I'll do it.

Yes, our time in Maui was amazing. GO FIGURE. There's something about walking outside in a tropical place. I love the sound of the palm trees going "shhhhhhhh" all around you while the waves crash in the background. The warm air just feels SOFT. I love it.

We stayed at this real-super-fancy resort called the Honua Kai. It's in N. Kaanapali. We were la-zy. We snorkeled and swam and ate a ton (I ate two breakfasts, sometimes three, each day. Because why not.) Lotsa fish. No kiiiiiidddds.....

I felt terrific the entire time. Oh, EXCEPT one night. I had 1.5 beers at dinner, which is more alcohol than I've had in 6 months, and at 3 a.m., I experienced what felt like a monster hangover. I think it's because my body is already filled to the brim with poison. My liver was like, "OH GOOD, MORE TOXIC JUICE FOR ME TO FILTER OUT. THANKS FOR NOTHING, BAKES." But I was better by 10 am, and we spent the day outside. So that passed!

On the last morning, we snorkeled a final time and ran smack into a huge sea turtle, paddling alongside the reef. I remember wishing that at that moment, my mask would turn into a live-feed video straight to your computer so you could be seeing what I saw.

Big props to Grandma/Baba, Gramie, Sydney, Kim, Julie & Erik, and Laura & Shannon for helping with our kiddos!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Here are some milestones for me in the next few weeks:

This Wednesday-- Mom arrives for a visit.

This Thursday--chemo #8

Next Wednesday, April 21--GO TO MAUI WITH MY HUSBAND AND NO KIDS. For real. OMG. Cannot wait. Also: my brother Scott's b-day. Send him a card/gift, he deserves it. He just spent 9 days here wrangling my children.

Next Sunday--Return. Mourn.

April 26th-- 3-year old daughter's first dentist appointment. Should be really smooth and easy to keep her in the chair.

April 27th-- My next big CT scan, to let us know how much cancer is left, if any! SEND ME GOOD VIBES!

April 29th--My husband's birthday, also the day we get the results of my scan. That HAS to bode well for us.

After that, we'll know how much longer I have to go through all this fun chemo stuff, and what other next steps might happen. I'll keep you posted, of course.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet guts o' mine


-Is my hair frizzy?
-Do I look fat in this?
-Is that a wrinkle?
-Why don't I have ANYTHING to wear?
-Is she mad at me?
-My stupid nose! (I broke it a few summers ago, it's slightly crooked now. I'm sure you all have noticed.)

Funny how times change. Now I am more into topics like:
-Are my organs functioning?
-How big are my cancerous tumors today?

And, getting down to the more fancy-free worries:
-Do I have ANY summer shirts or sundresses that will cover this ugly, bulging port they put in me?
-Neil, mind if I go shopping?

Plus!: Instead of worrying about the shape of my schnoz, now I wonder if it's dripping blood down my face while I'm telling a story.

I bring all this up NOT to complain or to draw sympathy (the idea of that makes me barf), but to point out a curious shift in my thought processes. I now have TREMENDOUS gratitude for things I used to take completely for granted, like properly functioning intestines. Lungs with great capacity! Blood counts high enough for me to feel energetic and happy! I consciously think about what a great job my body does. By simply functioning (and well), it makes me so grateful. So grateful that I think about it pretty often. I even sometimes hug myself over it. (Seriously. I've done it more than once. Mostly when I'm sitting on the floor. Arms around knees.)

When you think about it that way, who cares what shirt you picked out today. Who cares if you look a little chubby.

It's kind of liberating, actually.

This all came to me while I was in the fitting room last week, trying on clothes. I saw a few thin young women totally fretting about how "fat" they looked in their clothes. I kept telling them they were wrong, and to buy those pants, for sure. They tuned me out (In retrospect, I was probably creeping them out. "Who's that girl in room #4? She keeps telling me how hot I look.") But it made me sad. Their unfounded worries were actually turning their fun girls' day into a depressing affair.

Well, aren't I all Gloria Steinem today.

I know none of this is groundbreaking thinking. But if you're gonna worry, make it about something IMPORTANT. I wish people would be kinder to themselves. You look great, you aren't too fat, people like you. Your guts are humming along like clockwork. Give yourself an "A+" for the day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

From Zero to Terrified in 1.5 seconds

Last Thursday, (4/1), I had chemo #7. PARTY.

At my appointment, I asked my oncologist a couple questions, and in hearing his answers, my mood went from hopeful to cocky to stone cold terrified to grateful, all within the span of about 2 minutes. Just thinking back on the conversation brings back those feelings again, all blended up like a frappe. A Fear Frappe with a twist of Cocky.

Here's how our convo went:
"So, Doc, I had a really good scan last time. My two lil' tumors are over 50% gone, after just 4 sessions of chemo. Do most people in my same boat do as well as i did?" (Ok, I was setting myself up here for a big pat on the back, I guess because I just needed some encouragement. Feeling scared, but hopeful.)

He never sugarcoats his comments, nor is he prone to hyperbole. None of the "Oh, Shelly, truly, 'twas the finest scan I've seen in my THIRTY-PLUS YEARS. I overnighted it to the Mayo Clinic for their 'Wall of Fame'." Instead, he answered, "It was above average." And I believe that's his way of saying, "Crack the bubbly."

I got the answer I wanted. Suddenly I'm all cocky.

So then I asked him my second question. "Ok, then. So how come very often when I talk to people who happen to be doctors they don't flip with excitement over my great progress? I want a Roberto Benigni-style reaction,
not Simon Cowell. They're so MEASURED and SERIOUS all the time. What gives?"

My doc answered, "The truth is, for the last 30 years or so, we haven't had many good drugs for colon cancer. So we haven't had a lot of good news. Success rates were NOT high. But the good news is, and what studies aren't really reflecting yet, is that in the past 4 years, we've gotten some really great new chemo drugs for colon cancer. Especially in the last 2-3 years. Drugs that are really seeming to work well."

More encouraging news! A little more cocky, with a huge twist of hopeful.

And then, he turned to me and looked me squarely in the face and said, "Even so, the truth is, most people who have what you have will DIE."



Then he quickly added, "BUT, a small group of people do FABULOUSLY." He put his two hands about 4 inches apart, as if he were about to clap, to indicate the size of this group. "And as of now, you're in the fabulous group, Shelly."




I'm doing 180s here. Happy! Sad! Hopeful! Scared! It's enough to make a person insane.

What's funny is, I knew all this stuff before, but hearing it put so plainly just reminded me (again, like I need another reminder) how serious this all is.

And more importantly, at the same time it also reassured me that I AM CURRENTLY HOLDING A POSITION ON TEAM FABULOUS. In fact, I'm center fielder! Actually, at this point I'm still on the bench. But I have the uniform. (And I wear my socks pulled up high, it's way cuter.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Butler the Underdog

For those of you who don't pay attention to such things, the NCAA college basketball tournament just wrapped up this week. The small college, Butler, a #5 seed, made it all the way to the final game.

As the tournament went on, I have to say, I started to really pull for that team. "Hmmm. 'Butler', that's my name, too!"

Against the odds, they were beating their adversaries. "Hey... Just like I'M beating this disease."

It is totally hokey, but I started to think of their successes as mirroring my own. For a non-fan, I was cheering pretty damn hard for Butler in that final game. And they played awesomely. In the end, they lost to the big powerhouse, Duke, by just two measly points. But in my book, they won. And, thus, by my highly scientifically sound theory, so will I.

Hokier than the hokey pokey, I know. I know.