Prayers for lymph nodes, please
I had my quarterly PET scan this morning.
Today’s scan result showed that I have stable lung tumors, and continue to have no cancer in my liver or bones. It also revealed, however, that there has been progression in my lymph nodes. My cancer, for whatever reason, is continuing to (slowly) progress and grow in my lymphatic system, but – thankfully — it is not leap-frogging into my vital organs. My cell search test (the one that checks for errant cancer cells floating in my bloodstream) was again “zero”, another sign of almost-stability.
Dr. Wonderful’s assessment of this report is that we can be grateful that I do not have rampant cancer in the vital organs; if I did, I would almost certainly be symptomatic and we would have a boatload of problems to mitigate. The fact that cancer is growing my lymph system is bad, but it poises us with “problems for the long haul, rather than problems for the short haul” in Dr. Wonderful’s words. Clearly, it is high-five-worthy to have my oncologist still talking about the long-haul. My overall synopsis of today is that it is ‘good bad news.’
The obvious bummer of today is: progression. Progression is never good, never what we pray for, never what we wish.
The silver linings of today are twofold:
One, cancer is active only in my lymph nodes. I can live for a long, long, long time in this state with cancer confined to these nodes. I do not have cancer symptoms from these metastases; no bone pain, no liver complications, no impact on my lung capacity.
Two, I am changing drugs. The last drug, which I started in July 2016, was becoming increasingly difficult for me to tolerate. For the month of February, I was spending more time in bed than I was spending out living my life. I am thankful for that drug’s role in breaking and braking the cancer for the season, but I am also leaving it behind today with a nod of ‘good riddance’. (For those of you who know my usual affinity for my cancer-killing drugs, you know how bad I was feeling for me to have a “good riddance” attitude towards this one.) I will not miss the many major side effects I tolerated, though I am still grateful for the weeks of stability/regression it gave me. I am hopeful for a better quality of life on the next drug.
Brad came with me today; he is a pillar of support. We’re both semi-relieved to be off the drug that was stealing much of my Jen-ness; it is the only upside to a progression report. We’re both fiercely hopeful that my cancer will miraculously cease growing, regress, or even disappear completely. Hope is where we continue to pitch our tent. I am typing this now during Maren’s volleyball practice; Brad is picking up Greta from her tippy-toes dance class; our life goes on with little-to-no pause. I pray regularly for the suffering-to-perseverance-to-character-to-hope chain of events to manifest in our lives, including tenderheart Maren and sweet Greta.
I absorb the news more seamlessly than I used to. I have used the analogy of a car accident before. This is my tenth? twelfth? car accident and while it’s not less scary, it is less unknown. I ache for a series of miracles in which I would never have to know this feeling again…
The only time I teared up today was during Maren’s volleyball practice as I watched her overhand serve go sailing over the net, and the corresponding grin and pride that spread over her face after she did it. She has been frustrated and working hard; she and I spent an hour in the gym this weekend working on it. It’s awesome to see hard work pay off, and I’m grateful for the grittiness that she sometimes chooses to put forth. We told the girls together about the scan results tonight. Maren asked short, blunt questions that clearly indicate that she is fully aware of the situation and most of the complexities. Greta, ever an empath, gave me a tight squeezey side hug as I talked.
**If your kids know my kids and you share our news with them (either directly or if they overhear you talking), please follow through with clear coaching on how they should handle this information. Maren and Greta (nor their classmates), should never have cancer brought up in their presence or have questions asked of them. If they want to talk, they will bring it up (and they don’t, and they likely won’t). This is super-important for our family, so thank you for your help on this!
I will start the next drug tomorrow. It has its own set of side effects, but hopefully I will tolerate it better than I did the last one. I didn’t start the new drug today only because it is not a drug that is regularly stocked in the oncology office, so someone today is flying it in from a pharmacy somewhere, and it will be ready and labeled for me by tomorrow morning. I’ll have chemo on Tuesday this week, then will resume my Monday schedule. People often ask — I choose Monday as chemo days for two reasons: Dr. Wonderful is at the office closest to my house on Mondays, and it poises me to be in top form on the weekends. With the girls in school and Brad at work, it is best for me to recover on the weekdays. My new treatment will take place every week, so each and every Monday you can find me in the infusion room.
As I sit tonight, I find myself shrugging off the worry and shifting the burdens aside. I focus on the good, count my blessings and seek the wonder in this day. It’s time for me to spend time with you family. As ever, we appreciate your prayers and blessings.