"Celebrate the moment."
In this post...
Good News - Finally
Then Some Blegh News
Spending Energy --> More Energy
Ending on a Fun Note!
There isn't less to write about, there's simply less energy to write with. Sorry, this blog is in deep need of some TLC.
But I finally have something substantial to report. First, the good news. (And sorry again, I have lagged on this post and it has now been two weeks!) Allllso... a quick apology for how disjointed this post is both in structure and in writing. I feel discombobulated. This is my best effort in stringing together thoughts and hitting publish before I forget for another two weeks ha.
Good News - Finally.
The results of my first comprehensive PET/CT scan during chemo came back very clean. The small tumors are all gone. The big mass in my chest area is still showing activity, but my doctor describes the amount of activity as "baseline" and "minimal." In fact, she says plenty of people show this activity months after treatment ends and for many, it just goes away slowly on its own.
So it's not 100% clean, but pretty damn close. It's the first thing to really, really hold onto. I can go into Rounds 5 + 6 armed with a more positive perspective because I know that it's working. All the crappy days, tears, aches, and pains are just part of the payment for my Get Out of Jail Free card. After my last scheduled round of R-EPOCH, I will have to undergo another scan about two months later. If the activity is still there and as long as it hasn't grown, I will undergo another scan a few months after that. Worst case scenario is that the PET/CT scan reveals more activity. That would indicate that the first line treatment failed.
But even if that's avoided, I'm finding it hard not to be anxious. I thought cancer would teach me to chill out. In some ways it has because I find myself letting things go sooner, but it has also caused me to believe in that worst-case scenario we've been told to scoff at. I very vividly remember during that first December doctor's visit (that would eventually lead to my diagnosis) I mentioned that Dr. Google had suggested my symptoms might be indicative of cancer. The doctor laughed it away, warning me to avoid going online to self-diagnose. I'd heard that before. Made perfect sense. I recall feeling silly for having even raised it as a possibility.
Less than 24 hours later, I learned I really did have cancer. I think from that moment on I'd realize that perhaps my defense mechanism of trying to expect the worst might actually be the most effective way of protecting myself. Tim would later point out that my career as a journalist had groomed me into easily employing that defense mechanism because I'd seen and heard so much on the job, from car crashes to shootings to just terrible, terrible luck. You know, the "wrong place, wrong time" scenarios.
I'd thought about having a massive "Fuck Cancer" victory party if first-line treatment (the chemo) went well, but now I'm reconsidering. I almost feel like I'm testing my luck with that, especially since you're generally not considered cancer-free until the two-year mark with this type of lymphoma. It's still very encouraging but I am still wary about what could happen. I know it's counterproductive to be anything but positive, but this is my reality (for now) and I've accepted it.
But this is what Tim said to me: "Celebrate the moment."
It was a wise thing to say at just the right time. I find myself thinking way too far ahead and that's so dangerous. I forget to appreciate the moment. So every time I start to feel myself jumping ahead a few steps and stressing, I repeat those words.
Another positive: I believe I'll take my health much more seriously when treatment is over. I've never been able to fully commit to healthful diet behavior (I love sugar too much!). I think this will finally get me over that hump. Driven by paranoia, perhaps, but better than nothing at this point!
Then Some Blegh News.
Hate to go back into Debbie Downer mode (and I'm not going to go into the details) but I recently learned about something else I have to deal with. It's not cancer-related but it's just another "thing" I have on my plate. I'm left feeling so drained, like I have nothing more to give but am also facing my toughest month ahead.
This is another "Dig Deep" test.
I keep thinking I've dug the deepest I can and then I run smack into another brick wall. It almost feels like this is happening to really force me to build inner-strength. Looking back on my life, I've been so blessed. I have never really had to overcome hardships. The worst was probably when an old boss had given me the unofficial green light to pursue what I had dubbed my dream job, then immediately reversed that decision behind my bad by contacting my potential employers to tell them I would not be allowed to go. It had been devastating. Outside of that... not too much.
So it feels like this: I overcome one obstacle only to realize there's still no finish line, just another stretch of hurdles. Hurdles with spikes all over them. Oh, and they shoot out poisonous gas so I have to clear them by a mile.
It's in this moment or these moments when I continue to discover just how resilient I can be. And how much faith I have. Not sure if any of you have felt this recently, but here's what has worked for me. I cry it out if I feel like it. I embrace the anger I have. I even allow myself to ask, "Why me?" Only after I let myself explore all of my emotions am I able to move on. Thankfully, I've always been able to let go of negative feelings pretty quickly. Regardless of how long it takes to turn around these emotions, I think it's critical that people let themselves really feel. We've been trained to "just be positive" so much that it suffocates our ability to be in touch with ourselves.
Spending Energy --> More Energy.
On that note... going that extra step, pushing myself to take one more step, however small, has been so rewarding. Now on Day 5 of Round 5 (just one more round left after this!) I have been struggling with fatigue, aches, pains, the usual.
What I've learned is that in those lowest moments, sometimes spending energy leads to giving me so much more energy. One such instance that helped me when I was feeling tired was getting to talk on friend Ryan Scott's (better known as "Chef Ryan Scott" whom you've probably seen on TV shows like Top Chef, Today Show, etc.) KGO 810 radio show. He invited me to talk about my cancer journey and it was wonderful to have that as an outlet. Tim even got roped into talking on air hehe ;). Mucho fun, thank you, Ryan!
Above all else, what has given me so much energy is having my beautiful, sweet, #1 mom over at the house cooking for me (and Tim), making sure we get the nutrients we need, and being able to have such meaningful conversations with her that we would have missed out on!
Scenario every day: I walk downstairs to the kitchen dragging my feet. By the time I go back upstairs, I am reenergized and smiling. That is the power of conversation and of osmosis. I am recharged by my mom's positivity and her love. I've realized how powerful it is to use energy in engaging with another human being because it often leads to more energy. Not only are you distracted from the pain that's been draining you, but you get absorbed in the present moment and in building human connection. I believe one of life's greatest measurements of success, at least for me, will be the number and depth of meaningful relationships I have with those around me.
Now check out how cute my mom is (all pics taken when she was accompanying me in clinic), including her Hello Kitty game haha, and how yummy her food looks!
Ending on a Fun Note!
Ok #SpicyStrong Army... just a few weeks left (fingers crossed) of this treatment! I am so, so thankful for your continued support through it all. The random calls, messages, etc. throughout this have saved me from myself ;) hehe.
Here are some pics from the latest friends' visits and get-togethers (I've had very few because of my limited energy).
Oh... and in my next post, I'll have an update on something I'm working on! I feel I got cancer to not only help me with perspective in life, but to help others. My hope is that this *project* will do just that.
Love you all.