The dots keep disappearing!

My life is broken into 6 month, 3 month, and 28 day units with a treatment every 6 months, a scan every 3 months, and an injection every 28 days. Last Tuesday, was treatment day followed by a scan early the next morning. I usually get the results right away, but this time the doctor wasn’t going to be in until later in the day and because no one was expecting anything worrisome, it was suggested that I not wait around to talk with him. Instead, I got the results over the phone today and they were definitely worth waiting for!

Six months ago, we heard the good news that one of the five tumours that I had at diagnosis was no longer showing up on the scan. There were only four black dots instead of five. This time, apparently there are only three! Another one seems to have disappeared! The primary (original) tumour in my colon as well as one of the three on my liver are no longer visible! That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re gone. They could be, but what we do know for sure is that, at the very least, they’re so dead that they are no longer absorbing any of the radioactive substance that I’m treated with! In addition, two of the remaining three tumours are smaller than they were 6 months ago! That’s a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s a lot of good news!

My cancer is still considered incurable but when we spoke with the doctor prior to Tuesday’s treatment, he did tell us that people who get as far as I have (8 treatments) with this kind of success seem to have a very good chance of living a quality life for a long time. That’s a pretty vague prognosis, but it’s about the best they can say at this point and it’s good enough for me. It’s called hope; a lot more hope than I had a couple of years ago!

I would be remiss not to mention that though I have utmost appreciation for the medical advances that have brought us to this point and for those who are involved in providing my care, I also serve a miracle working God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” and I give him full credit and glory for today’s good news! (Ephesians 3:20)

Hope and a future!

It’s been awhile since I wrote an update about my battle with cancer which is, in itself, an indication that things have been going well. There really hasn’t been much to report which is a good thing! Yesterday, we sat down with one of my specialists to discuss the results of recent CT and PET scans. Though we weren’t expecting anything dire, I think we both walked out of his office feeling like a load had been lifted off our shoulders. Yes, the news was that good!

As many of you are aware, I have dealt with two completely separate and unrelated cancers over the past two years. The first good news was that there is absolutely no sign of the acinic cell cancer that was removed surgically and treated with radiation last summer. I have routine follow-up appointments with both the surgeon and the radiation oncologist next week, but I’m certain that they’re going to tell me that everything is fine.

We already knew that my primary neuroendocrine tumour, which is located in my colon, has been shrinking as a result of the radioisotope (Lutetium) treatments that I’ve been having. Yesterday we learned that the other four tumours, three on my liver and one in a lymph node, have not changed in size since diagnosis. That’s a glass half full / half empty kind of statement. While it would be nice to hear that they too are shrinking, the fact that they have not grown and that there are no new ones is actually very good news.

Another indication that the disease is stable, that my tumours are essentially dormant now, is hormone production. Neuroendocrine tumours (NETS) produce serotonin, a hormone that we all have in our bodies. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as one of the happiness hormones because a deficit may to lead to depression, but an excess secreted by neuroendocrine tumours results in carcinoid syndrome which, as in my case, results in symptoms that include abdominal cramping and diarrhea, skin flushing, and periods of rapid heart rate. It can also lead to heart disease and other complications. A 24 hour urine test is used to measure the amount of serotonin in the body. I don’t yet understand exactly what the numbers mean, but I was told yesterday that my level at diagnosis was 150. A year ago, it was down to 69 and now, it’s 42. Apparently, normal is around 40. That would indicate that my tumours are no longer actively producing serotonin which is definitely good news!

So what does all this mean for the future? There is no cure for NETS. Even if my tumours were to disappear completely which happens very rarely, I would not be considered cured, but I am now entering a maintenance phase. For the next two years, I will receive a Lutetium treatment every six months instead of every 9 to 12 weeks as has happened so far. Then, if things continue to go well, we’ll go to a treatment every nine months. Yesterday was the first time we were even told of that possibility!

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Yesterday was definitely a day that gave us hope and a day that gave me greater confidence of a future here on this side of heaven! The battle isn’t over, in fact it never will be, but for now it’s getting easier and that’s enough for me!

Letting it go… with thanksgiving and hope

In just a few hours, 2014 will be forever behind us. For me, it was a year filled with challenges and loss. At the beginning of the year, my smile looked like this

me March - Version 2

but now, it looks like this.

IMG_4401 - Version 4

Like the rest of me, it’s a little worse for wear, but thankfully I still have much to smile about. As I reflect on the struggles of the past year, I’m ready to sing the refrain from Frozen that I, like most parents and grandparents, have heard a bazillion times this year.

Let it go, let it go!

 
Yes, I’m ready to let go of the negatives of 2014. Instead of dwelling on those things, I choose to hang on to the things that I have to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I’m thankful for a personal relationship with a God who never lets go of me! At the beginning of my cancer journey, He promised to take care of me and he has done just that. I’m thankful for the amazing team of medical people that He’s placed in my life and for the expertise He’s given each one of them.

I’m thankful beyond measure for the love and support of my amazing husband who has walked every step of the journey with me and who helps me hang on when I reach the end of my rope.

I’m thankful for my children, now young adults who make me very proud, and for my darling grandchildren. Being present for Simon’s birth in mid March was definitely one of the highlights of 2014!

Drew & Simon     Jami-Lee
Drew and Simon                                        Jami-Lee

Nate     Sam
Nate                                                             Sam

I’m thankful that my father didn’t give up on life when Mom died in June and for the fact that he’s made a remarkable recovery from the stroke that he suffered in September. I’m thankful that we’ve been able to spend time with him this Christmas season.

I’m thankful for the fact that 2014 was the year that I finally reconnected with a cousin who lived with us for awhile when she was a toddler and I was a teen. Though she lives about 4000 km away, it’s been great having ‘little sis’ back in my life!

I’m thankful for amazing friends both near and far including those of you I’ve only met through blogging. I’m especially thankful for the other three-quarters of the Rav 4 and the fact that they convinced me to go to Vegas with them in November!

Rav4

          photo credit:  Sheryl Culbert

 
Yes, even in a year like 2014, I’ve had much to be thankful for. Now’s a good time to let go of all the rest and to look forward to a brand new year. I choose to step into 2015 with hope.

I hope that my treatments continue to be successful and that they become less frequent. That alone would make 2015 a less crazy year! I hope that we can get through an entire year without a family crisis of any kind. I hope that I can enjoy each moment not worrying about the things over which I have no control and I hope that a year from now, I can once more look back with thanksgiving.

What do you have to be thankful for this year? What do you need to let go of? What are some of your hopes for the New Year?
 

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Growing in the hard places

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I found this tiny gem growing through a crack in the sidewalk today. We’ve had heavy frost many times this fall and the flower beds have been bare for almost two weeks yet there it is, its perfect little face looking up at the afternoon sun!

I, too, have been growing in hard places this past year but unlike the little pansy, completely surrounded by bare concrete, I have not been alone. I am surrounded by a garden of family and friends, watered and nourished by their love and sustained by their prayers. I do not wither and fade away. I turn my face to the Son and there is life!

 

Shoes of hope

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Sometimes a pair of golf shoes is just that, a pair of shoes designed to provide comfort and stability while playing the game of golf. The pair I bought today, however, are much more than that. These shoes, purchased to replace a very old pair that are literally falling apart, are a symbol of hope. Hope that the ugly weather that has been giving us below average temperatures, rain and even snow far into what is normally spring, will someday come to an end but also, hope that the surgery that I’ll be having the day after tomorrow will go well and that I’ll soon be able to get on with life!

I really have no idea how long it will take to recover from the operation to remove a cancerous tumour from my salivary gland. That will depend on how difficult the procedure is to perform, something that even the surgeon can’t determine ahead of time. Regardless of whether I’m only in the hospital overnight or have to stay much longer, I expect to be swathed in bandages for awhile afterward. If you’re out on the Sedgewick golf course and see someone who looks a bit like a mummy wearing shiny new golf shoes, that will be me!