Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday, May 15th: The beat goes on....

So here I am, within 5 days of the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, writing in the wee hours of the morning in the study. I know I said a post or two back that I'd be more frequent than every 2 months - guess what, it's almost been two months. If you want a regular delivery of news - get a newspaper.

It's been a lovely spring here in Cincinnati, compared to the long cold, rainy one back in our former home of Denver - it's as if we got out just in time and the big guy has decided to give our baby girl a wonderful first spring on Earth. The leaves are fully extended, the flowers are pushing through various blooming cycles, and we're getting our first hints of the hot, sticky Ohio River Valley summer which will peek it's head around the curtain of the seasons soon enough.

Many of you know I went back to Denver late in April for my 6 month checkups with Drs Ioana Hinshaw (medical oncologist), Daniel Chin (radiation oncologist), and Ross Wilkins (ortho oncologist) - all of which happened within 72 hours of each other. It snuck up on me, this first 3 month update after we left, and I was a bit blindsided by the importance of the visit. This was my first pet scan post-treatment, and would serve as a true benchmark of my remission, and whether or not the cancer had decided to start to sneak back in.

It was a distant reality, and I hadn't thought much about it until I was in an office meeting the morning of the day I flew to Denver, and then I freaked out. Fortunately, it was an internal meltdown, and I think I pulled upon my Native American DNA (thanks to my Great-Great Grandmother Victorine, who was an Algonquin Indian from Quebec - that isn't her on the right) and kept a pretty even 'stoic' face during the day. Sorry to perpetuate the stereotype of Native Americans as stoic, but if any of you have spent time on a reservation you know there tends to be a cultural tendency towards this label. Oh well, PC Police - sue me. Anyway, back to the meltdown.

There are many folks out there who have been diagnosed with cancers that require some surgery, or a non-invasive treatment, or low-level drug treatment. It's a tremendous emotional roller coaster for those folks to get the diagnosis and be treated, but those of us who have gone through the whole chemo thing have been to an even higher level of intensity. It's kind of like the first group went through Somalia, and the full-out chemo/radiation patients went through WWII and Korea in one fell swoop. I don't mean to discount the first group's emotions, fears, difficulties, or concerns - I have friends and family who have fought and won against cancer this way.

But let me tell you, when you're in the middle of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for Cancer, you are living in such a state of emotional and physical limbo that all you can do is make it to the next morning. I've talked in the past about the positive emotional and personal experiences resulting from my treatments (besides living) - it was an enriching time. But the thought of having to go through that Hell again came welling up in my mind all at once on that Monday. I couldn't think straight, and frankly was absolutely terrified of what would happen when I was tested later that week. Hands were shaky, focus was lacking, and the fear of having to fly back to my wife and new little girl with bad news was about as much as I could handle.

Needless to say, when my flight left Dayton on Monday afternoon I required a bit of liquid calm to take the edge off. $5 per glass of wine ($10 total) is a small price to pay for a bit of serenity.

Give it a try sometime - I highly recommend it. For those of you who don't drink because of religious reasons, don't forget that Jesus made water into wine for a reason.

So Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday were a whirlwind of tests, scans, and visits. In the end it is all looking pretty good. My blood was clean as a whistle - all cell counts and other markers were normal. My PetScan came back pretty good, but they did notice some cell growth activity in the chest (near something called the Thymus) that will require some monitoring. When I go back in 3 months (July) they are gonna run the PetScan again to check on this chest thing and see if it needs to be studied further. This little chest thing, while my doctor was dismissing as minor and not an issue because of positive blood work, started to get in my head once I returned to Cincy.

I'm OK with it now, although I can't deny that every once in a while I'll get a little worried and get some anxiety to tackle, but there's always something to deal with, isn't there? What I have to remind myself of is the lessons I learned during my illness about life and the fleeting nature of our time on Earth. We all think we're gonna live forever, but that isn't going to happen. It's even tougher to think about these things right after my baby girl has been born, but it's reality.

Lately, at the prompting of a friend, I've been putting together our daughter's family tree and been looking back through centuries (yes, CENTURIES) of Baker/Willis/Fritz/Becker family history and have been amazed at the varying lengths of time my ancestors and relatives have had on earth. While most of us think that 70/80/90 is a 'typical' lifespan, a little research in the past will open your eyes. In my research I discovered that a whole bunch of my great (to the 50th ish) power grandfathers died in the Battle of Mortimer's cross in a battle for the English throne in 1461 - many young men (30's) and older ones were offed - including Owen Tudor (yes, of the architectural style) who was my great (to the 40th ish) grandfather and got executed at the ripe old age of 61(ish).

Don't get me wrong, I'm still intending to get to 2072 with my margarita, cigar, and wife by my side - but this research has given me some perspective that not all of us get that much time. The key is, how do you use it - because with or without you, the beat will go on.

What's the point of the story? I get another 3 months to the next milestone. That's the whole point.

I've got to beat my drum of life, and make it count.


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  2. Congratulations on your completion of treatment! My husband recently kicked NHL to the curb too-Aug will be one year NED. I know how much you & your family have been through-wanted to let you know the anxiety thing does get easier with time. Will pray for your next thymus scan to be completely clean.

  3. I entirely empathize with your current situation, for I have undergone it as well. Three years ago I was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, a similar illness, albeit of a different nature.
    I was merely thirteen years old at the time; cancer, unfortunately, does not differentiate between individuals of separate ages. I underwent subsequent surgery to remove the tumor and received chemotherapy for two months. Fortunately, I am now in remission.
    Kudos to you for your positive attitude and congratulations on the results of your blood work and your newborn. I would not worry too much about your next thymus scan; it seems quite inconsequential. Cancer can indubitably, as you say, suck it.

  4. love your attitude! god bless!