Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Can Suck It, Bring on the New Year!!!

I am sitting here with about three and half hours left in 2015 and I am thinking back to January 1st, I remember thinking that 2015 is going to be the longest, scariest year of my life.  Well, it was and it wasn't.  2015 definitely had scary - cancer, surgery, chemo, the unknown of this disease I have but 2015 also carried some of the best, most amazing things that have happened in my life thus far.

The best thing that happened this year was Don, Liam and I welcomed the strongest, bravest, most wonderful little girl in the world, our little miracle, Sadie, she joined our family in February (thank god!!) and it has pretty cool being a family of four since then.  I still, cannot believe that I was so freaked out to have a girl, since I am not the girliest of girls and I was honestly terrified that I wouldn't know what to do with a girl.  I have now embraced the bows, frills and colorfulness that a little girl brings into your life and love it!!

This year has also let me reconnect with friends who I have not talked to or seen in quite a while, it is amazing to have these friends back in my life on a more regular basis even if we did reconnect because of this terrible thing that has happened to me but frankly don't care, it has made me smile just about everyday, that we were all able to pickup where we left off like time has not passed at all.

I have also made a handful of new friends this year, although I think that we all wish we didn't have to know each other, we do now, and it has been great getting to know each of these people and having them on this journey with me because they know exactly what I am going through.  I don't believe that this year would have gone nearly as well as it has without them.  We unfortunately were given this bond but I am so thankful that I found each and every one of you.

While going through treatment at The James, I was so lucky to have some of the most amazing doctors and nurses take care of me.  I was prepared to have the crappiest eight months of inpatient chemotherapy, but in reality I was the "Chemo Queen".  I kicked it's butt and took names, that was largely impart because of who was there to take care of me when I was in the hospital.  The 17th floor nursing/PCA staff was more amazing than I could have even imagined and I am not just saying this because I was the "favorite" patient that everyone fought over on my admission days :).  I say this because they work their butts off taking care of people who are not necessarily in a state to appreciate them even 10% of the time, they listened to my incessant rambling when I was bored and they spent time getting to know me and my family.  They treated me, my husband, kids, friends and family like we were all a part of their family.  I will truly never be able to repay their kindness, support and all around awesomeness they gave us!!

I have been so fortunate this year to have all of the time that I have had with Don, Liam, Sadie and my entire family.  At the beginning of 2015, I thought that not working was going to be the worst part of this cancer thing but in reality it was a blessing.  I have been able to spend all of my time focusing on myself and my family, enjoying just being with them and making great experiences and memories. Not having to worry about unnecessary time away from my wonderful husband and my kids and being able to just do things with them whenever I want, we were able to do so many wonderful things as a family.  It has taken so much stress and worry off of my shoulders.  They are the three most amazing humans in the entire world and just being with them has made me so happy.

I know there are so many more amazing things that happened this year, it would take me writing a book to name them all but I am most happy that I have had time.  I have learned in 2015 that time is really the most important thing to a person with cancer.  When I was "healthy" I was completely guilty of taking time for granted.  You don't really understand how important time really is until you are facing your own mortality, literally everyday you get to wake up.  I promised myself at the beginning of this fight that I wouldn't take any minute that I had for granted and I am happy to report that I have kept that promise and will continue to do so going into 2016.  I just ask that you also make that promise to yourself in 2016, never say, "I can do that tomorrow" because tomorrow is not promised to any of us, I have now seen that too often over the last year.  If there is something you want or want to do, just do it, I promise, you will never look back on it and regret that it happened.  Also, challenge yourself to say "yes" a little more in your life, it definitely makes life more fun and a little more interesting.  You will never now how your life can change unless you put yourself in new situations!!

As we enter into the New Year, I leave you with this pretty great and very true quote from a much loved musician -

“It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one.” 
― George Harrison
I wish you the happiest of New Years!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Surgical Consultation

Well, we met with the surgical oncologist today and the good news is I am not inoperable and he is very impressed with how I have responded to traditional "liquid" chemo.  He said that my PET scan from this past Monday looks amazing and I should be thrilled with how VAC/IE has worked for me in reducing the size of the three tumors I have.  Honestly, I was assuming that is how the PET scan would come out but you never know with this cancer, so I am officially relieved and maybe now I can get a little bit of sleep with my friend "Ambien".

Getting into the actual consultation he did reiterate that two of my three tumors are in a very tricky spots.  One being at the base of my superior vena cava blood vessel (the main vein into my heart) and the other one is right by my aorta (the main vein coming out of my heart), these are pretty important veins and if they are compromised during surgery it would bring a whole other slew of issues to deal with, including bleeding out on the table, harsh I know, but that is the reality I am facing.  The other tricky part about these two are that they are not in the peritential cavity in the traditional sense that we all know, they are actually just behind which would involve cutting into additional layers of fat and tissue and going into an area that surgeons would prefer to avoid if they can.  Not saying that he wouldn't do it if he needed to but just a place to avoid if possible.  We have always know that these two were in tricky spots and could be an issue when talking about surgery.  Basically, we are at the point of weighing the positives vs. the negatives of this type of surgery.  I know that the ultimate goal of this fight is to rid my body of cancer but considering my three tiny tumors are stable and being managed with chemo right now I am in a very good place with this cancer, most people deal with hundreds of tumors right off the bat and can't say they are in a good place.  I know that sounds weird to most but in my case it could be a whole lot worse!!

The plan right now is to present my case to the tumor board next Wednesday, which is where a whole group of oncologists (medical, surgical and radiation) along with pathologists get together to discuss cancer patients and their cases to figure out next steps.  The possible next step(s) for me are any of the following:

1. Traditional debulking surgery (removal of the lymph nodes with the tumors)
2. Traditional debulking surgery with the HIPEC procedure (removal of the lymph nodes with the tumors then having warm, high concentrated liquid chemo poured into my abdominal cavity for 90 minutes on the operating table, then drained - this is to kill any possible microscopic, rouge cells that are in the abdomen)
3.  Traditional debulking then some type of abdominal radiation (either full or targeted to the specific tumor sites)
4. Traditional debulking, the HIPEC procedure, then some type of abdominal radiation (either full or targeted to the specific tumor sites)
5. Just abdominal radiation (either full or targeted to the specific tumor sites)

As you can see there are many different options I am facing.  Going up against the tumor board will give the surgical oncologist an entire picture of what could or would happen after possible surgery before making any official decisions.  

We also did discuss that surgery could compromise my "good place" status because having surgery would prevent me from possibly being on any type of chemo for a significant amount of time because of the recovery involved, and since I have responded so well to chemo this could be an issue.  Also, surgery does put you in an immuno-compromised position to fight off illness and disease and this status could do more harm then good while I am recovering from a surgery in the sense that my cancer could spread or I could contract another everyday illness that would put a wrench in my next step(s).  Basically, we are dealing with a situation of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".  

Cancer is a complicated disease and as you can see there is no black and white when it comes to how to fight this.  I have put my full trust in my oncology team and I know with their help I will make the best decision possible for my next step(s).  I wish it were easier and I could give all of you a definitive answer to what is going to happen but we are working in a situation that requires a crystal ball that we just don't have.  I will keep you updated once we heard back from the tumor board next week!!