Today marks the first day of round two in my battle against ovarian cancer. It just goes to show you that you can never let your guard down when it comes to this disease. BUT, I’m well rested, healed from the previous battle, and have a new strategy up my sleeve.
Yesterday’s news was not the news I wanted to hear, but it was news that was not unexpected. When the recurrence rate for ovarian cancer is 80%, one has to be a bit pragmatic. I think that’s how I dealt with it yesterday – pragmatically.
“Your CT revealed that the disease is back, Stacey. You have a small spot on your pancreas and several on your liver. Additionally, there is that lump on your lymph node. You caught it early and so it is considered a “low – load”. There are a few options that we can consider.”
Her face blurred, but only for a short while. It’s hard not to react when you get news you don’t want to hear. But, this time, as was my goal, the rug was not pulled out from underneath my feet. I was prepared – well- as best that I could be. I put my glasses on to focus on reading Dr. Singh’s lips as she spoke. “I can meet with the board to see if surgery is an option. You will need to have chemo in addition to the surgery, regardless”.
“How many rounds?” I thought, “one or two?”
What? Really? Six?
“Well, then, take a look at my hair right now and get a good look. It is finally where I like it. ”
“Yes, it is beautiful”, Dr. Singh responded. “It is so thick – was it thick before?”
“No. It was fine and bone-straight. Truthfully, it has taken me till now to figure out how to manage curly hair!”
“Tell me about it. I’ve been trying to figure that out for 30 years.”
It seems now, in retrospect, that this conversation was a bit “light” for the news that she delivered. But I don’t see that we could have handled it any other way. It was pragmatic. It was sensible. It was responsible.
“I’m ready. When can I start?”
“How is next Tuesday?”
“Great. The sooner the better. I’ll be finished by the fall – when I’m going to need that hair back again.”
And we carried on. Kevin kept looking at me to see how I was responding. I was good. I really was. I got it. Finally. I have a disease that will continue to haunt me until there is a cure. I will fight for my life for the rest of my life. But so do people with diabetes. So – I am not unique.
“I’m okay when you are okay, Stacey”, said Kevin. “I hate seeing you sad.”
For some reason, that was just not in my emotional inventory yesterday. I felt peaceful. I can’t say I was happy, but it felt, almost like being at the dentist when they tell you you have a cavity. Well, sort of. I was ready to fight. I am ready to fight.
“I’ll get a script ready to take your bloodwork now so you don’t have to come back.”
I encouraged Kevin that it was okay for him to leave. He had been there for the news and needn’t hold my hand through blood work. Been there – done it. A kiss for good-luck and he was on his way. Candy, my nurse, came to get me shortly after and seconds later Dr. Singh appeared again.
“Stacey, the trial study that I wanted to suggest to you – taking a pill that may prolong the time between relapses – is closed. But there is another clinical trial at Princess Margaret Hospital that is researching the impact of immunotherapy on ovarian cancer. I’d like you to hear about it. Would you be interested in learning more?”
Um – yeah!!!! I had heard about it on facebook and dismissed it — for obvious reasons. Now – here is was being presented to me once more, only this time by one highly credible source. It turns out, Dr. Singh was working on immunotherapy with melanomas and it was producing some very promising results. Of course I’m interested!
“I’m very interested. But, what if it doesn’t work?”
“You can always go back to chemotherapy – which we know will shrink your tumors because it worked for you in the past. You just cannot do the reverse and begin chemotherapy then transfer to immunotherapy.”
That was my second option, which quickly became a possibility of being my first. Given that I will eventually tolerate the chemotherapy, any other option is a good thing. I signed up to hear more.
Now – it is the waiting game. I have NO answers. Wait for an appointment. Wait for information. Wait for a decision if I am a candidate. Wait for the procedure. Wait for the response… And in spite of all that – I cannot but feel hopeful. I have to hope. There is no other option. I am “cautiously optimistic”. I never did like that phrase but now it seems that is so damned applicable.
Then – there is the communications department. Telling the kids. Telling the family. Telling friends. I hate that part. So – I down loaded it to Kevin. Thank God. Thank God for Kevin. He remains my rock. I could not do this alone. He says he is strong when I am strong, but I am strong because he is with me. How do people cope without family?
Kids took it well, afterall, I have hope. Why shouldn’t they have hope too? Yes, a few tears were shed. They are brave. They are wonderful, caring people. Ben comes home on Sunday so it was tough for him to be so far away… again. At least he’ll be home soon. We will fight this battle together.
It will NOT take priority over life, though, as living is more important than surviving. Practically speaking, there are priorities. It will not consume me, but I will do everything I can do to be healthy, active, and happy.
Thursday, April 21, 2016 marks the beginning of Round 2 and I’m dancing in the ring!