A Cancer-y Few Weeks

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to write my feelings, check in with folks, or really do anything besides go to work, go home, and go to sleep. My new job has been truly wonderful, and I’m so happy. But I’m tired, y’all. To be honest, things have been pretty cancer-y lately.

Here are some updates: I had brain radiation again on October 6. My radiologist said it went very well and that I’m very good at keeping still for over an hour. Yay me. They treated four small tumors. We’ll see in December with another MRI how that treatment went, but all is expected to go well just like last time. More little spots may turn up, but this zapping thing works pretty well on them.

Since radiation, I’ve been feeling very fatigued. I’ve been sick to my stomach much of the time. I have a very weird and fickle appetite. And things have generally been a little bit off. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to me when the results of my PET scan this week showed that my BRAF inhibitor treatment (the stuff that’s been doing such a great job taking care of the cancer in the rest of my body) has stopped working as well. Rather than continued shrinkage, most of the cancer in my body has remained the same. Most importantly, the cancer in my liver is getting worse.

So, it’s that time — I’m going to switch to immunotherapy treatment.

I’ve been excited and confident about this new, promising treatment from the very beginning, so I feel great about starting this. I won’t have to take so many pills. I won’t get horrible fevers anymore. And everything in the universe has been telling me that this treatment is going to be great for me. This keeps me smiling through the pains in my abdomen and the beginnings of my radiation hair loss. I have a really great option that so many haven’t had.

When my tumors were shrinking, I almost had a sense of things getting back to normal. Cancer was more of an annoyance that interfered with my life by way of appointments during work hours and planning my meal times around my meds. But after my second radiation and this last scan, the fear has creeped back. It was always there, lurking in the background, but now it’s ever-present in my conscious mind again. Yes, I fear death from this disease. I remain positive, and I have such strong conviction that this new treatment will work for me. So many things that I can’t quite explain logically make me feel very certain of this. But the fear is still there. Hard to avoid it, given all the scary things broadcast about cancer everywhere you turn. But the thing is, cancer has angered me. I watched other kinds of cancer take two of my very favorite people in the world. And here it is, come for me. And that isn’t OK. Cancer can’t do this to my parents. It can’t do this to my family that has been through the hard parts of this before and who have been there praying and supporting with everything they have. So I’m pretty pissed off that it thinks this is an acceptable time to be messing with us. And I’m not someone you want to piss off. So cancer, LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE. And leave my body alone. I’m exhausted, and you’ve overstayed your un-welcome.



A Piece of Cake

I had an MRI on Thursday, and I got some really good news and some not as good news.

The tumor in my brain that was treated with radiation responded wonderfully to the treatment. It is smaller and no longer an active tumor. I am so thankful for this great success.

But, the MRI showed two other spots that now need to be treated. One was so so so small on my last scan that they couldn’t even say it was melanoma, but now it’s a little bigger (still teeny tiny) and discernible, so it needs to be addressed. There is a second spot they did not see on either previous scan that’s technically too small to know what it is for sure (just like this other one was before), but they’re assuming it should be treated as well.

I told the doctors that the first radiation treatment was a piece of cake. My radiologist said that since I responded so well to spot radiation the first time, and since we’re on top of catching these things when they’re tiny, the next treatment should be just as effective and easy. And then he gave me an actual piece of birthday cake. Thank God for cake.

Yes, this disrupts my life a little bit again. But really only a little bit. The thing about living in New York City is that you get a fresh dose of perspective about every five minutes. My mom and I went straight from my appointment to Luzzo’s to stuff our faces with my favorite pizza. I cried a little bit, and I laughed a lot. On our way back to the subway station, it was raining, and I offhandedly said, “oh, man, these tennis shoes aren’t great for the rain. Look, my toes are already soaked.” A minute later we came upon a man sitting on the street in the downpour, homeless and holding a sign asking for help. He wasn’t wearing any shoes.

My life is unbelievably easy. I found out I have the tiniest bit of new cancer, and people gave me pizza and cake. I’ll be just fine.

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I Love to Laugh

I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. – Audrey Hepburn

Funny people are always my favorite people. I love comedies, and I love laughing. Growing up I laughed easily at everything. Even things that weren’t really that funny, I’d burst into a fit of giggles and not be able to stop. I was a great ego boost for my comedian friends, I’m sure.

We all get more serious as we grow up, and we laugh less, I think. I want to seek out more laughter. I have no doubt it is good for the soul and the body. At my wellness group, we have talked about the healing power of laughter. Indeed, Cancer Treatment Centers of America points to growing research suggesting that laughter may have therapeutic value for cancer patients. There’s even laughter therapy and laughter yoga for cancer. All of this is right up my alley because laughter is decidedly positive.

So, I’m taking recommendations. Funny books, movies, shows, stand up – I’m open. Tell me what makes you laugh.


Thanksgiving, Stress, Cancer: Priorities

My Aunt Mona is an amazing person. She’s been through a lot, including 6 years of having stage 4 ovarian cancer, yet her motto is still “Keep calm and carry on.” She even gave me one of those posters and I have it up on my wall. But I haven’t been too good at taking that advice though, until now.

I know I’ve always had it super easy. Great opportunities just fall in my lap, and I have a giant group of supportive people who care about my well-being. But until now, I always preferred to ignore that and focus on the little stressors of school, transitions, etc. Rather than keeping things in perspective, I tend to act like whatever tiny thing going on with me is the biggest problem on the world — even when people close to me go through major difficulties.

I have now been given the opportunity to really, truly put things in perspective and reevaluate my priorities. Last week I was diagnosed with melanoma. Skin cancer isn’t too common for someone my age, and melanoma is scary enough without all the accompanying dialogue about a tumor, oncologist, prognosis, blah blah blah.

So, I’ve gone through a lot of weird emotions. Like shock, fear, worry, defiance (is that an emotion?), lots of hope and positivity, and certainly a lot of thankfulness. Thankful to have my amazing family come up to see me for the holidays and to see me through surgery, thankful for my roommate who is really the most awesome lady ever, thankful for having one of the top doctors in the field, and thankful that everything should be OK because we seem to have caught it early. I had a full day at the cancer center today, I’ll have a preparatory appointment Thursday, and then I have surgery Friday to remove the remaining tumor as well as a lymph node or two. But when the doctor seems confident, that’s good news to me.

So that’s really what I’ve come away with. Yes, this is scary and tough to deal with, but it’s definitely not impossible–and I’m very fortunate that the circumstances are quite positive, considering what they could be. Mainly it’s been a major paradigm shift for how I view what’s really worth stressing about and what’s not.

Sure, I have had a few moments of panic/overreactions (I’m sure my family can attest to that); things like this can be a roller coaster. But I’m very positive and ready to get everything taken care of this week so I can go back to being a law student who doesn’t do anything but study. Doesn’t that sound like the life?