“Do you want to hear some good news?”
“Do you have good news for me?”
Those were the first words we spoke to each other on Wednesday morning.
Until he entered the room, I was anxious and nervous – knowing that the results I was about to get would go one of two ways…
either it was working, or it wasn’t.
Michael and my uncle Rusty were with me, and I was more concerned with how they would take the news
(the assumed bad news) than myself.
I was trying really, really hard to be strong for them.
As Dr. Anderson sat down, he continued… “No evidence of active disease, and I can’t see any tumors.”
(Images on left are from pre-vaccine, July 2017.
Images on right are after 4 vaccines, October 2017.)
In non-medical terms, that means:
We don’t even see tumors there anymore, and if we did, they’d all be dead!
As Michael put it later, it was like a “big weight was lifted.”
And it was!
But it has taken a while to sink in.
You see, I have had some very depressing scan results in the recent past, and I had fallen into the habit of “planning for the worst” because, well, I’m a planner. And even if it’s planning for the worst, I was still planning.
The more I replay that conversation, the more I realize how close I came to not being a part of this trial.
How close I came to not getting such good news.
Dr. Anderson pulled strings to get me into this trial.
“Compassionate use” is the term used when you get to take advantage of not-yet-approved therapies
when no other treatment options exist.
I was nearing the end of the line for treatment options.
Last fall, I was randomized to the chemotherapy group instead of the vaccine group. After four rounds, I was pulled off of the trial because of the toxicity of the side effects.
I thought we were nearing the end of the road for treatment options then.
But how can you say that there is not a God when, a mere six months later, I have relapsed and told that the trial has been revised (everyone would receive the vaccine now) and, though I don’t meet all of the requirements for participation, ‘compassionate use’ is being granted and I would receive the vaccine.
Like any clinical trial, there were risks involved.
What if the cancer didn’t go away?
What if it made the cancer grow and spread?
But what other avenue could I place hope in?
My only hope was in therapies that had not yet been fully approved.
In the past few months, I have read some incredibly life-changing books,
one of them called Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
The take away from the book is that, often times, we are more concerned with extending the quantity of life (sometimes by prolonging suffering) rather than improving the quality of the time we have left.
He writes about how there is nothing wrong with looking for that “tail of possibility,”
but it means nothing unless we have prepared “for the outcome that’s vastly more probable.”
(Gawande, Atul, author. (2014). Being mortal : medicine and what matters in the end.
New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company)
A very realistic approach to life – but often times, a very difficult one that many, including myself, try to avoid.
This news feels like the beginning of a new life. And in some ways, it is.
The slate is clean, the future is bright – and most importantly, the future is there.
It can sure be a dark place sometimes, not knowing if the future would be there or not.
As I conclude, I want to thank each and every single one of you – those I know and those whom I’ve never met.
Your strength gave me strength.
Your hope gave me hope.
Your love and prayers gave me a light when it seemed like the dark would last forever.
I do not have enough words to thank you for the impact you have had on my life.
I hope that my story has inspired someone along the way to look at life in a more positive light.
That’s been my number one goal, even if it’s been hard to maintain that positivity sometimes.
I will continue to write, hopefully now about happier things!
I want to be that strength for others, like you have been for me.
I want to offer hope, love and prayers to others who may be having difficulty finding the light again.
Thank you for loving me – for loving my family – through this difficult chapter in our lives.
Let’s close it now and move on to happier moments!