Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Holidays ... and Hope.

This is my third holiday season with cancer. The first one almost doesn't count. I was diagnosed the day before Thanksgiving with late-stage cancer. Needless to say, that Thanksgiving was a somber one, at best. But we pulled together as a family and enjoyed the Christmas to follow, even though I had a brand-new port and was dealing with my new life as a cancer patient and #3 of #12 chemotherapy treatments.
The second holiday season was much better. I had finished a grueling 12 Folfox6 regimen, had a cancer-free PET scan, and had started maintenance chemo. I was feeling okay. The Xeloda was hard on me, but for the most part, my day to day life was good.
Now, in 2015, my cancer has come back. My right lung has spots. My left lung has spots. My CEA is very high. My liver is sickly. Mid-year, I tried a new treatment called Folfiri that I did not respond well to. Things have been looking bleak. My attitude has been so negative and I have felt very little hope. Doc W basically seemed to be out of options. (At least that is how I've seen things). So, at the prompting of my husband, I went on the search for a second opinion, and some hope.
At the beginning of autumn, I ended up at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) where I was introduced to Dr. Shamir Sharma and his team. My life hasn't been the same since.
After reviewing my case, Dr. Sharma signed me up for an aggressive but amazing clinical trial just this last October. Basically, it's Folfox coupled with immunotherapy. Along with over a hundred other stage 4 colon cancer patients, I've signed up to participate and finalize Phase III of this trial. From what I've learned, read, heard about what I'm doing, it's a really REALLY good treatment. Cancer doesn't stand a chance against this chemo. I feel blessed to be a part of it. Blessed, lucky, nervous, excited ... but mostly blessed.
I also feel blessed being a patient of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), and I feel blessed to be a patient of Dr. Sharma. He has great bedside manner. I really like his approach--he's optimistic, almost arrogant, but very genuine and so full of palpable hope. I believe what he says to me. I feel I'm in very good hands with him and his entire staff. Soon, I will talk about his team. Each of them are awesome!
I had my first of 12 treatments last week and I have to brag for a second--I kicked some serious chemo butt. I slept all day Wednesday, came home with a little "5FU death ball" that I had to carry around for 46 hours, slept for a couple of days until the ball was removed by my hub, then had what felt like 300 liters of fluids pushed through my port to flush my body of chemo. When the nurse removed my port needle on Monday, I was doing pretty okay. I'm serious. Not great, not bad, pretty okay. I'm not seeing any Folfox side effects yet. They will come but maybe my awesomeness and the fluids my husband runs after chemo will keep them at bay for longer than imagined. Neuropathy-free fingers crossed, yes?
Most importantly for me right now is that I have hope. I haven't had hope for a very long time. Weeks. No months. It's hard to live without hope, especially if you're sick. I can honestly say that I like having hope. I'm a hopeful person in general so it was almost like a part of my personality had been stolen or broken before meeting Dr. Sharma and having my hope wells filled.
It hasn't been easy getting hope back in my heart. It wasn't a quick thing either. There was no switch, "Oh hey. I'm going to be just fine." It's taken me so much time to recognize that my attitude was in the pits and that it needed to change so my treatments can be the most effective they can be. I've been clingy with my family at times. My poor husband, daughter, son, and sister can attest to this. I've been weepy. I've been quiet and reflective, but slowly and surely, I found the hope for myself that I once had but had lost.
I can and will beat cancer. I can and will take care of my children, my body, and my husband. I can and will live a happy, long life. This is the hope I have for myself. As I enter the third holiday season of my life with cancer (3 of many) I pray that others suffering from hopelessness can find a little hope to hold on to through the holidays. And for my family and friends that inspire me and encourage me with love and hope, THANK YOU! It means the world to me.

Carry on,