So, I was supposed to go in for my 9th round of chemo on Monday, but it was cancelled.
At first, it was because I just hadn’t recovered enough from the hurricane of side effects that I encountered in the last round. Thus, we figured, I’d just heal and plan to catch up to that 9th round next week.
Then my wonderful “pirate docta” called me in for an appointment to review scans and talk about my treatment.
My hubbie and I went in together, bringing sweet Snuggles along (who made sure everyone along the way knew she was “free” (three).
“DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS AT THE APPOINTMENT” SCENE:
Doc walks right in to center stage as Patient and Husband sit upstage on chairs covered in costume accessories that 3 year old has adorned them with during their wait. 3 year old hides under their chair with head in Minnie Mouse bag, suddenly shy and embarrassed to speak. After “hellos”, hugs, and joking while Doc scrolls through Patient’s files (with his green fingernail polish on for St.Patty’s day) on his computer, he takes off his fire engine red glasses and gets down to business…
Doc:”Your body is pretty mad at this chemo crapola. We gotta pull you off of it. Like ditch it“
Hubbie is ready to jump out of his seat, and although it sounds great, I’m confused.
Me: “Whaaaaaaaa???? “
(CUE ENTRANCE FOR THE DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS, PLAYED BY ME)
Doc: (After much explanation about how my body can’t take the chemo anymore, not reacting well in terms of side effects and immune system dropping after 14 rounds of aggressive chemo in the last 2 years… blah blah blah) “Here’s the deal: Your scans are STUNNING! I had hoped for at least a 40% change by now, and at greatest outcome – a 60% change at this point. You are among the less than 10% of people out there with the specifics and levels of your diagnosis that have completely knocked out ALL of your tumors in this time frame. They cannot be seen on scans.”
(Husband about to jump out of chair, DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS stares, frozen, trying to comprehend what was just said… 3 yr old remains under chair – now covered in shiny bows and accessories from her bag)
ME: Sooooo…. you’re telling me, I don’t need the last two rounds of aggressive chemo, EVER? It’s all gone?
DOC: We don’t call you “cancer-free” or “in remission”, as you’re diagnosis is still STAGE 4 metastatic breast cancer. Since there’s no cure, you’re my long-term patient. We’re in this for the long haul. So I always have to keep things like chemo, specifically those last 2 rounds of chemo in my back pocket. See, your cancer cells are still there, they’re just invisible to scans because they’ve made no new tumors, and we just kicked out their most recent attack of tumors. NOW, we hold them at bay because they’re not considered inactive. They always are wanting to make more cancer and tumors, but we’ve got ’em in a headlock right now that is keeping them from that.
(Nodding, asking a few questions that come out more as me trying to find analogies to describe the situation in more detail for my foggy brain that’s trying to process phrases like: “TUMORS GONE!- Yay!, “No more aggressive chemo now. We want you to start feeling better and having “good days”, AND “long term patient”, “in this for the long haul”, and “chemo is always in our back pocket and in our folder for you”. Lots of excited and overwhelming thoughts visibly spin in DEER IN THE HEADLIGHT’s head. )
HUBBIE: So what’s our next move? What’s the plan now.
DOC: Everything’s about to change. She’ll continue infusions every 3 weeks … forever. This will be her targeted therapy chemo that keeps her cancer at bay. She’ll also continue monthly estrogen blocker injections along with a chemo-like pill, which work together to block reactions if and when the cells try to start moving and forming masses again.
ME: And how long will I do all of that for?
DOC: For the long haul. We’re in this together for the long haul (for life, in every sense of the word). We’ll have an extra close watch on you with more blood panels, scans, etc. as we move into this next “maintenance phase”. If anything even begins to change in your scans/blood panels, or if we see the slightest bit of growth… we have those last rounds of chemo in our back pocket that we can still do since we didn’t exhaust your body right now.
(More back and forth questions continue for a while. Patient, Hubbie, and 3 year old say their good-byes/extreme thank yous and continue around the corner to scheduling to book next infusions/injections/appointments. )
Scene fades to black.
It took the rest of the day for me to process what just happened. I played my “deer in the headlights” role for quite a bit, coming up for air to either cry or shout for joy. Wasn’t till Tuesday morning that I finally shared the news to my family. It’s a bit confusing. However, after a good chat that night with my doc and hubbie, and lots and LOTS of conversations with God. The bottom line became clear.
WE DID IT.
We’re in a world war scenario for the long run. Cancer remains my adversary, yet so far in this war, each surprise attack that cancer has tried to pull on us… we conquer. I may not like the idea of living in a state of war, yet I’m at enemy lines with the most amazing army of doctors, surgeons, family, and friends keeping me going and keeping watch.
Besides, we just fought an epic battle and kicked multiple tumors out of our territory in record timing. It feels long. But in the big picture, it’s miraculous. I am worn but strengthened all at once by such a milestone victory.
This plan of indefinite maintenance could change. Our battle tactics may adjust as life goes on. But one thing’s for sure,
I WILL NOT GIVE UP.
I WILL NEVER STOP THANKING GOD FOR EVERY DAY AND EVERY BREATH.
I WILL CHERISH EVERY SECOND AND LIVE, LIVE, LIVE, EVERY MOMENT!
I am overwhelmed by my results on every level imaginable and unimaginable.
I am grateful for every person out there from those whom I have known for a lifetime to families across the miles who I haven’t and may never meet for their relentless prayers.
I trust in God that He will continue to walk alongside our family as we step into this new journey of living with cancer but defeating the odds. I have great hope that those who’ve prayed us through every trial will keep us going still and keep us in their hearts and prayers.
I look forward to healing, recovering, and starting to feel better again. I am excited to be present more with my family to take family trips, be spontaneous, and spend each day laughing. I never want to let a day go by without the things that I hold dearest:
FAITH – HOPE– LOVE– LAUGHTER– FAMILY
With all of that being said (I know, I know, I said a lot. My other diagnosis would label me as a “Stage 4 RAMBLER”. The only real cure: Put a sock in my mouth?)…
Now, I’m off to put my big girl panties on, do what I gotta do, and enjoy this life.
As I’ve said before, “I’m not just surviving… I’m living!” This news from my doc just gives me the courage and confidence to know it’s possible.
In the words of my girl, Madea:
“HALLELUJER! PRAISE DA LORT.”
It’s gonna be alright.