Friday, May 6, 2016

Third Place

Dear Family and Friends,

Those of you who know me know that I am “a bit” competitive.  OK, I’m very competitive!  I love to win.  In my childhood, I made sure I sold the most campfire mints and Junior Achievement products.  When playing softball and volleyball, my teams often won the league championships and it was so satisfying—especially the times I had the most home runs or points served.  When working for Children’s Hospital, I wanted to be the one on the team who raised the most money, and most years, I achieved that goal.  And don’t get me started on canasta and estimate, my two favorite card games, and how hard I try to win when I play.  In all of the above, I would not say I’m a bad loser.  I don’t usually sulk, make excuses, or act ungraciously if I lose.  I just prefer to win!

In much of life we are compared to others with "places" assigned.  In the Olympics, you can come in first, second, or third, and win medals accordingly.  In high school or college, you can come in first, and be the valedictorian, or come in second as the salutatorian.  Likewise you can graduate cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude—if you are a brainiac.  And most ambitious people, as hard as they may try, will only achieve titles of coordinator, manager, director, or vice president at work—never president. 

There are rankings with cancer too.  When staging your cancer you come in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th stage, and as you know in these rankings, stage 4 is the worst news you can receive.  And when going through chemo, you can come in first place, receiving the best possible news—your cancer is gone!  Or in second—your cancer has shrunk!  Or in third—your cancer has stayed the same (i.e. is labeled “stable disease”), or in last place—your cancer is everywhere and it’s time to call hospice.

Yesterday’s scan put me in third place.  While one tiny lung nodule had disappeared and one had shrunk, all the abdominal area cancer remained unchanged after the past two additional months of chemo, making my total this round six months.  

This was hard news to take.  I had been feeling, overall, very well.  No abdominal pain.  Good energy.  Walking 4 miles most days.  Good appetite.  Tolerating the chemo well.  I thought for sure the cancer would have shrunk.  While I hadn’t dared hope for first place, I thought I would come in at a solid second.  I don’t like coming in third!

The doctor said we will continue on the same chemo regimen for now, rechecking in three to four months.  And I spent half the day yesterday shedding some tears while grieving the absence of the news I had hoped for.  But after awhile, Steve and I went for a great walk in the sunshine and came home to Cinco de Mayo dinner with Renee, Daniel, and Riley, complete with chicken and beef tacos, guacamole, and Steve’s famous margaritas.  There may have been cake at the end (both lemon and chocolate).  And as usual when hanging out with my great family, I enjoyed a house full of hugs, love, laughter, great conversations, and reaffirmation of our trust in God.

The Bible says in Psalm 30:5, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  And Earl Palmer, former pastor of University Presbyterian Church used to say, “go ahead and cry over your disappointments, but then, after awhile, quit crying and decide what you are going to do!” 


So here is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to quit stressing about yesterday’s scan, keep going through chemo to fight cancer with all my (and God’s) might, keep trusting the God who orders all my days, keep taking walks in the sunshine, and keep those chips and guacamole coming (along with a very occasional margarita and slice of cake)!

Love to you all,
Gabrielle

Thursday, May 5, 2016

CT was today

Hello, friends.  Steve checking in with a quick update.  As many of you know, Gabrielle had a CT scan today.  CT scans and other tests are always approached with mixed emotions, ranging from fear and trepidation to excitement in the hopes that things will be grand.  It's a little like Christmas Eve and having a court date rolled into one.  For the past two weeks, we have all been a bit anxious about today's big test.  On the up side, she has been feeling pretty good and hasn't had a lot of symptoms.  On the other hand, doc wanted the scan fairly soon after she just had one in February, which made us all nervous about what she would find.

Well, to cut to the chase, the scan was stable.  There were no new growths or changes in the size of the affected lymph nodes, which is great...I guess.  On the other hand, that's just it: it was stable.  It had not regressed at all and that part is a major letdown.  Last scan showed about 30% improvement, whereas in this one, we're holding our own, no more.

I liken it to being out in the ocean swimming for shore.  After several hours swimming, you check your position by sighting some landmarks and realize that after all that effort, you are no closer than before and are still far from shore.  The optimist in you wants to say, "hey, at least you're not being swept farther out to sea".  But the part of you that wants to really be kicking cancer's butt (all of you, that is) is disappointed that landfall is still a ways away.

As I write this, I look out my window and see the same French lady who walks by our house every day.  Lorraine, I think her name is.  She lives below us, down a hill at Cristwood Park, and is over 90.  Every day, she trudges up the hill, rain or shine and takes a quick rest on the neighbor's garden wall, and then ambles off at a quick clip on the way back down the hill to her apartment.  Has to move fast, as dinner starts at 4:30 down there and she is most likely first in line, though you wouldn't know it judging by her slim physique.  Anyhow, she is an inspiration: never stops moving, makes progress, and has a lot of motivation despite her hunched over back and needing a cane.  And she is 90!  She is making progress!  I want so much for Gabrielle to be making progress and to get to that wonderful age.  If (and when) she does, no doubt some admiring husband will glance out the window at her and marvel at her energy.  She has plenty now, despite the neutral CT scan.  Let's hope for a reversal of some of the lymph nodes soon.

Dr. M. tried to be upbeat.  She said that the effects of Doxil are slow on the front end, but "durable" so they should last a while.  Let's hope so.  So for now, it's "stay the course," faint not, and all that.  In my mind, I would rather have "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." But that's how it goes.  And now, I have to sign out, because Gabrielle is chopping at the bit to go for a walk.  I think she wants to go catch up with Lorraine and maybe sneak in line for dinner at Cristwood.