It’s not what I wanted to hear…they found cancerous cells in my bone marrow biopsy results. I sat there and calmly absorbed the news because I knew freaking out at that moment would do nothing for me. Part of me was in shock because I don’t feel like I’m getting sick. But I didn’t even know I was sick last year until I was really sick, and that’s just the nature of this sneaky disease. Left to my own devices, I’d likely push myself right back into the hospital, unaware of what’s going on inside my body. The past few weeks have come with some setbacks and challenges, but I am staying hopeful that all will turn out okay.
I went back to Emory May 10th for my year post transplant bone marrow biopsy, axial skeletal scan and bone density scan and then returned on the 24th for my results. The bone scans came back without problems, so that is good news; however, my biopsy did not return the results for which I was hoping. They found a chromosomal abnormality – the same one that resulted in my stage 3, high risk diagnosis last year (t4:14). They told me the plan is to do two cycles of more intensive therapy followed by some more intensive maintenance than what I have been doing. I’ll be going back to RVD (Revlimid, Velcade and Dexamethasone), which gave me very favorable results last year. Previously my maintenance consisted of Velcade only, so we’re ramping things up a bit. I’ll be on higher doses of everything for the first couple of cycles, and then we’ll scale the dosage down for maintenance.
I was feeling okay about all of this until I received a call from my doctor here in Columbia on the 25th (the day after hearing my results at Emory) stating that the blood tests performed at SCOA on the 23rd looked much worse than what Emory had used from the 10th. My MSpike went from .1 to .7 in two weeks, and this is a sign the disease is progressing very quickly, which is the nature of my particular diagnosis. The moment I received that call was the moment everything sunk in for me – here we go again. Thankfully I am monitored closely and this has all been caught early, before the disease has had time to do too much damage. The doctors still believe they can get this resolved with two cycles of more intensive therapy, so that is what we are starting with. If I need more after we assess blood work, we’ll do more.
I’ve traipsed through the myriad of emotions I imagine come with hearing your cancer is back after only a year post transplant, just 9 months since receiving word you achieved remission. Devastation, anger, disbelief. I’ve made my way to acceptance because feeling sorry for myself, getting pissed and acting like this isn’t happening aren’t realistic ways of attacking this situation. Even after hearing I achieved remission I knew the chance of recurrence was very high, so I prepared myself the best I could for the chance of hearing the news, but of course I hoped it wouldn’t happen this quickly. Now that the circumstance has presented itself, although my diagnosis is not as bad at this point as it was last year, the news has hit me a little harder than it did last January after my initial diagnosis. Maybe it’s because I’ve had so long to let the reality of all of this really sink in. Last year I didn’t have time to think about anything before starting treatments and preparing for my transplant. Now I have taken back as much of my life as possible only to have that compromised again, and it has taken me some time to accept that fate. I think it’s understandable and normal in this situation, though.
This isn’t just happening to me, though; it’s happening to everyone who cares about me and I know it’s hard for them, too. I sit here and wonder whether it’s harder for me to actually have to go through this or if it’s harder for the people who love me to have to watch me go through this. I don’t have much control over what happens to me. I can choose to stand up and fight my ass off and refuse anything but positive results. I have that much control over my situation. But the people around me have no control, and I imagine it leaves them feeling pretty helpless. No one can change what’s happening to me, but the people in my life do a really good job of making me happy regardless of my situation. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people, whether it’s family, friends or coworkers. They help me remember that while the whole cancer thing sucks, I have much more positive areas to focus my attention.
So rather than dwell on the negative, I’m doing my best to focus on the good parts of my life. I’m not ignoring what is going on (it’s kind of hard to ignore when you have to go to the oncologist no less than twice a week and fill your body with poison to hopefully get better), but I’m doing my best not to dwell on the shitty parts of life right now. Because I do have so much to be happy about.
I’ve been enjoying some wonderful time on the lake with my family. My husband sold one of his motorcycles to buy a boat and I must say it’s been a wise investment. A pontoon is definitely more family friendly than a motorcycle (let’s don’t get too bummed for him – he still has two left in his brood). A little lake therapy is definitely helping my mood. We spent Memorial Day weekend at the lake with my family and it was filled with a lot of relaxation and laughter (brought on mostly by adult time playing Cards Against Humanity). It was exactly what we all needed.
My daughter is 2 1/2 now, and she’s so much fun. Watching her imagination at work and personality grow each day truly astounds me. The stuff that comes out of her mouth keeps me laughing, although I REALLY have to watch what I say around her these days. Her selective hearing seems to only allow her to hear, absorb and repeat the particularly bad things I say. Shit and fuck happen to be two of my favorite words, so I’m trying hard to get my ass in gear. The steroids I’m taking don’t aid my efforts. At all. This is also why you’ll rarely, if ever, see me drink in front of my child. Two drinks in and I start using “fuck” like a comma.
What I’m most looking forward to this summer is a trip my husband and I are taking to St. Lucia (all that lake time will help me work on my base tan before this trip – I’m not trying to get burned and add Melanoma to my list of cancers). My doctors are working my chemo schedule around my trip, so I should be in good shape for it. We leave in a little over five weeks, and I get more excited as each day passes. I planned this trip last year as I sat in the chemo room for hours at a time to give me a positive focus and something to look forward to in the coming year. Since I had the time on my hands to actually do some proper planning, we’re not going the all-inclusive route for this trip. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of exploring while we’re there. I had hoped we’d be able to use this trip to celebrate a year cancer free, but instead we’ll just use it to celebrate life in general and further our appreciation of the beauty the world has to offer. I’m looking forward to hiking the rainforest and the Pitons, taking a sail, lounging on the beach, and enjoying the stunning views from our villa for the week.
The whole cancer thing has really put mortality into perspective for me. I don’t know if I’ll be here for 2 more years or 50, and if cancer will be my demise – who knows? I do know that I’m going to make the most of the time I do have because I am in complete control of how I choose to live my life while I’m here. I don’t have time to sulk about my situation. I have to move on, continue living my life and making memories with the people I love while I can. I know I’ll have bad days; everyone has bad days, regardless of their personal situation. It’s my responsibility to move past the bad and soak in all the good. That, I can control.