Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Icing on my Cake - Not just Remisson, Going for a Cure

The blog has been quiet during the past few weeks and that's a good thing. While I love sharing all of the wonderful happenings in our life and updates about my journey, normalcy is something I have craved and the lack of updates mean life is slowly returning back to a "new normal".  Each day I spend time regaining strength and I take enjoyment in simple tasks that have been absent the past six months. While I have considerable strides to make in terms of my energy, strength, fatigue and endurance, I see small improvements daily.

I have been learning to live as a survivor. Anxiety and worry are new feelings that I am learning strategies to manage and keep at a distance with assistance from counselling support and the nurse from Cancer Care Path. The worry of the cancer returning will be at a peak in the coming months and will lessen with each week and positive test result. But it still remains.

I recently had a CT scan of my neck, chest, pelvis and abdomen. I saw Dr Stevens yesterday for the results and an update on my bloodwork and recovery from chemotherapy. The CT scan results showed that there continue to be improvement in my cervical lymph nodes (neck) with "sub-centimetre shoddy nodes" which I have been assured means scar tissue left over from the enlargement. The lymph nodes in my armpit continue to be resolved. There is no indication of any lymph node involvement in my pelvis or abdomen and all organs appear to be normal. The mass that is in the mediastinum area of my chest has decreased. I was a bit disappointed to hear that it's size is still 7.5 cm x 2.9 cm - 3 months prior it was 7.5 cm x 4.4 cm. Dr Stevens said in the medical world particularly when we are talking about tumours in the chest area, a decrease of 2 cm is significant. He was pleased with the results and said we are moving in the right direction and in his words "it's all good".

Dr Stevens, (being the thorough doctor that he is) explained that he would like to refer me to see a Radiation Oncologist who specializes in blood cancers and has a vast experience with lymphoma and treating it via radiation. Dr Steven Sagar works out of the Juravinski Cancer Centre and is going to give Dr Stevens his opinion on the costs/benefits of radiation therapy as an additional treatment to ensure me the best chance of an eventual cure. Dr Sagar would like me to have a follow-up PET scan in the next couple of weeks before my appointment so that he has confirmation that I continue to be in remission or whether there are lurking cancer cells (which is unlikely) that have surfaced since the end of my chemotherapy; we need to know that definitely before we can proceed. Dr Stevens said he doesn't feel that there will be active cancer cells based on the CT scan and my lack of symptoms however we need to be exactly sure. Of course, this will continue to cause me anxiety and worry leading up to the PET scan. If there is any indication of active cancer cells, radiation will be a certainty and we will "zap" those cells!!

My bloodwork results were fantastic! My white blood cell count, specifically my neutrophils have already returned to normal range! This is quite remarkable considering they were 0.1 - they are at the low end of the normal range but they have revived. A great sign. My immune system is still compromised and I need to continue hand washing, sanitizing and staying away from illness where I can. My other blood counts were all within normal range except for three liver counts that continue to be elevated. This is very normal after the type of chemotherapy I have endured and Dr Stevens expects that they will come down in the coming weeks/months. I have a follow up appointment with him on November 14, 2014 to check in on the bloodwork and hopefully by then the PET scan will have been completed.

I am realizing that being a cancer survivor is almost more difficult than being a cancer patient. I have been struggling with the emotional/mental aspect of my recovery and while I know this is very normal for cancer survivors, I have been surprised at how much the worrying thoughts occupy my mind. Having the PET scan will bring peace of mind but the worrying of the "what ifs" leading up to the scan will be difficult. The good part is that I recognize my worries and have many avenues to voice them and talk my way through the scenarios.

I know that whatever comes my way in the next few weeks and down the road,  I will be able to face and overcome it. As the quote says, my track record for getting through difficult times is 100% so far. I can make it through anything. In the meantime, I am so enjoying life, my family and getting back into a routine where I can be apart of my kids lives, driving them to their sports, going to Cam's hockey tournament in Cleveland, watching gymnastics training, I am on my way back to being the "hands on mom" I have always loved being. This weekend we will celebrate my birthday and I will take joy in all the amazing blessings we have and am grateful to feel as strong as I do. I will continue to kick cancer's ass and work to regain my strength and endurance. I take comfort in knowing that I am in good hands and have doctors who are being thorough and paying attention to the icing on my cake - not just remission, a cure.

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