Day Three-Hundred and Seventy-Seven

So, it’s been over a year since I was diagnosed.  So many things have happened since then.  So many things have happened since the last time I posted on this blog.  Recently, I have decided to pick it back up, mostly for those of you who did express interest, and for those random people looking for answers, opinions, experiences, who don’t know where to turn.  I’ve decided I’m going to be here.  For anyone, and everyone, who will listen.

After my last post last year, I found out that my cancer had indeed metastasized (spread) to a lymph node.  One single lymph node, but it made all the difference.  Instead of dealing with stage II cancer, I was dealing with stage III, and once it gets into lymph nodes, it goes cellular, unseen.  So, my doctor at Duke suggested chemotherapy after all, and I began in November.

To receive chemo for any extended period of time, you must have surgery to have a port placed.  A port is like a permanent IV, so they don’t have to re-stick you every time you go for treatment.

I feel nervous even beginning to type the next part of my story.  Wow, this is harder than I thought it would be…

On the night that I had my port placed, my husband cheated on me with a woman he worked with.  This was the “officially cheating” night, but things had happened between them before, unbeknownst to me, of course, because I was a bit busy dealing with other things.  He finally told me about his infidelity on the day that I received my first chemo treatment.

I decided to forgive him and move on, after about two months of nothing but pain.  Then, on January 1, 2010, I receive an email from an old friend, explaining to me that she too had relations with my husband, which began before I found out about my cancer, pouring into October, after I had found out.  They were no longer seeing each other, but the pain of that betrayal still stings today.

This is just the first taste.  There is so much to get into here, but I don’t want to write very long blogs, so I’ll go further tomorrow.  Thanks for continuing to read.

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Day Fifty-One

Day 51Is anyone reading this blog?  I have enjoyed documenting my ups and downs, my losses and celebrations, but if no one is reading this, then I may just stop writing.  I’m going to be very busy soon, with yoga lessons, acupuncture appointments, working out, oncologist appointments, etc.  If this is helping even one person, I will continue to write, so please let me know if you are reading this.  If not, this may be my final post.

Quick update.  I have decided for sure not to do chemotherapy.  Since I live in Asheville, I feel comfortable that I can find the right person to help me with alternative therapies, including Chinese medicine.  I’m excited to take this next step, and I’m even more excited not to be getting chemo.  If I get cancer a year from now, maybe chemo would have helped.  But then again, maybe it wouldn’t have.  Since I have chosen against chemotherapy, it has to be the right decision.  I know it is.

Weight: 115; Mood: Ready

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Day Forty-Eight

Day 48It has been a whirlwind week.  That’s for sure.  I am tired thinking about this, and I want it all to be over.

On Tuesday, the 13th, I went to Duke for a second opinion on my treatment options with my parents.  I was expecting to hear the same thing I heard here in Asheville: you are young and the cancer was aggressive, so let’s do chemo.  I heard quite the opposite.  In fact, the doctor at Duke pretty much said that chemo may in fact be more of a hindrance than a help.  Here I was, ready to go on the chemo, ready for my life to suck for the rest of this year, ready to just face the monster head on, and now I am told that I maybe shouldn’t do anything.  I wanted to just disappear.

Essentially, the doctor at Duke showed me that, if I turn my life into a mathematical model, I have an 89% chance of being alive in ten years without chemo and an 86% chance with.  This seems like an easy answer then, right?  No chemo!  But, he wanted to make things more difficult for me, saying that most doctors would not agree with him, that most doctors would say, “Better safe than sorry.”  But his argument is that we’ll never know if chemo helped me at all.  Let’s say the cancer never comes back.  That doesn’t mean that chemo is the cause of that.  Let’s say I have a recurrence next year.  Chemo may in fact be at fault, or it may have not helped fight the cancer already in my body anyway.  In addition, chemo may cause some chronic conditions, including infertility brought on by early menopause and chronic shaking.  Great.

There is a condition called Micro Satellite Instability, or MSI for short, that many younger cancer patients find that they have.  If I understand it correctly, this condition means that the 18th chromosome is shorter than it is supposed to be.  The result of this shortness is that one out of 4 DNA “fixers” (things that go along your DNA and fix any mutated cells, such as cancer), does not exist in the body.  Yes, the doctor says, sure we can do this test, but it will take a month.  At that point, shouldn’t I have started chemo?  What good would it be to know that I have a condition that makes me more likely to have cancer, other than making me more terrified for the rest of my life?  I can’t think of a benefit.

So, I am still thinking, but I believe my plan will be to choose an alternative method of fighting any remaining cancer cells in my body.  I will be visiting an Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Clinic on Monday, and I will be working on creating a diet and exercise plan to help me fight this fight on my own terms.  I can do this.

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Day Forty-One

Day 41Yesterday I had a huge blow to my confidence, and my spirits.  I finally saw the oncologist, and what does he say we need to do?  Not just chemo, but 6 months of chemo, at two days per week intervals.  I haven’t even heard of chemo lasting more than a few hours at a time, and I get it for 48.  How did I ever get so lucky?  Yes, I sound glib, but I’m not really sure what else to do.  I feel like my recovery, the 5k, everything has now been compromised.  Everything.

I’m going to try to explain, to the best of my ability, how the oncologist explained my specific treatment.  My cancer turned out to be a stage II, but a “late stage II,” meaning 2B.  This means that the cancer has not only penetrated the muscular layer of my colon, but it has reached the outer lining of the colon.  This makes it scarier, simply because the cancer was not necessarily as well-isolated as I had thought.  This alone is a big enough blow to upset me.  So, normally at stage II, with an older patient, the doctors do surgery and hope for the best.  At an older age, chemo is not always a good option and often makes things worse, rather than better.  But, since I am the ripe old age of 26, my doc suggests a more aggressive treatment.  “We will treat it as we treat a stage III colon cancer,” he says.  At this point, whatever the suggestion is can’t be good, right?  So, then we get into specific drugs, mine being “Folfox” or a combination of Leucovorin Calcium (Folinic Acid), Flouroucil, and Oxaliplatin.  Possible side effects to this treatment: thinning hair, extreme sensitivity to cold, rashes on the hands and feet, fatigue, sensitivity to sunlight, weight loss or gain, numbness, burning, or tingling in the extremities, and a change in the ability to taste food.  All of the great stuff you think of when you hear chemotherapy, I get to enjoy for the next six months.  Oh, and my treatment involves receiving a port, which is essentially a semi-permanent I.V. that goes underneath the skin in the upper chest.  Yes, it will make a lump under my skin, and yes I expect to be fully repulsed by it.  When I go get my treatment, they will hook a tube up to my port and give me a bag that contains the Folfox, which I get to wear over my shoulder for two days out of every week.  The doc tells me to expect to be worthless when I’m actually on treatment, and just see how it goes otherwise.

I met with one of my bosses today to discuss the action plan for me for the rest of the school year.  Biggest upsetting decision: my class is being taken from me.  I only got to teach one day – the first day.  I haven’t been in the classroom since, as I found out the following day that I had cancer.  This really hit home in terms of my feelings of worth and well being.  Now, I can’t say that I teach.  I just do piddly tasks for the Communications Director for the school website and public relations.  I’m no one and I mean very little to anyone, in terms of my employment here.  I have said it before, but I am so lucky to be here, at Asheville School, now, instead of anywhere else I have ever been.  Though my class is gone, I am being fully supported by the school, in every way.  I can’t say that any other employer would do the same.

Oh, so after the bad news yesterday, I decided to get a nice, new haircut.  Verve A Salon is where I went and Jola was my hairstylist.  She was fantastic and put a happy note on my otherwise unhappy day.  Thank goodness for kind, and talented, people.

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Day Thirty-Nine

Day 39Today, I walked 2 miles!  Yes, I am just as shocked as you are.  I knew I needed to really get onto that walking thing – not that I hadn’t walked at all, just not nearly as much as I should – but I had not since I found out that I had cancer.  I’ve done yoga a bit, and cleaned, but other than that, I have been taking it perhaps a bit more easily than I should have.  If I can walk 2 miles (albeit in 40 minutes, so not fast-walking), I can do a lot more than I credited myself for.

After working for about 4 hours yesterday, I began to get nauseated.  Really, already, just sitting upright is too much?  But, in fact, I may have been totally off base.  In fact, I had not been doing enough physical activity to give myself the energy to get through a day, or even a half-day, of work.  So, 2 miles today.  Not a lot, really, but 2 miles is a big step from nothing at all.  Next thing you know, I’ll be walking 5 miles, or running a mile, or running 3.1 miles (5k)!  I’m feeling very positive today, much thanks to the good vibes from the “workout.”

I contacted my school’s athletics director to see if she would give me some working out and eating right advice.  Hopefully, I will have that information available soon.  The more you know, the better.  I wish I had stumbled upon someone else’s blog like this before I went through the toughest month of my life alone.

Weight: 117, Mood: Energetic!

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Day Thirty-Eight

Day 38Two landmark occasions today: I went to see my surgeon for my first check up, and I went to work for the first time since I found out that I had cancer.  Surgeon first, work second.  Dr. Johnson said that my scars were healing nicely, and I should feel comfortable resuming low-impact physical activity.  This is good news!  Maybe I can’t begin jogging yet, but more walking, maybe some bike riding, swimming, who knows?  I have lots of options, which is great.

The first day back at work was fairly uneventful.  Lots of “Wow, you look great!” and “I’m so glad you’re back.”  I wonder if they thought I would be bald already, or that I would look like I was on death’s door.  I wish, at times like these, that people would be totally honest.  I wish someone would say, “Wow, Logan, I expected you to come back looking like a living corpse, not very similar (albeit a few pounds lighter) to how you looked when you left.”  That’s okay.  I wouldn’t do that, either.

I read a blog today of a woman who had breast cancer.  It was titled “A Year with Cancer” or something like that, and it was from Fit magazine online, or something like that.  I was mildly frustrated by the blog, simply because this woman had stage I cancer and it seemed much worse than I imagine stage I cancer actually being.  She had chemo and went bald, she went through serious psychological help to deal with her fear of death, and it goes on and on.  Am I really just being way too optimistic?  Should I be afraid for my life, or are other people just more melodramatic than me?  I guess that’s why no one reads this blog – I’m not entertaining enough because I’m actually trying to deal with my cancer in a logical, calm, proactive way.  Well, sorry, readers, I will never be that pathetic.

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Day Thirty-Six

Day 36I have decided to run a marathon.  Well, I guess it’s not technically a marathon, but I don’t know what else to call it.  It’s a 5k “race.”  My brother and his girlfriend found this site last week, and they plan to run it with me.  Now, as a child, I had asthma, and I had it pretty bad.  I needed to use one of those breathing machines on a regular basis, and missed many days of school simply because I couldn’t breathe.  Now, though, the actual asthma is gone, but I definitely don’t have the lung capacity of, say, a “normal person.”  I’ve never been able to run more than a mile in my life, even at my peak fitness level.  But that’s okay.  A 5k is 3.1 miles, and I’m going to do it on March 20 of 2010, and that’s that.  I need a goal like this to not only make me feel like I am getting officially better, but to give myself a true fitness goal.  This may sound pathetic, but I lost 10 pounds with this disease so far, and I’m gaining it back already.  I would love to stay at 115 pounds, and running is a way to get myself there healthily.  I don’t want to be too skinny, but I have felt out of shape for at least a few years, so this is going to be my gateway back into prime physical health.  I am quite excited about it.

Weight: 117.5 lbs; Mood: Ready!

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