If you’re reading this, chances are you already know what my fight is. Cancer. I hate (and I don’t use that word lightly) how devastating this disease is and what it does to those dealing with it. Not only those of us with cancer, but the families and loved ones close to us suffer right along with us. I often think that this is tougher on my wife than it is on me, and while this may or may not actually be true… there’s no debating that cancer hurts everyone it comes close to and is very efficient at what it does.
Big surprise here… I’m no doctor, but I’ve learned a lot since being diagnosed almost eight months ago. I was having some breathing issues over the summer (2018) and at the end of August I was officially diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma, which is a type of lung cancer. After a series of CT scans, doctors found a primary tumor in my right lung, and tumors attacking a variety of lymph nodes. Most concerning (in the lymph nodes) was a mass along the right side of my heart. This mass was large enough to push into my lung and cause the breathing issues that got me to go see a doctor in the first place. At this point we knew what the cancer was, but not what stage it had reached. It was time for a full-body PET scan.
I would have skipped this and just jumped further along, but the PET scan experience is significant in the “Cancer Care Coloring” story. We’d been watching a lot of “fighting cancer” documentaries since my diagnosis and something that really stuck with me was the idea of visualizing my white blood cells as soldiers, attacking and killing my cancer cells. One woman specifically had basically been sent home to die by her doctors and she was convinced that the power of visualization had allowed her to fight on (this was a couple years after doctors told her there was nothing else they could do). This idea really spoke to me, so I decided that I would incorporate it into my cancer therapy as well. Before the scan, there’s an hour of sitting in a dark room (after drinking a contrast solution). It was the perfect opportunity to try this visualization for myself. This hour was when I started trying to figure out how my “soldiers” should look, and what kind of powers they should have. The spark of CCC was lit.
Unfortunately, the scans revealed five areas of bone metastasis… one towards the top of each femur and three on my pelvic bone. This explained the pain I had in my hips. Once a cancer spreads to bone it’s officially stage 4 and considered incurable. Not the news I wanted to hear. Since then we’ve been fighting with any and all tools possible. Diet, fasting, supplements, visualization, exercise, and of course standard cancer therapy… usually chemotherapy. For me, it ended up being immunotherapy first. A drug called Keytruda. Chemotherapy would be plan “B”.
I had my first dose of Keytruda on my birthday, October 24. A couple of weeks later, the side effects began. I don’t want to get into the gritty of these side effects, so I’ll just say that the doctors thought that I may have developed Chrohn’s Disease. These side effects still haven’t been fixed, but after a number of tests and procedures it’s been determined that it’s not Chrohn’s. We still don’t know what it is or what exactly’s causing it, so that’s an ongoing adventure.
A CT scan in December showed that most of the tumors had shrunk some (THAT’S what I want to hear) and the mass on the side of my heart had shrunk significantly. We spent the rest of January and February working to determine whether or not I’d be doing a 2nd immunotherapy or switching to chemo. A CT scan at the end of February showed all tumor shrinkage had halted, and everything looked about the same as in December’s scans. We decided it was time for another dose of Keytruda.
Now that the immunotherapy is back in the mix, I’m hopeful that the next set of scans (scheduled for May) will show the same improvement that we saw between October and December. I’m a little weak right now (malnourishment) but I’m determined to continue using diet and exercise to build my strength up as much as I can. I don’t know how long I have, and I’ve never tried to find out my “odds” (never tell me the odds… and yes I’m a Star Wars nerd). If you tell someone that they only have a 10% chance of surviving for more that five years, too often it becomes self-fulfilling. I have every intention of being around for a while. I may have to explore some other cancer therapy avenues (I’m talking to you hyperbaric oxygen therapy) but that’s okay. While I continue the fight, work on the Cancer Care Coloring project will continue (and the characters will continue to help me when visualizing).
This entire experience is unlike any challenge I’ve ever faced. Some days it feels like an adventure and I can take whatever’s thrown my way smiling. Other days… not so much. Through all the ups and downs, I’m blessed to have my amazing wife help me through it. I really don’t know if I could do it alone. I’m tough, but she helps to make me so much tougher. Moving forward, understand that I won’t be discussing my cancer too often. Cancer Care Coloring isn’t about my cancer. It’s about our mind/body connections and finding ways to keep our power and spirits strong. My white blood cell characters can kick ass, and I’ll continue to enjoy visualizing that and evolving them into stronger and stronger characters! Let’s rip them cancer demon characters some new ones! If anyone has questions or their own experiences to share, please leave them below. Until next time…
Later Taters (Anyone know where I stole that from?)