Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grateful for God's Gifts

Monday, November 18, was the big scan day. PET scans and brain MRI - those are the big guns. They see everything in 3D & color, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. Amazing, really, but they make me oh so nervous for all the little things that could be lurking under the skin and inside the tissues. Lindsey patiently sat in the waiting room for almost three hours while I had the PET, and then Dean arrived to sit through the next three hours, as we waited for the MRI appointment and actually had the scan. When I finally emerged, he was all alone in the waiting room (everyone else had gone home by then) and admitted that he probably fell asleep & snored. I had the worst rumbly tummy from drinking the contrast while fasting, which only added to my anxiety level. Tuesday, November 19, Lindsey and I were back at Dr. Grossmann's office for the results, knowing that Dr. G was out of the office and we would be seeing his assistant, Carolyn, and nurse Karen. Even though I had great faith in the fasting and prayers that had been offered so unselfishly by many good souls, I was nervous and imagined the worst, just to steel myself for bad news. But, God is more powerful than any tumor or any doubt. He will never leave me alone. He will never forsake me. The news was the best EVER. Nothing new on the scans. Existing tumors are shrinking - the groin tumor is half as big as on the last PET scan. The little tumor on the inside of my left knee is so small that it didn't even show "hot", which means that it is "well-behaved." Good job, you little stinker! Nothing shows up in the liver. A little spot below my collarbone that has shown up on several of my latest scans has disappeared. A tiny spot that was being watched on my right leg has disappeared. Brain is "perfect". Even my low blood counts have gone up a bit, which is very encouraging. I have an appointment with a hematologist specialist to see if we can get my blood counts as normal as possible, just in case I need to qualify for a trial down the road, but those appointments will be CAKE, comparatively-speaking. Next scans are scheduled for the middle of February! Doesn't that sound wonderful? While I was in the dressing room/waiting room for the MRI, a man came out of his dressing room to wait, too. He started to talk to me and asked, if I wanted to tell him, what I was having an MRI for. I told him I have Stage 4 melanoma. He said his sister-in-law has melanoma and that it started with a small tumor in her neck, just like mine did. She, too, had been through several surgeries, radiation, and chemo, but continued to do well. Then, he told me that she was first diagnosed "seven or eight years ago"! My heart was full! There was hope. If I can do this well and keep fighting for the next four years - and beyond - I will be eternally grateful. That is what I pray for: more and more and more time... I just cannot express my thanks enough. There are no words to tell how grateful I feel for God's gifts. He has blessed me abundantly and given me renewed hope and faith in miracles. The faith of those who pray for me, who fast for me, who think positive thoughts for me have all added to the blessings poured down on me and my family. I am filled with thanksgiving. These are the best gifts of all. Praise God. Hallelujah... Happy 9 years today, Chelsea & Rob! I love you!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Monday, I was sick, my same normal sick. No biggie, but tiring. Tuesday, I tried to make up for not doing anything the day before, and things were tough. Tried to straighten the house & move furniture for carpet cleaning, traffic to & from school was crazy, Einie really needed a bath, and my girl's first extraction at the dentist was the "most painful thing" she's ever felt...ever. To top it off, I was on the phone four or five times, trying to get my scans coordinated between the doctor's office & the girl at Radiology, and trying to get a prescription refilled since I was down to my last pill. There I was, sounding strong but feeling weak, still in my pajamas at 1:30 in the afternoon with 45 minutes to go before school let out. I got into the shower & heard the phone ringing again. There was a message from Nancy in Dr. G's office, saying that our new health insurance was two weeks behind in their pre-authorizations for scans, so it was doubtful I would be going ahead with the PET next Monday as planned. My heart sank. As much as I hate these scans, I hate not knowing what's inside even more, and pushing them further down the line just makes it worse. I wondered how this news would mess up the holidays, feeling certain it would. Sad, sad, sad. Went to bed with a prayer that things would be better in the morning.
And they were, of course. Early, 8 AM early, Nancy called again to ask if I had talked to Radiology about a tentative schedule for the scan & I said, yes, somewhat warily. She said, "Good because the pre-auth went through and we're good to go on Monday." I couldn't believe it...had I heard her correctly? I think we both said, "Awesome!", at the same time. I hung up the phone and cried. Another miracle. They never cease to amaze me. They always make me cry. God's love is constant, even when I doubt. 
I am extremely grateful for the constant prayers for me & my health & my family. I am humbled by the special fast my sweet ward family will be offering in my behalf this Sunday, along with members of my family & friends. Miracles are already coming. I cannot say thank you enough...but I'll keep trying...

(The best part of Tuesday, 11/12/13, was the anniversary of these two cute "kids" that I love dearly!)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Celebrations Yet

It seems like I get to a point where maybe I can relax a bit with this danged cancer...and it reminds me that it will probably never happen (notice how that sentence used words like "seems like" & "maybe" & "probably" - just trying to stay real here). My appointment yesterday was supposed to be a celebration of the final IPI infusion, but this time around there was no "feel good" certificate or comfy handmade blanket at the end, mostly because it just is not the end. IPI is done, for now, but what else is to come is already being considered. 
A few weeks ago, I discovered a big ugly bruise on the inside of my left knee. No idea where it came from or how it got there, which is typical for someone on blood thinners, but as I touched this bruise, I realized that there was a teeny lump in the center of it. I wanted to believe it was a blood clot - maybe? - but I've felt enough melanoma lumps to see red flags now, no matter how small they are. I even asked Dr. Avizonas to feel it & assess it at my radiation follow-up appt last week. She could see the bruise, though it had faded a bit, and thought it was just blood from the impact of being whacked there. Of course, she said to keep an eye on it, but didn't seem too concerned, which made me relax least until Tuesday night, when I started to wonder & worry again, knowing that I had discovered it for a reason & I'd have to bring it to Dr. G's attention the next morning.
Arrived at Huntsman super early, got my labs done & my port accessed for the infusion, found out I had gained a couple more pounds (Halloween candy to blame?), and got settled in the exam room to wait for nurse Carolyn. First thing she always asks is, "do you have any new concerns or complaints today?" Darn. First thing. It was inevitable. I told her about the bruise and showed her my leg. I honestly have not looked at the thing for a couple of days, so I was kind of surprised that the bruise had faded to almost nothing. But just in case I thought I wouldn't be able to find it, there was a yellowish circle around the pea-sized lump. Carolyn felt it, squeezed it (yeah, this little guy hurt), and got that worried look on her face that I've (unfortunately) seen more than once. "Do you remember hitting your knee?" she asked, and I said, no, I just noticed the big bruise one day after showering. "We'd better get this checked out then," she said. She went on to say that if I really had hit it hard on something, she wouldn't be as concerned because it would explain the bruise & the lump. But, since I couldn't recall exactly how it got there, the lump may have caused the bruise. That's something a cancerous lump would do. Of course, it would, the little devil. Weird.
The shrinking tumors in my back & groin were felt and then dismissed in light of this newest threat. Suddenly, they had taken the back seat. The techs from the lab were called to do a needle biopsy there in the exam room and arrived within minutes - one of the many perks of an early morning appt. three "passes", as they call the needle passing in & out of the lump, were taken and yes, it hurt! I admitted it to the senior tech and she said it was because the lump was so small, she had to pinch it between her fingers to do the passes. Lovely. Finally, they had enough "stuff" (tissue? blood?) to test, again done right there beside me. Whispered words I didn't understand, and then the announcement that it looked "suspicious" but required further testing. I knew. It was melanoma again.
Nurses Carolyn & Karen came back into the room to talk strategy. Dr. G was in a meeting, but they were keeping in contact with him. My blood tests had also come back and the notorious platelet & white blood cell counts were low again, even lower than they were at my last appt. Protein and albumin were also low, though I had had a protein drink for breakfast. So weird. What to do about that was still the burning question, but for sure, Dr. G wanted me to finish the IPI infusions & then we could figure something out. Because of the new tumor, my upcoming CT scan needed to be changed to a full-body PET scan so that it would include images of my legs. My wild imagination now believes there are tumors everywhere - legs, arms, brain - every aunt, uncle, & second cousin cancer cell coming out to party & invade. Horrors. But, I know it has to be done because after finding this little guy, I'm seriously NOT going to go looking anywhere else, no matter how many bruises decide to pop up. Not going to touch them, no way. If they're there, the scan will catch them...and everything else I don't want to know about right now.
I went to the infusion center pretty shaky from the news & the biopsy and discovered the only "chair" they had available was a BED. As if I didn't already feel like the typical cancer patient, which I usually don't, by the way. But it was kind of nice & I quickly recognized it as a mixed blessing. I could sit/lay more comfortably, I could turn on my iPad & play the Pandora shuffle (I love that I can listen to Keith Urban, Nat King Cole (Christmas Radio), Meryl Streep & "Dancing Queen", and Britt Nicole one after the other) without my head phones. The time went by fast...another blessing.
So again, I wait: for the exact date & time of the PET scan, for the formal results of the biopsy, and for an appointment with a hematologist who can, hopefully, figure out my blood counts. And then, what do we do with the lump? If he's the only one to come to the battle, I think out-patient surgery is on the horizon. If he's only one of the offenders, another course of action will be planned. It will be okay. It will all work out. We'll keep that celebration on the back burner for now.
Until the next update, these little people make me smile, day in & day out. I know my Heavenly Father blessed me with them specifically to help me through these rough, teary days. I wake up the next morning and know I can go on because of them. Enjoy!