Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Christmas Miracle

I've been silent the past few months because I was in the midst of enjoying not having to think about my cancer. Four months of no scans or was fabulous. I admit that I spent more time than I should have just resting and not actively doing much of anything. I loved my quiet house after taking my girl to school. I loved cleaning up the kitchen from dinner the night before and hearing the dishwasher rumble away. I loved getting toasty under a blanket and rocking my puppy on my lap and reading book after book after book. I loved falling asleep on the couch, in my bed, or in the recliner in the middle of the day. I loved going without makeup and not caring. I loved eating donuts and cookies and Halloween candy. I felt good.

But, I was still worried. I wasn't taking care of myself. I had been given so many wonderful blessings of healing and health, and no matter what cancer had taken away from me, I still had so much to be grateful for. As Thanksgiving approached, I realized that my four months reprieve was quickly coming to an end. Celebrating all that God had given me opened my eyes - I have a beautiful, supportive family and wonderful, caring friends who pray for me every day. They deserved better. As that holiday weekend with my family in the "south" ended, I resolved to eat better, to go to bed earlier, to pray more sincerely for those facing struggles, and to try harder to live every day with more purpose. I have not been entirely successful, but going sugar-free & getting better sleep & praying with a grateful heart has  helped me feel better. I still worry, but much is beyond my control and can't be solved without time and patience.

Yesterday morning, Lindsey and baby brother and I headed up to Huntsman. I was feeling good, happy to have lost a few pounds and not finding new lumps or bumps. I was grateful to have Linds with me, even though she's been working hard getting ready for Christmas. Bless her heart...she helps me in sooo many ways, too many to count. I love her and am so thankful for her. Having baby brother there too was an added gift. He makes me smile. The CT scan was quick; even better, I was done with drinking the contrast. Not only does it make me shudder to drink it, but it hurts my tummy and makes me sick. It usually takes me a couple of days to get it out of my system, so I'm kind of out of commission for awhile after my appointments. The brain MRI took about a half hour and I listened to Christmas music to help me stay awake & not go bonkers listening to the MRI machine. It was lunchtime when I finally finished, so we had a yummy spinach/chicken/strawberry salad at the "Beast" (Bistro). We had told all the techs that I had a doctor appointment at 1:00, so we were praying hard that the scan results would be ready by the time we got to Dr. Grossmann's office. (I usually have the scans one day & the doc appt the next day.) With a gurgling stomach, I was weighed (lost 9 lbs in about 3 weeks!) and we were taken to an exam room. We expected to wait for awhile, but Dr. G came in after a few minutes with a new intern, Gerry. He sat down, asked how I was feeling, and in the next breath, he said, "Your scans look great. I don't see any tumors. Merry Christmas!" As Linds and I gasped and shed a few tears, he showed me the scans on the computer and pointed out the differences between past scans & tumors and the new scans. The tumor in my back showed a very small shadow, which he felt was probably scarring. The tumor in my groin was completely gone. Nothing in the liver or anywhere else. It was miraculous! I think I was in shock.

Leaving Dr. G's office, his assistant, Carolyn, came down the hall with a huge grin on her face. She gave me a big bear hug and said she was so happy for my good news. The ladies at the reception desk reacted just as happily. Pam said we needed to go out & celebrate! Nancy, the nurse in the lab who was de-accessing my port, congratulated me and told me I was the "poster child" of survival. I mentioned something about how happy I was for myself, but how sad I was for those who would not get good news for Christmas. Then she told me that I should never feel undeserving, that other cancer patients, especially those with melanoma, needed to know that there was someone who was responding to treatments and was moving forward to long-term survival. She said it was important for the doctors to be able to tell their patients about me, to give them hope and show how the new research & meds are saving lives. I had never thought of it in that way. It made me feel better about my own purpose.

Everything now is hopeful and long-term. Because I am a late (and slow) responder to the Ipiluminab, it has continued to work long past the chemo treatments. Dr. G said we "cheated" a bit by radiating my back & groin and kick-starting the Ipi, but we all laughed when he said, "I'll cheat against melanoma any time." If nothing happens in the next six months, statistics say that I should have a long-term survival of more than 10 years! What a long way we have come since the day Dr. Bradley said, "You have melanoma and there's really no cure." As Lindsey said, "Take that, Stage IV!"

My next scan appointment is in June! Summer! My girl's graduation! Six months! I prayed long & hard from Day 1 to see my girl graduated and never ever thought I'd get to this point...and here it is, our Christmas miracle. This is my gift and it is all I have prayed & hoped for. Thank you, Jesus. I know who gave me this gift...and I love Him with all my heart and soul.

May God bless us this Christmas. I know He has blessed me.