Happy (a bit late) Birthday, Superman. So thankful, you share your heart with me! Aren't the heart shaped sparklers cool? It's like love on fire, literally. And here we are, side by side, through it all.
Would you believe the sparklers were a part of a"goodie bag" for my first role in a documentary? If you go to imdb, and google my name? The documentary I was beyond honored to be a part of, "Part of me Now: Living With Breast Cancer," will pop up. We're just waiting for the director, Emily Gerhardson, to announce how we can all see it. She's done an amazing job from start to finish in getting this project out into the world- so many film festivals it has gone to- we're just hopeful it gets picked up somewhere!
Thanks to Ria for capturing this at the end of our photo session last August- somehow she always finds the best light.
Speaking of light- I've spent days and days going through photos we took in and around Pittsburgh. The light was simply stunning and the leaves were in full color. I've formed such a deep connection to feeling "alive," when I spend time in nature.
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
So many places and activities we savored in Pittsburgh have continued to stay with me... despite how much I had to concede and surrender along the way. It became quite clear when we arrived back home, the toll so much of this "journey" has taken on me. Two days after we arrived home:
Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
Roger Maris Cancer Center
He strides into the room, his voice booming, "Hello, Vicky, how are you?" Then he stops mid-step. One look at my face, and his whole demeanor changes. I have yet to truly say anything, but he reads me in that moment.
"Ohhhh, what is going on with you?" Dr. Panwalkar's face falls from smiles, and registers concern, as he scans my face. His voice softens as he sits down, but turns to look at me as I try to answer him.
"I just don't seem to bounce back like I once did." I shake my head, and say, "I just don't know what is going on with me." He starts to run through the list of questions about fatigue and appetite, sleep, and breathing.
My appetite is good- but my tolerance for so many foods is limited. I feel sick, after I eat, with a tenderness in my lower left side. I still eat. I'm just never sure what will set my stomach off. I can certainly use meds to calm it back down. But soon the gnawing sets in again. It's just a vicious circle. I can't see clearly enough to cut a clean swathe through the maze. And really? The bigger question?
Are my symptoms treatment related? Or is it cancer progression. My blood work actually looks good. Although my tumor markers have climbed yet again.
He thoroughly examines me, asking questions as he goes head to toe.
He's nodding his head when I offer, "that small inner voice is telling me to scan."
Dr. Panwalkar helps me sit up, then goes to sit and begin the process of garnering approval for a PET scan, and a brain MRI. Soon, we shift to discussing what a new treatment might be.
He mentions going back to Taxotere, since I had a good response to it, and we quit before it stopped working, due to my intolerance for the side effects. He also mentions another chemo agent I'd done before- Halaven.
And then, mustering much enthusiasm, he mentions the one I've blocked from my mind- Adriamyacin- also known as "The red devil."
I'm nodding my head, understanding the gift of knowing I have options, while also sliding right into denial, so that I don't have to focus on the toll those options can take on a weary body and spirit.
He also mentions looking into immunotherapy trials and asks where I'd be willing to travel? "Anywhere," is our answer. But just days later our insurance agent informs us my new policy will only allow me to have treatment at Sanford in Fargo. I try to cling to gratitude that I can still at least find a policy that will take me on, despite its limits, and expense.
Dr. P and I conclude our time together, and he ushers me out of the room and walks with me to the infusion waiting room. He stops and motions towards the seating area, but then looks at me, and rubs my back as he smiles and simply says, "See you in 3 weeks. We WILL get to the bottom of this."
So I get up each day and I try. Some days it's merely hours later, and I'm back in bed, down for the day. But each day I push a little more.
After a day of resting at home, I take a chance and attend the steak fry fundraiser for the Moorhead hockey team. I even managed to eat half my meal and felt so encouraged to see so many friends attending. I manage to clean house, spend time outside with Crosby, and work on this blog post. Stringing all of these moments together crafts a sort of "seat belt" that tethers me in place, for the curves we endure on this tenuous ride.
At the end of our trip to Pittsburgh, we go to say goodbye to our friends, Matt and Bridget Cullen, after the Penguins come away with a big win. Smiles abound. We've had such a great trip.
Those light-filled eyes, and big smiles, from the bigs and the littles, melt my mother's heart.
We're pulling out of the parking lot after the game, when the car with the little boys stops. Their Dad says, "I have some pretty sad young boys who have requested just one more hug from the big boys?"
He has taken the time to stop, and they all unbuckle and tumble out of their car seats... as my big boys jump out of their seats for that last big hug. The littlest guy looks up at Colton, tears streaming, "l'll miss you! Please come back again soon so I can see you!"
Out of all the moments, so very many of them, its this one I tuck away in my heart forever.
My brain MRI will be Thursday with sedation at 1 and scan at 2. Then the PET scan will be at 730 am on Friday, with injection at 730 and scan at 9.
How can I pray for you? I will bring a list and pray fervently for anything on your heart and mind.
~All shall be well~