The six weeks between my November scans and last week's scans have been laden with anxiety -- probably the most I've had about my cancer in a long while. I usually try not to think too far ahead to my next scans, and I go about life as if everything was just peachy. But this time, with the possibility of harsher chemo and forever losing my hair looming, it was hard NOT to think about them and their implications for our (my and my family's) future.
Thankfully, there was no further growth in the liver lesion mentioned in my November scans. Yay! My small left pleural effusion (fluid around the lung) was unchanged, as was all the previously seen bone mets. The chest lymph nodes remain normal in size, and the growths I had on my side/back remain gone. My tumor marker level is still within the normal range (but I have yet to see the exact number.) However, there are a few "potentially" new lesions in my liver, which are very small in size. But, the radiologists' reports say I have "stable" metastatic disease for now. Dr. Green is keeping me on Xeloda, which I've been taking since October 2009. Yay for hair ... at least for the next 3 months when my next scans are scheduled. This is great news, and I am so thankful.
But my pessimistic side got to thinking ... just how low my "great news" bar has been set. Woohoo, I get a whole 3 months before I may have to start a new chemo! And now I'm down to "Well at least it's not in my brain!" Having stage IV cancer has really taught me to appreciate every little thing. Every glimmer of hope. Three months. Slow-growing tumors. Very small new tumors. Tumors that aren't yet affecting organ function. Hair.
The reality is that I do have growth, albeit very slow. Not yet bad enough to warrant changing treatment to a more toxic chemo. It's hard to grasp, and it's hard not knowing what the next step will mean for us. Will I be sick, or will the worse thing be losing my hair? Will I be able to continue working? Will I be able to remain active in the kids' lives? Will I still be the team photographer? Will I chaperone field trips? Games, recitals, concerts? Will we still be able to travel? Hike? Run? So many questions! that only God know the answers to. For now I am thankful for all that I still CAN do. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the day that I CAN'T do those things.
Danny and I have decided (well, it was actually Danny's idea) that I will cut down on my work hours to get a better grip on our home life. We have made some changes to the office and he is learning most of what I do there. So if something does happen (God forbid,) he will not be clueless as to my tasks/job at The Pink Ribbon Shop. I will still work in some capacity, but the plan is for him to take over much of it so that I can stay home 2-3 days per week. I like the idea of it, but since I've always worked, it's taking some getting used to. Hoping to get a lot done at home! Unfinished projects, messes, piles, filing, paperwork processing, kids appointments, etc. Working full time at our own business, plus managing our busy, active family of 5 ... well, lots of "stuff" has been left undone or partially-done. I'm not the mom/wife I want to be. Need to organize and clean in order to provide a nicer home for our family.
And yet ... I've had acquaintances & friends with cancer who have, at some point, taken a sudden turn for the worse, and died shortly thereafter ... even after being "clear" for some time. That is my biggest fear right now. That my life as I know it will suddenly cease to exist. I may still be alive, but life will change dramatically for me and my family. I will be too sick to do anything and will need to be cared for. Perhaps brain mets or more advanced liver or lung mets. I feel like I want to have everything "in order" before that day comes. Of course, this kind of sudden life change can happen to anyone, at any time. I know that. Well at least having stage IV cancer gives me time and reason to think about it and prepare.
Uggh, I'm such a downer!!! Hate that I'm sounding so ungrateful for my life! Who knows, I could be the next poster girl for longevity in stage IV cancer patients! Right now I can do everything that's truly important to me. No restrictions. Thank you for that, God!