In August of 2010, on a perfect summer day, I was told I was dying. I didn't really believe it at first. I was healthy, fit, young, with no history of cancer in my family. Then they showed me the images. There were tumors everywhere. How could someone who looked so well on the outside be so sick on the inside?
I was overwhelmed and asked for the prognosis. The oncologist said 6 months without chemo, 18 months to 2 years at best with it. There was zero chance of surgery. I didn't feel brave or courageous or anything like people in movies about cancer patients. Just scared. Really, really scared. But I needed to push back. I wasn't dead yet and although the road ahead looked like the highway to hell, it wasn't clear if there were turn-offs, exits, U-turns, roadblocks, or crossroads.
Fourteen months of chemo later, I had a consultation at MSKCC where I learned the chemo had done a lot of damage to my tumors. They were ready to operate on me and I was ready to take a chance. The plan involved two major surgeries (one involving an HAI pump), each with multiple parts, only months apart from each other - assuming, of course, I did well on the first one. It was a crossroads, not an exit ramp, but I felt like it was the beginning of something good. It took two additional surgeries over the next year and a lot more chemo until I got my first clear scan.
At first, I was elated, but also apprehensive. With cancer you never know if you've really found an exit but taking that crossroad was the smartest thing I've ever done. In 2010 when I was first diagnosed I used to think about 2013, the year I wouldn't ever live to see. Now it is 2020 and thanks to Dr. Kemeny and her team at MSK, I am still here.
I also owe thanks to all of you. You lifted me up when I was down, and your words, thoughts and prayers carried me through my darkest days. I wouldn't be so cocky if all you wonderful people didn't have my back through all of this. At the end of "my final year" (2012) I proposed a toast. I would like to repeat it this year.
(Please raise your glasses high!)
To the health and well-being of the members of this Club (whom I cherish), to peace, love, and happiness, to winter sunshine, to summer shadows, to bravery and perseverance, to those just starting out on this journey and to those who are veterans of the infusion rooms and surgery wards, to the unshakeable and constant love of caregivers, to our lovers and spouses who view our scarred bodies with non-judgmental eyes and unconditional love, to those whom we've lost in battle and who will forever live on in our hearts, to all of you reading this: your goodness and compassion make the world a finer place to be, and I am privileged to count you all as friends.
Stage IVb, liver/lung mets 8/4/2010
Xelox+Avastin 8/18/10 to 10/21/2011
LAR, liver resec, HAI pump 11/2011
Adjuvant Irinotecan + FUDR
Double lung surgery + ileo reversal 2/2012
Adjuvant FUDR + Xeloda
VATS rt. lung 12/2012 - benign granuloma!
VATS left lung 11/2013
NED 11/22/13 to 12/18/2019, CEA<1