A Very Good Outlier

Just met with my medical oncologist at M.D. Anderson today for my 3-month follow-up. Yesterday’s tests were compared to my post-surgery baseline CT scans done in January. The results of yesterday’s tests show that my tumor markers are normal and my CT scans are clean! My non-mucinous, colonic-type appendiceal adenocarcinoma is just not there. I am still cancer-free!

In an attempt to get this info to sink in, we had this conversation:

Me: So I get the feeling that my case is pretty unusual around here.

Doc: Yes, you had a rare subset of a rare cancer that has responded well to treatment.

Me: So does that make me an outlier?

Doc: Yes, in a good way.

There are not that many folks with this type of cancer AND with this good outcome. I am one of the lucky ones. There are no words to express how grateful I am.

No chemo or major appointments until my next check-up in 4 months (August). I’m having my own little happy dance inside. What a great summer this will be!

Stronger and cancer-free?

I’m getting stronger.  Or I should say I’m on my way to getting stronger.  Just biked about 3 miles.  Felt like a weakling but I will get there.  Will go for a swim tomorrow to see how that feels. I’ve looked into some yoga classes down the street. Hopefully, I can figure out some sort of cross-training routine.

I am definitely an endorphin girl.  I feel like I just want to keep going and going!

Sunday, we go to MD Anderson for tests and CT scans. On Monday, I will see my medical oncologist to see what’s up inside. Hopefully, my body will be running smoothly and healthfully!

The Cancer Time Machine

I finished my last post-surgery chemo treatment on March 26th. Woohoo!  This milestone deserved at least some sort of blurb but I was still feeling the chemo-hangover so it didn’t seem like I was done at all.

It seems that the fatigue wants to stay for good. I’m wiped out early in the afternoon. I nap but wake up exhausted. I look forward to building back my strength and increasing my stamina. “One day at a time” applies for the recovery phase, too, as my fellow appendix cancer survivors often remind me.

Time Machine (source: colemanzone.com)

There is a unique and powerful bond that exists between cancer survivors. Even if we’ve never met before, it seems that we find common ground within seconds. Kind of like a time machine, fast-forwarding you from complete strangers to old friends sharing intimate details within minutes.  Perhaps it is because of our brush with mortality:  we all have had to renegotiate terms with Life itself.

I have been lucky to meet a handful of friends who are in the appendix cancer survivor boat.  Some I have met through this blog (Valerie, Randy), others through their blog (Dan), and others I have met through friends of friends (Jim, Mark, Owen, Becky).  We comprise a very small club of folks working our way back to health in one way or another.  We encourage each other when we are down and rejoice when CT scans come back clean.

But then one of us loses their valiant battle as my friend, Owen, did this past Tuesday.  His death hit me very hard because we had one of those time machine bonds.  Owen was a retired geologist whose mission was to get kids interested in science through geology and bones.  Watching his many YouTube videos, you can see he was passionate, energetic and loved by the kids.

Last year, I was able to share my tips and tricks for getting through FOLFOX chemotherapy leading up to Owen’s big surgery at the beginning of 2011. While I was recovering from surgery at MD Anderson in December, he gave a presentation to my daughters’ elementary school and donated one of his famous geological maps to the school.  We didn’t realize the overlap in our worlds until I was home from surgery and heard about it from my daughter.  Owen learned about my youngest daughter’s obsession with rocks and emailed us tips from his hospital bed on how to identify them using the mineral streak test.

I can’t speak for Owen’s family and friends whom I do not know, but I think they would agree with me when I say that he has left a very positive mark on many lives, especially the kids.

I’d love to use the cancer time machine to bring Owen back.