Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stable CT so on a chemo holiday

Thanks for waiting with me. The bottom line is: I'm on a chemo holiday and my next CT scan is at the end of May.

More details:
My CEA is 11.6, down only a smidge from two weeks ago, at 11.7, but still, down, so I'll take it.
The "activity" (love these code words) in my lymph system is barely noticeable on the CT scan, so that is great positive news.
The two tumors are stable at exactly the same size as two months ago.
And there are no new tumors. Big yay for that.

My plan (HA! I should know better by now) was to do chemo until the end of May. At that time, in my mind, my CEA would be in the normal range and the tumors would be gone. Or, I would just need a break.

The doctor's recommendation is that I take a chemo holiday now because things are stable now and who knows what the future holds. Okay, that sounded ominous so I didn't want to go there if we were just speculating. 

I have to say, I was conflicted. I was geared up for more chemo, for quite awhile. At the same time, when someone says you don't need to vomit and feel sick for the next few days, it is hard to pass up that offer.

A few years ago, I had surgery to remove a very small tumor, and there was no other sign of disease in my pelvis. The surgeon thought I should follow up with chemo, and she put the case before the board of doctors (or whatever they are called). She told me that not a single doctor agreed with her, but she felt strongly that I should do chemo as a follow up.

At that time, also, I couldn't resist walking away from chemo. And three months later, I had a 10 cm tumor on my ovary, followed by a huge surgery. I can't help but reflect on that.

So, my inner conflict continues. I am going to sit with this for two weeks and see how I feel then. 

For now, I do feel like someone just gifted me four whole weeks, because there are four weeks where I would normally be doing chemo where now I will not.

Deep breath. And thanks. For your prayers, your support, your helping me to feel not so alone,the meals and all the healing vibes you send this way.

I send my love to you and wish God's blessings on you today and every single day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Answers to Questions

Thank you for waiting with me for the scan results. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and hope. 

I go into Dana Farber for my blood draw later today, at 1:15. I have an appointment with my doctor (where I will get the scan results) at 2:15 and then chemo is scheduled for 3:15, assuming all run on time.

I'll send a quick note tomorrow with the scan results for anyone who might be interested, but wanted to send this note out prior to chemo to ask, yet again, for your prayers for an easy and effective chemo session! Thank you.

In general, I feel that when I pose a question, it is answered in one way or another. Often I have to wait a bit, but the answer comes. For example, before each boy was born, I had these intensely real dreams, the kind that stay with you for a long time. I wondered what they were all about, but it wasn't until after each child was born that I realized that those dreams practically announced their arrivals. 

Lately, when I pose a question, the answer comes so quickly that it almost feels like I am having a direct conversation with the universe. For example, on Saturday night, we tried to get a dinner reservation for 10 people. No place could fit us in, and our first choice place hadn't called back, so we settled on the Cheesecake Factory. I didn't think about it for hours, then suddenly wondered what I could eat that night. Using Tiron's iPhone to look up the menu, I clicked on the Cheesecake Factory website just as his phone rang: It was our first-choice restaurant calling to say they could fit us in.

Or, the other day, during my walk around Fresh Pond, I thought, "I wonder if the owl is here today?" Almost as if I said it out loud, the man passing me replied, "The owl is here, sleeping in that hole."

I sometimes question why I continue with different alternative treatments. You probably know that I try just about any alternative treatment that friends suggest, and if I haven't tried it, it just means that I haven't worked my way down my list yet. It took me about two years to get around to trying Tom Tam's sessions. Several folks recommended these to me, and I finally started going in, I think, January. Maybe December. 

Anyway, I knew very little about it before I went. The process is called Tong Ren and the person who leads it, here, is Tom Tam. 

This is what it looks like: You walk into a room that has rows of chairs, all facing forward, and take a seat. The sessions I've attended have approximately 70 people of all ages, shapes and sizes. 

In front of the room, Tom Tam and about 10 other practitioners stand facing the group. Tom Tam and the other practitioners each hold a silver hammer in one hand and a plastic doll in the other. The doll has lines and dots that I assume correspond to meridians and acupressure or acupuncture points. 

One by one, Tom Tam asks each person why they are there. The wide range of issues raises my awareness of the many ways we can be afflicted: Allergies, sinus problems, back problems, cancer that has spread hither and yon, autoimmune disorders, ALS, MS….the list goes on. 

After each person names their symptoms or disease, he calls out a few points and the leaders (and some of the attendees who brought their own dolls and hammers) start pounding at these points on their dolls. For a few moments, you hear nothing but the soft taps of hammer on plastic, and then he moves on to ask the next person.

As I listen and support each person, I like to believe that no problem or illness is bigger than any other. If something is making you miserable, it is making you miserable. There is no real way to compare misery. 

I have to admit, though, that when someone said they were suffering from an occasional runny nose, I thought, "WHAT? Why would you come here for that?" Of course, at that moment in the doll-pounding, my chronically clogged sinuses suddenly cleared. Wild. Okay. Got it.

After a few months of attending these sessions, I sat listening to the tong ren gang pounding away and silently wondered why I continue to do this. 

Tom asked the next person, more doll-pounding, then asked the next.

Soon he came to Frank. Frank appeared to be a few years older than I am, and a bit rough in a street-smart kind of way. When he spoke, I heard his Boston accent, as well as his heart.

"Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer in my throat. I spent nine months in the hospital. I was on a feeding tube and lost over 60 pounds. I was told not to expect to live very long, but they would do surgery and take out what they could. As a last resort, I came here. I sat here watching this man pound on a little doll, and wondered what the (heck) I was doing in this room. It felt crazy. But I kept coming back. And when it was time for my surgery, the doctors opened me up but couldn't find a trace of my cancer."

He was there for maintenance, though self-centered me thinks that he was there to answer my question. It certainly felt that way that night.

I hope you find answers to your questions, whether those questions feel big or small. It is still nice to have answers and support, and I truly appreciate yours.

On another note, the Boston Globe did a really nice write-up on my father-in-law in Sunday's paper. If you would like to read it, here is the link:

Thank you again for hanging in there with me!

Love love love,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CT scan coming up

Thank you so much for your prayers and positive thoughts for the last round of chemo. Though I still vomited (again, before chemo) and spent the next two days in bed, it felt much more manageable and I was able to rebound on Friday. This is enormously different than it used to be, where I wouldn't show signs of life until the following Monday. Thank you. You make a difference in my life and in the lives of Tiron and the boys.

This week is filled with medical tests for our family, including strep, eye, cardiac and CT. While I'm not naming names, you can guess who is headed for the CT scan. Each of these tests has a best case and a worst case outcome, providing a generous base for both hope and worry.  Our marital approach is to feel the stress but not discuss it. Maybe not the best approach, but otherwise, we would likely talk about nothing else.

I felt quite good physically, the weather was fabulous, and I could use an outlet for the stress, so I took our dog, Kenobi, for a walk around Fresh Pond. This is a 2.24 mile loop around the local reservoir, where Kenobi can run without a leash and I can sometimes run into friends. That day, I ran into Rick, who was literally running. It has been years since I myself ran, but I wanted to visit for a bit and didn't want to hold him back. So, I ran alongside him, while he kindly slowed down for me. Though I didn't run far, it still felt fabulous to be able to run at all.

Rick ran ahead, and I returned to walking around the rest of the loop. Near the end, Amy ran up behind me. With my new-found running confidence, I ran alongside Amy so we could visit. I was enjoying our chat while slowly starting to worry about the upcoming hill. Should I do it? Could I do it? Did I want to?

Just before we reached the hill, Amy needed to veer off into a building, and I walked on. 

The tests for strep, eyes and cardiac all returned good results. Woo hoo! We were surprised each time, and are feeling pretty grateful. My CT scan is scheduled for Friday morning and I get the results on Tuesday. When I start to feel any worry creeping up, I think of Amy and smile inside. 

Still would appreciate any prayers and positive thoughts for a good outcome though. :-)

With much gratitude for your continued presence in my life,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prayer request for chemo week

No big long note tonight. Just a quick request for prayers for an easy and effective chemo session on Tuesday. Thank you so much - your prayers make a huge difference in my life.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pechet Family News

To everyone who has been so amazing during this whole cancer journey and just great partners in life in general....

I share the news below, about my father-in-law. He was truly an amazing man and I feel so lucky to have had him in my life. 

Thank you for being there, always, for all of us. I apologize if you are getting this twice.


Dear Friends and Family,

We write to let you know that Dr. Maurice Pechet, beloved father, husband, physician and teacher, died in his sleep on Monday night, March 5.

There will be a memorial gathering of friends, colleagues and family this coming Friday, March 9, from 5-7 p.m., to which everyone is invited. The gathering will be held at: Lowell House Junior Common Room, 10 Holyoke Place, Cambridge, MA 02138.

There will be tea, sherry, refreshments, and an opportunity for us to celebrate Maurice in the House that has meant so much to him for nearly 70 years.

For those who wish to send something, in lieu of flowers we would ask you to make a donation to the Maurice Pechet Fund for Lowell House, made out to Harvard University, and sent to: Lowell House Office, Lowell A22, 10 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

We hope to see you this Friday.
- The Pechet Family