My oncologist has revised my dosage and schedule and given me good pain management tips. My feet are completely normal now and I'm walking comfortably again. I do ask for prayer that I won't have such severe side effects this time.
My tumor markers remain normal. I remain grateful.
I was going through some paperwork from my primary diagnosis in Hong Kong and discovered that my tumor markers were elevated from the very beginning. Knowing what we know now about how this particular tumor marker works with the cancer in my body (we've been tracking this marker for 20 months now), I asked my oncologist if this meant I most likely had Stage IV breast cancer from the beginning.
She replied, "I've long thought you were Stage IV from the beginning and my records indicate that from the first time I saw you. Considering the significant amount of disease in your spine so soon after your last chemotherapy (I started experiencing pain due to bone mets fourteen weeks after my last chemotherapy), it was clear that you did not have recurrence, but that you had cancer growth. Apparently, none of the lesions were visible at the time of your primary diagnosis. Seeing this elevated tumor marker at that time kind of "seals the deal." I would say, with 100% confidence, that you have been Stage IV from the beginning."
I had suspected as much and have spent the last month or so wrapping my brain around the idea. It doesn't change anything and even if this was known in January 2012, it's not likely that the treatment plan would have changed. Perhaps I wouldn't have had surgery. I don't know, and to be honest, I can't really spend any more brain cells thinking about it. It is what it is.
However, what's kind of hard to consider is that the average prognosis for someone whose primary diagnosis is Stage IV is three years. If I was Stage IV in January 2012, that means that I'm coming up on my three-year point. Guess that means I'm going to be what's known as an "outlier" (an observation point that is distant from other observations). There is a bit of mental wrangling in moving the clock back a year (I was operating on a January 2013 Stage IV diagnosis), but when you look at the entire picture, nothing has changed. I have Stage IV breast cancer, no matter when it was first diagnosed. I didn't lose a year (as much as it seems that I have) ... I lived a year!
I also asked my oncologist if my current state of health was the closest I was going to get to "no evidence of disease" (NED). She said, "No. I think you'll get even closer, if not completely NED. You are responding very well and if this treatment doesn't put you into NED, there are others that could."
So all in all, an encouraging visit. I will have my next full body scan in January.
My Facebook page "I want more than a pink ribbon" is going strong and I'm hoping to get a full website, independent of Facebook, going soon. In the meantime, you can find it at: https://www.facebook.com/iwantmorethanapinkribbon?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
I have finished writing out the book of Joshua and have moved on to Judges. If anyone ever thinks the Bible is boring reading, I'd encourage them to read the history books of the Old Testament to counter that claim. Cutting off thumbs and big toes? It's in there. Gee whiz. Salvation saves us from ourselves and that's very reassuring to me.
Art and the children are doing well. The first trimester of school has just ended and we are all pleased with the kids' results. Rachel is still going strong with her cheerleading (Her squad will be cheering at the Raiders/Broncos game on Sunday, November 9, so keep your eyes peeled for her!) and Michael's soccer team remains undefeated. They're heading to tournaments at the beginning of December.
Art attended his 40th high school reunion back in Michigan and had some good R&R time.
As we head into Thanksgiving, I'm continually reminded to make gratitude a daily practice. Not just a status statement, but a real reflection of the heart.
I am grateful beyond measure for each day that I wake up. Each day is a miracle and I celebrate each day.
Thank you for celebrating with me.