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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cancer Journey Milestones

On my sometimes hideous, sometimes beautiful Cancer Journey, I've accomplished many milestones. I'm aware that some people question whether or not having a life threatening illness, like cancer, should even be a defining attribute in life. I like the saying, "You're not fat, we all have fat but that isn't what defines you... you also have fingernails but you are not fingernails".  I'm not my cancer and my cancer isn't me however it's presence in my life has changed something about me in almost every single important aspect of my life and my being. This Journey has a timeline which has created a pattern in my history that can never be erased.

Examples of these milestones include my original surgery in July, 2012, beginning chemotherapy in September, 2012, and especially completing chemotherapy in January, 2013. I can almost think back to the occasion of completing chemotherapy with nostalgia *sigh* and in those days having hope that I was cured of ovarian cancer and free to live out the rest of my life almost like any other 30-something year old mother, wife, daughter..... But then there were other milestones. The clear CT in February, 2013. A general feeling that something was wrong began in April, 2013. An ache, a pain, nausea, and vagueness that I couldn't quite put into a specific ailment or complaint but I knew something was wrong. Intuition. That's when I began going back to my doctors too often. I had blood tests, mammography, ultrasounds, colonoscopy. Everything was normal but I felt so abnormal! There were moments that I worried I'd become the fragmented leftovers of my disease. Perhaps I just couldn't move on with my life and that terrified me to my core. In July, 2013 the CT showed free fluid in my abdomen and I knew then that the cancer was back. Now, in hindsight, I can admit and share that I knew, without the fear of being called alarmist or hypersensitive or G-d forbid something worse. I went on to enjoy one of the happiest summers of my life even though I knew something was wrong inside my body before it was detectable. I've experienced this type of awareness or self diagnosis every time it's been necessary. Once with an extremely rare and aggressive tumor in my parotid gland in 2011 and again about 6 months before my original cancer diagnosis. The same intuition has told me on countless occasions that I'm safe and healthy. Through 5 pregnancies and births, that inner intuition was there for me. When doctors feared the worst about my son and wanted to do invasive tests and amniocentesis, I knew we were both healthy and was so sure that I turned down every single test even under great pressure and the dismay of my doctors. It's not a fine tuned gift. Just knowing something is wrong isn't enough to save the day but I've come to accept the reality of intuition and I believe that it's another one of our Creator's greatest miracles that exists in every living being that He created.

I remember another milestone. December, 2013, I received confirmation that the fluid in my abdomen was cancerous. I remember feeling such relief; macabre ecstasy that I could finally relax. I could stop looking and searching because they finally found where it was hiding. I could rest and leave it up to my doctors to solve. From then until now, the journey has certainly changed. We had some hope that I could undergo a drastic surgery and heated chemo procedure which was nixed as soon as my first PET CT results came back, in January, 2014, showing metastatic disease deep inside my liver and next to my lungs, heart and diaphragm. Stage IV cancer. Our hope was raised again with the possibility of biologically personalized oncology. In January, 2014, I underwent surgery to remove a tumor situated between my right lung and my heart. The tumor was then analyzed and grafted into mice who were then flown to Baltimore, to Johns Hopkins, to be grown into a full blown Cancer Mouse Army, so scientists could test different treatments out on the Mouse Army instead of on me. In the meantime, the cancer continued to spread and we could no longer wait patiently. I began chemotherapy again in March, 2014. 

Here we are. Today.

The good news is, after only one chemotherapy treatment, my CA125 markers went down 20 points! That is great news! For what it's worth, apparently, the type of ovarian cancer I have isn't very sensitive to being tested for the CA125 markers and remained within normal range even though I had cancerous tumors. At one point, right before I began chemo again, my markers did go up into an unhealthy range and they're now back down which seems to indicate that the treatment is working.  I'm comforted that a combination of prayer, love, support, and my amazing medical team and treatment are to praise for the success. 

...And how are the mice? The mice are still at Johns Hopkins though they've yet to show any signs that the cancerous grafts are growing. That means that so far, we haven't had a successful outcome with the biologically personalized oncology and we are still hoping and praying.

Tomorrow is chemo day yet again. I finally recovered enough, yesterday, to enjoy feeling like a human. I participated in the best Israel Independence Day yet, here, at home with so many of the people that I love all around me. That's a Life Milestone.


  1. Dear dear Mrs very best wishes and prayers are with you and your family.
    Keep strong. .you are doing such a wonderful job....thanks for your erudite posts...I'm learning so much by your reflections and insightful writing. You are a very special person. ...who, by the way, has a really nice bloke for a husband! !
    My very best wishes
    David Tweddle.

  2. Thank you for sharing, tefilot and love from Seattle.

  3. Refuah shleimah
    I was just introduced to your blog.
    Keep your smile. May G-d give you and your family strength and a hearty dose of humor and oodles of good heath.