Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Cancer Story 3.0 - the saga continues

The past week has been a bit of a blur for us.  We sent this message out to our family and friends last night.

Hello everyone,

It’s taken us a full week and a bit to get our heads and hearts around some news we received last Monday, concerning Mark’s health.  Apologies for not getting this out to you all earlier, we just needed a few days to process everything.

On June 15, Mark had his six-month check up at the Cancer Clinic.  His last appointment, in December, was okay.  At that time, his liver looked good.  The chemo had done it's job.  They are also keeping a close eye on his lungs.  We were told that he had a few spots on his lungs but considering his age and the fact that he’d smoked for a long time when he was younger, spots on a lung are not too concerning.

Last week, we were hoping for status quo.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about his lungs.  Neither of us had any reason to expect that there would be any problems with his liver.  He’d had the surgery, he’d done the chemo.  All should be good right?  Wrong.  We were told that he had a grape sized tumour in his liver.  Surgery was not going to be an option this time.   Our next step is chemo, again.  This time, he’ll do a similar type of chemo (presented in a similar fashion, 2 hours in the clinic, then carrying the chemo bag for 48 hours – once every 2 weeks).  Big difference this time is that he’ll be doing it for the rest of his life.

It felt like the words “the rest of his life” were hanging in the air, like inside a bubble, in a comic book.  Mark and I looked at each other, wide eyed and frankly pretty upset and Mark asked how long that would be.  The doctor said that Mark could probably have 3 good years but 5 years good years was probably not to be expected.  Gut punch.  I just wanted to crawl under my chair and cry.  I could tell Mark wanted to do the same thing.  We had not anticipated this kind of news, never ever.  In between, we heard that he still had healthy liver tissue (good news) and his overall health is very good (they seemed surprised that he was feeling so well).  We walked out of the clinic in a fog, completely in shock.  I don’t remember much about the ride home but we were pretty upset.

Once we got home, we made a few phone calls to folks who needed to know right away.  I’m not sure that anyone even understood much of what I was saying, I was that upset on the phone.  Of course, we didn’t really sleep that night.  The next day, Tuesday, we went to see our family doctor and share the news with her (she’d not yet received a report from the Cancer Clinic).  She seemed as shocked as we felt.  Fortunately, on Tuesday night, we both slept a bit better and awoke with a plan in mind.  It’s a good plan, we’re still working out the details of it but for now, we think it’s a good plan.

Plan A

Regarding Mark’s health and the immediate future, he’s “taking the summer” as his oncologist suggested to enjoy himself.  He’ll have another scan in July and we’ll be able to see how quickly the tumour is growing.  Chemo will start in the fall.  The health part of the plan is two-fold:  let the chemo control the tumour and we’ll control the rest of the liver.  We’re going to do our very best to feed his liver the best kinds of foods and supplements that it needs to stay strong.  We’ve decided, and I don’t think this sounds na├»ve, to treat this as a chronic liver disease.   3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 10… no one ever knows for sure how long someone is going to live, whether or not they have cancer.  Cancer survival rates are a numbers game and someone has to beat them, sometimes.  Our job right now is to keep his liver as strong and healthy as we can, for as long as we can.

The other part of the plan involves simplifying our lives.  Over the next few months, we’ll be purging stuff at home and getting ready to put our house up for sale.  It’s just a little too big, a bit too much maintenance and too far from the hospital for us.  As much as we have enjoyed it, we feel that it’s time to get back into town, possibly into an apartment, something that is low-maintenance.  Like I said, simple.  We want to spend our time with friends and family and each other, not worrying about projects around the house (not to mention keeping 0.5 acres of lawn mowed).

For those of you who might be wondering what you can do to help, we have some ideas and will keep you posted.  It’s not easy to ask for help and so far we haven’t had to.  So many of you have offered help through Mark’s previous surgeries and chemo and for the most part, we wanted to do it on our own.  I think we’re going to need lots of help to get us through the next few months and we won’t be afraid to take you up on any offers.

In the meantime, know that Mark feels great, he looks healthy and, except for a grape-sized tumour in his liver, is doing just fine.  We’ll continue to keep you posted as we carry on with our plans.

Thanks so much for your continued support, we love you!

Mark and Peggy xo