Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Friday Before Christmas

It is hard to believe that three months ago to this day, we were receiving the shocking news about Dan’s cancer. All we knew at that time was that it was considered Stage 4 lung cancer because it had spread to his spine, lymph nodes, and brain.
In a strange way, I don’t even feel like the same person who received that news. I took that hit. And I survived. We both did. I don’t suppose you ever go back to the person you were before.
Today, at Dan’s 3rd chemotherapy infusion, I brought in sandwiches for lunch from Potbelly (Dan’s request) and I was concerned the odor might cause fellow patients to feel nauseous. I checked with the staff and also asked the man sitting nearest if he would let me know if the smell of our food bothered him. (Dan has had very little trouble with nausea, but I know that might not be the case for others.) When the man was getting ready to leave for the day, he came over and said a quick word to Dan about how nice he thought Dan’s wife was, and how he could tell Dan was a cancer survivor because of my kind consideration.
I am hardly a veteran. The habits and the places have just become familiar. So much still lies ahead, unknown.
I DO know the hospital really well now. I know how long it takes to get here depending on what kind of traffic there is at what time of day. I know it is best to send Raine to Bronwen in Sherwood, rather than reverse commute with McMinnville involved. I know where it is best to park. I know to bring a sweater because I’ll get cold. When we walk in for chemo treatments, we have Dan’s preferred chair, our expertly packed travel bags, knowledge of the mini fridge and where to get ice, how to use the microwave, how to connect our phones to the hospital Wifi. The familiar sound of his infusion has a rhythmic cadence that coaxes me into napping in the recliner next to him.
Despite the ease of the place and our habits, I felt a lot of anxiety about today. I knew we would get the results of Dan’s CT scan and that fearful knot in my stomach that took up residence 3 months ago tightened more and more as the days of this week crept by. I called April and asked her if she could visit this weekend. Luckily, she had a couple pop-up shops to do in Vancouver today and tomorrow, so she was able to come meet us at the hospital and take me to get lunch.
That was key. Having a good friend here. Something to look forward to, past the news we would get in the morning.

The news we got was good. His CT scan showed no new lesions and an overall reduction for his known various tumors. The primary tumor in his left lung (pictured above) shows a 15% reduction (I broadcasted erroneously on social media that it was 50%~My apologies. Regardless of the number, we were still thrilled because often there is no reduction in the initial rounds.) Other growths, particularly in his lymph nodes, showed 40-50% shrinkage.
Again, We. Are. Thrilled. Dan is not only tolerating the chemotherapy (and my assorted home treatment voodoo) very well, the tumors are shrinking.
Combined with the knowledge that his genetic mutation is ALK (and therefore how ALK tumors behave and respond to treatment) we are feeling extremely fortunate.
I was reminded of this so sharply as I started reading my new book “Wild” after Dr. Duffy left. The author hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to Washington as a way to cope with her unhappiness and come to terms with the death of her mother.
(Spoiler alert) The author’s mother was also diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and despite her youth (in her 40’s) it was inoperable and untreatable. She died 49 days later.
49 days.
Dan’s cancer is treatable and we now know responding well to treatment. My heart is full of gratitude. He is a cancer survivor. I don’t believe cancer has to be 100% eliminated to bestow that title. He is surviving every day. And I will continue to make my goal every day to support him, love him, and protect him.
I am popping some champagne tonight. Happy holidays and cheers!


  1. AMY: I’m so grateful for the three of you in our community. I hope you continue to find comfort & joy through the holidays.

    1. That means so much to us, Amy! Thank you. We have loved getting to know everyone, especially you and Lynnette.