Saturday, November 20, 2010

Something to celebrate.

I have officially finished my biochemo treatments. WOO HOO!! I thought this day would never come. My last round was brutal. Lots of throwing up and fatigue. But I don't care because it's my last full week in the hospital!!! I am so ready to start feeling "normal" again (which might take a few months) and not feel weak and tired all the time. I will never take that for granted again. Scans come in mid-December when I start maitenance therapy (which is once for month, 2 days in the hospital and only 1 drug). That's when we will find out how well this treatment worked and if I have a complete response or not. Last x-ray revealed one tumor still, although very small and not active. We are praying that it will be gone though by the time I get scans.

This picture is of me with my brilliant and wonderful doctor, Dr. David Minor, and his nurse practitioner, Christine (who is also wonderful). I took this on the last day, so you can get an idea of how crappy I look by the end of the week (but happy to be done nonetheless!).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Attitude is everything

My acupunturist once told me that the best thing I had going for me was my positive attitude. Even though my attitude isn't perfect 100% of the time (we are human and have doubts and fears sometimes!), I really try to remain optimistic about my current health state, my prognosis, and my future. It's not that I live in a "bubble", completely ignoring or denying my disease and the fact that it takes the lives of over 8,000 people/year (that's one every hour). I also know the statistics for Stage IV melanoma (less than 5% survive past 2 yrs), but I choose not to surrender to the "numbers game" and know that I am not a statistic, but an individual. There are so many variables when discussing prognosis for a late stage melanoma patient. Cancer is complicated and so are we as individual human beings.

Studies have been done that often the common denominator between cancer survivors is their positive attitude on life. I fully believe this and know that our subconscious mind has more power over our bodies than we realize. I've learned this more fully through hynotherapy. I think that when I was Stage III, the thought in my head often was, "The cancer is going to come back." I was living in constant fear of the melonoma returning, and becoming Stage IV. Then when I was restaged to Stage IV with lung mets and I was going through the brutal decision on choosing treatment, I was stressed out worrying that the tumors would grow or move to different organs in my body. I truly feel that these thoughts did NOT help my body or mind, for that matter. And then look what happened! The cancer came back and more than doubled it's size during my stressful time figuring out treatment.

I now have a much healthier state of mind. I have told myself during the entire treatment that I will be a "complete responder" and now that this statement is coming true, I will now focus on thinking, "The cancer is not going to come back" and that "I will be a survivor". It might be difficult at times to always think this way, but I'm going to work really hard at keeping my stress levels in check and my attitude optimistic. Stage IV doesn't have to be a death sentence. Lots of people beat the odds and I know I will be one of those. I also know that my mission is now to help others. Once I get through treamtent, I plan to start a foundation that will focus on one, prevention and awareness (especially in schools with youth/teens), but most importantly, will focus on helping those fighting melanoma get the best opinions and treatment options to increase their chances of survival. I firmly believe that we can change statistics if this happens. Especially in the late stages of melanoma. I want to help people have the same opportunities that I have-to get the BEST CARE wherever that is. And in doing so, I hope to help them not only find the right and best doctors and treatment options for their case, but help them financially do those things if they are unable. This is where I hope to make a difference.
So, watch out're going DOWN!!!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Inspirational melanoma survivors

A friend of mine, whose husband has Stage III melanoma put this list together of melanoma "survivors" and melanoma "warriors" recently. I think it's good to read these inspirational stories of survival, because the stories of the lives of those that melanoma took are very abundant (which are hard to read when you're in the thick of the trenches). Thank you Emily for putting this together-you inspire me! I might be a melanoma warrior right now, but soon I will join the ranks of survivor!!!

SURVIVORS OF STAGE IV MELANOMA – Marty Tenenbaum is a 10+ year survivor of Stage IV melanoma. He started a company that offers “personalized oncology” and genetic testing. It is a very expensive right now, but I hope some day this will be available for every patient with cancer – this is the future of oncology. Jimmy B is a long time Stage IV survivor – and such a great resource for research – Stage IV survivor – his last update to the page was in 2008 – Stage IV Biochemo patient from San Francisco - Stage IV survivor Kari Worth also did biochemo in San Francisco - You can chat with Carver on the Melanoma Research Foundation forum (where there are many more survivors)

I also personally know two other survivors of Stage IV melanoma. Both of them did the same exact treatment, biochemo, as I with the same doctor in SF. One is named Tina Rosenthal who developed lung mets 5 1/2 years after being Stage III and "cancer free". She is now 4 years out of treatment and N.E.D (no evidence of disease) still. She has become a great friend, has visited me in the hospital, and is such an example of doing it "all" to keep herself healthy. And all with an optimistic attitude. The other friend that I know that is a survivor is Sue Lescure, also from the Bay area. She is 4+ years out of treatment and remains N.E.D. as well, even though she has had multiple surgeries to her eye (she has ocular melanoma). She is also a great inspiration to me and really helped prepare me before treatment.

BLOGS OF MELANOMA WARRIORS - Andrea is a Stage IIIa survivor who has created a great melanoma brand “Melanoma Girl”. Check out her cool “Proud to be Pale” t-shirts and fun events to support the cause.
Mindy Lanoux was featured in a NY Times Article on the MD Anderson Cancer center. She is Stage IV and has done many chemos and clinical trials. She is a teacher with young children.
Mother of a 6 year old with Melanoma – and such a great writer. – A father in his 30s with Stage IV melanoma. Mike Brockey chose to do the Gerson cancer therapy (juicing/enemas) when he was given a year to live – that was one year ago. Instead of chemo, he chose carrot juice. He is now healthier than he was a year ago (even if he has turned slightly orange). I think he is on to something. Most of the time (80%) chemos and other toxic drugs just make melanoma spread faster. Keeping your body in a stress-free state seems to work well with melanoma – and that’s what I have heard from Stage IV survivors. (Kerri is a Stage IIIa melanoma survivor and just celebrated clear scans) (Stage III – young lady with melanoma) (Please support Andy - a police officer and father of young children fighting Stage IV melanoma)

Monday, November 1, 2010

5 down, 1 to go

You don't know happy I am to almost be done with treatment. It's actually gone by quite fast, thank goodness! It's hard to believe that I only have one more treatment and then I'm done with the hard stuff! (I have to do maitenance therapy for a year which only requires 1 drug and 2 days in the hospital vs. 5 drugs and 5 days-totally doable.) I'm so grateful that I've had my parents with me throughout the entire treatment, I can't imagine getting through it without them. Eric has done a great job "holding down the fort" too while I'm in the hospital and our family members and friends that have helped with our kids, cleaned our house, and brought meals are such blessings to us.

This last round of treatment was actually harder than the previous ones. Not the recovery part so much, just the week in the hospital. I was more nauseous this time with less appetite. I was also more wiped out and tired, which isn't a bad thing sleeping through the entire week! :) The doctor says he can hardly see my only tumor left on the x-ray, so we are gearing up for a "complete response", which is awesome! That's what every cancer patient strives for. Now, I just need to stay that way, which I plan to do! I know that in combination with the treatment, the exercise (when I can), the diet (especially the juicing which I added to my regimen), the acupunture and hynotherapy to help with stress and positive visualization are all very important in this process of getting rid of the cancer. I firmly believe that it's EVERYTHING I'm doing, not just one thing. I also know that having a positive attitude and faith in God are probably the most important things that I'm doing!