It’s Been a Good Week

CT Scan Results: Part 1. Lung tumors are shrinking or stopped growing. No new growths. Continue treatment as scheduled through the 4th three week cycle (December 9th) with Pemetrexex / Pembrolizumab / Carboplatin. Treatments after that will be just Pemetrexex / Pembrolizumab every three weeks, indefinitely. Once the carboplatin stops so do the steroids. Hopefully I can sleep again.

Part 2. Lymph node activity is growing in my neck area. Doctor classified this as “to be expected”. Dr. Shin has planned radiation treatments in conjunction with continuing the above chemo / immunotherapy schedule. The setup is scheduled for December 1st and 25 treatments start on December 16 and continue daily (5 days a week) through Friday, January 7th. There is no mask involved this time and all treatments are early morning at MSK in Monmouth.

Brain MRI Results: This is the good news off the week for me! “What we radiated in your brain is gone”. Follow up in about three months with another MRI.

The neck radiation sounds pretty definite to have side effects. I will take that as it comes.

Prayers and good wishes are working, thank you all.

Accepting Help

I’ve been struggling throughout this second cancer journey, physically and emotionally.

Physically – I hate that I have to take all the medications to combat side effects. My energy level, for me, is low. I can’t just barrel through the day and expect to get everything done. I need to think about what’s a priority and portion out my energy accordingly. I have to consider the health risks in public places and take precautions. I’m just as worried about the common cold or another case of the flu, probably more than I am concerned about c***d. I’m triple vaccinated, not that it seems to matter. My flu vaccine didn’t prevent the flu either! I’m eating healthy and my blood work is carefully monitored. I feel I’m doing my best, in spite of the random “why are you wearing a mask” comments.

Here’s the emotional part. I’m trying to learn to accept help, graciously. My personality makes it much easier to give then to receive.

Healthy food for days, and bacon!

And this all brings me to the feast pictured above. In the past I’ve sent “grab and go” meals to friends and acquaintances to help out, especially from Karyn and My Kitchen Witch in Monmouth Beach. My friend Elizabeth brought some of these meals to us a few weeks ago and they were a huge help on nights I got home late from treatments or appointments, or was just too tired or disorganized to cook.

I reached out to Karyn to order some more, and wanted to pay for these myself. I got the following message back from Karyn:

“Moira u have changed my life in so many ways. I have a love of sports, ive met so many amazing people and have had amazing adventures that are all priceless and now a partner who shares this with. Let me do this for you❤️”.

And I really had to stop and think about so many of those adventures! And smile. Out riding and seeing a cow …. I mean a fox. And almost getting hit head on by a car. And ocean swims. And rides. And seeing you out and about happy! So I said thank you and accepted.

I can’t say thank you enough to all the friends an family for the thoughts and prayers and treats and thoughtful gifts and favors. Thank you for the cards and flowers and plants and sweets and so much more!

Brain Radiation and a Family Dream Vacation

I should update my treatments and disease status first. Tuesday I had a CT scan and it’s mostly good news. Bottom line is my lung nodules have either shrunk or not grown and there are no new ones. There is increased thoracic adenopathy – three thoracic nodes have grown and Dr. Shin and Dr. Namadydoust plan to treat them with 15 radiation treatments. I will find out details and scheduling on Tuesday. Apparently there will also be some lung benefit to this treatment. Both doctors seem pleased with this result and are not alarmed by what did grow.

I’ve really come to appreciate how “easy” my treatments were in 2017 for my triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. Except for some “cosmetic” issues I breezed through and it really didn’t have to change much in my day to day life. I even manage to cross the finish line of Wildflower and Ironman Lake Placid the following year.

I’m grateful there is a portal that manages all MSK communications and scheduling. I have 5 primary doctors I’m working with at MSKCC, three I’ve met with for consultations and two additional doctors I’ve only had telemedicine visits with. I have also been tasked with finding an outside endocrinologist to manage my underactive thyroid that I’ve had for years.

Dr. Traina, my breast cancer oncologist who I’ve been working with since my initial diagnosis and then followed up with a two year clinical trial. There was a close call when my diagnosis was initially a return of my breast cancer but that diagnosis changed. I am 4 years and 8 months out from my TNBC diagnosis.

When the TNBC diagnosis changed to non-small cell adenoid lung cancer (stage four) I was turned over to Dr. Namakydoust. Her specialty is thoracic cancers with a special interest in treating advance lung cancer.

When a small spot was seen on my brain I was added to Dr. Jacob Shin’s roster of patients, also. He specializes in radiation oncology and therapy. Very specialized!

I am also scheduled to revisit with Dr Lacouture, a dermatology specialist in conditions that arise from cancer treatments. I had a squamous cell carcinoma pop up on my lip earlier this year and they feel i should have closer attention as these types of cancer are more likely to return under chemotherapy treatments.

I’ve also met with an endocrinology specialist, integrative medicine department and an interventional pulmonologist.

There’s also follow ups with my regular cardiologist and some dental work that needs to get done.

And then there’s daily medication, which I fought for as long as I could but finally had to give in. The headaches and nausea and queasiness were too much for me. These all have to be taken on a timetable, I based around when I took the last one and when I ate so it takes some managing. I’m getting the hang of it and figuring out a routine.

Daily medications

There was also a spot located on my brain, just one but definitely of some concern. I was offered two options – just watch it and see if in three months time it grew or do a single dose of radiation. It could be nothing or it could be the “stage 4” of my lung cancer. I chose to act on it and on October 20 I had this contraption attached to my head and had one treatment with radiation.

Anyone need a Halloween mask?
Wasn’t as claustrophobic as I expected

In the middle of all this my family travelled to Palm Island Resort in the Grenadines for a long planned two week vacation! Let’s just say there is lots to still be smoothed out with international travel but the four of us arrived in this magical, private paradise and enjoyed two weeks of rest, relaxation and adventure.

17 seater inter-island. There was still a boat involved too
Morning view made it all worthwhile

We started planning this trip long before c*v*d and cancer interfered. There was several times we thought it wasn’t going to happen. But we got it done, my doctors all supported the getaway. We had an amazing experience and did so much – fishing, sailing, snorkeling, beaching, spa treatments and more!

Family dinner each night, so nice to get dressed up a bit
Sea to table dinner
Fresh catch dinner again

Full disclosure – I felt great as the trip started but definitely had some fatigue set in as the days went on and I would go back to the room to rest a bit before happy hour and dinner. A few headaches scattered in but Tylenol seemed to help. There was nothing I missed except maybe overdoing the alcohol and food 🤣🤣🤣.

On the flight home on Saturday night a full blown out of control headache landed, along with fatigue and nausea. I spent Sunday and most of Monday on the couch How severe was the pain — does punching the couch and crying score? Does wondering if this is the trade off for my treatment and if so, is it worth it? Is this how it feels to be dying? There was some pretty dark moments but once I started dosing with the dexamethasone I got pretty rapid relief. Dr Shin feels the radiation treatment may have caused brain swelling exacerbated by the flights. I have another MRI scheduled in NYC on Wednesday but feel much better.

Sleep has been a struggle. After my 4th treatment on December 9th we can stop the carboplatin which will stop the need for the steroid dosing. My treatment will continue with Keytruda and Pemetrexex every three weeks for potentially two years.

So, with all this laid out, I hope all my friends and family understand where we are at and how much there is to manage and schedule. We have our moments of fear but are trying to stay focused on the positive. Thank you for all your support, it truly means a lot!

And try to understand that random person you see wearing a mask may not be a “c*v*d crazy”, they may be trying to protect themselves from the flu (which I caught in spite of precautions and a vaccine) or the common cold because of a weakened immune system. Putting a mask on while you talk to them or just taking a step back might sow some consideration and cost you nothing.

Life is good!