And here we are after a 10ish week break about to begin the next chapter of our cancer story. I say ours because while mom is the one that has cancer it also has impacted and shaped all of us. It is a part of our story and who we are.
Summer has been good to us. We enjoyed family vacations and one on one vacations. There’s still one left (mine). Mom, dad and B enjoyed a trip to London and saw Paris. It was a trip she had planned to take before all of this cancer nonsense began. It was their bookend to a wonderful summer. I say this because Monday she will get blood work done and then Wednesday she will have an appointment to discuss her PARP inhibitor.
We don’t know how the PARP inhibitor will effect her and as I said before the goal of the drug is to prolong the time before recurrence. So she will be on this pill until one of two things happen: 1) the side effects are so damaging that she can’t be on it OR 2) the cancer comes back and progresses while she’s on it.
So that’s where we have been and where we are heading. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way but it’s nothing we can’t handle because we have each other. As always thank you all for always praying for us. I don’t think I could adequately express how much the love and support we have been given throughout this means to us.
A year ago this month I stood in my parents’ kitchen and chopped off my mom’s hair. What was once flowing locks was now a choppy pixie cut. It was emotional to say the least. Some may think it’s just hair but to those people I ask you to consider this.
Cancer had inhabited my mother’s abdominal cavity. It had taken away her ability to watch or even hold her grandchild. It didn’t allow her to travel or even water her flowers. A body that was once hers was now being dictated by her disease. And her hair loss was its way of taking away a piece of her identity and revealing to the outside world she was sick. It was another reminder to herself when she looked in the mirror that she was sick.
She had lost a majority of her hair before her surgery at the end of September and mostly wore scarves. Because of her surgery she had a 5 week break between her first course of chemo and her second course.
And then a miracle happened. While she was on her second course of chemo her hair began to grow back. Of course initially this caused us concern. Did this mean chemotherapy was no longer working? Logically one has nothing to do with the other. Her chemo was killing rapidly dividing cells in general. So just because her hair stopped responding to chemo doesn’t mean the cancer did. And obviously that was the case for her because as her hair began to grow, her cancer continued to shrink.
As her hair grew it helped her confidence. It helped her claim a piece of herself back. And while when she saw her reflection it was continuously a shock to see bright silver hair where her brown hair once was she has always maintained deep gratitude that her hair has continued to grow back while receiving chemotherapy. Today she took another piece back. She went to the salon and her silver hair was transformed to a beautiful brown.
An interesting thing happened today. A person in the lab next to me came up to me and told me he had heard that my mom was sick. I explained that she was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer last year, underwent almost a year of chemo therapy and will start a PARP-inhibitor in September. He smiled and said she made it through a whole year. His smile was encouraging. He can speak from experience because he has underwent his own ongoing battle and offered an ear if I ever wanted to vent.
This interaction sent me into reflection mode. Lately when people ask about my mom it takes me a second to respond. We don’t really talk about cancer like we used to. We talk about how fast Julian is growing up and the weather and housewives. So when someone asks how she is I have to remind myself oh right, she has cancer that’s why they’re asking. That is such a gift and one I will never forget. In January I never thought we would get to this point. A point where we are not constantly in fear. We have been given a true break, she has been given a break. It has been about a month since she had her last chemo. She still has to go in for blood draws just to make sure her healthy cells are still recovering but other than that she has been hospital free. In September she will begin a new treatment and we will learn as we go but for now we are just soaking in a beautiful summer.
Before I get into any details I would like to say this is a positive blog. We had a scare Saturday night into Sunday morning that turned out to be a full circle positive moment.
Saturday mom wasn’t feeling her best. As evening approached she began to experience abdominal pain and cramping. There were talks of going to the ER but she wasn’t quite there yet. At around 11:30pm it was decided she would head to the ER. When they got there she flashed her cancer card (she literally has a cancer card) and they put her in a room secluded from other patients because of the whole compromised immune system thing.
They were there quite a while and they ran some tests. And then it happened. In walked the doctor…the very doctor that had told her of her ovarian cancer on that miserable day in June. A little over a year ago this woman told mom she had ovarian cancer and it did NOT look good and Sunday she was looking at moms most recent CT scan and said it looked good. The very person that had the job of delivering awful news last year, also go to be the one to deliver the good news of this scan and told her that her CA125 is at 21. Which is amazing because a year ago it was over 8,000. If that’s not full circle I don’t know what is. The cause of her abdominal pain is thought to be from the stuff they gave her for her CT scan Wednesday working its way out of her body. Her and Dad headed home around 5:30am. She was tired but the abdominal pain had subsided.
That brings us to today. Going into this appointment we felt cautiously optimistic. We knew her CT scan looked good but you never know what the oncologist is going to say. He told us the scan looked good. There are some nodules they will keep an eye on (could be scarring or lymph nodes). And then he delivered the best news of all…a 10 week break. A blood test they did revealed her platelets were pretty low still from chemo. They are going to do monthly blood draws to ensure the platelets are rebounding. They want all blood levels to be stable before they start her on the PARP inhibitor. PARP inhibitors have side effects similar to chemo and damage the good stuff like your platelets, WBC and hemoglobin. They want you to have a solid foundation before you start them. The PARP inhibitor gives a person roughly 18 months before their ovarian cancer will come back. Could be less, could be more. Everyone is an individual so only time will tell.
I know it’s only July but it feels almost like the start of a new year and a fresh start. It’s the start of a new chapter. New lessons to be learned and a new treatment plan to understand.
As always, thank you all for your love, support and prayers. It has meant more to us than we could possibly say!
Mom’s CT scan is tomorrow and I’m back in research mode again. CT scans have a way of bringing this out in me. I have a copy of her CT scan from April. There were a few questionable things on that scan. So while we wait for the results of her new scan I am dissecting every word of the old scan just like I did in April like Im some sort of detective. Looking for clues of what the future may hold.
We will learn the results of the scan July 3rd and I’m trying to prepare myself with any questions I may have. I know there is no logical way to prepare for what he might say and he may have good news. But waiting is hard and this is how I cope.