Blessing In Disguise

Millimeters to Inches (mm to in) conversion calculator – RapidTables.com

Millimeters (mm)Inches (“) (decimal)Inches (“) (fraction)
2 mm 0.0787 ″ 5/64 ″

My latest PET/CT revealed that the original nodule in my right lung which has been stable since August of 2017 is showing signs of activity. Not much really, a measly 2 mm of growth in one area with a measurable uptick in metabolic activity. There is also a second nodule which showed up three months ago. It too grew by 2 mm but doesn’t show any signs of metabolic activity and it’s questionable what it might or might not be. Keeping in mind that these nodules are only 9 mm and 7 mm respectively, I can’t feel them nor do I have any symptoms. Does 2 mm even count? I’m told that it does.

Blessing…what kind of blessing is this?!

First of all, other than these two nodules in my upper right lung, the rest of my body shows no signs of cancer. This is pretty incredible and don’t get me wrong, I am VERY, VERY grateful. But I’d like to get this off my chest (no pun intended)…

This is me screaming: “Two plus years of anxiety followed by relief followed by bliss – and repeat – RUDELY interrupted by a minuscule 2 mm!” “You’re f@**^%#  kidding me, RIGHT!”  I have occasional arguments with God now. The screaming is one-sided but I don’t think he/she minds. I’m pretty sure our relationship is better because of it. 

Secondly, because where a door closes a window opens, it looks like I might be a candidate for a specialized radiation therapy that has been shown to be very effective with dealing with this kind of activity called SBRT.  SBRT has shown to be more effective while boasting significantly less side effects and residual damage to surrounding tissue than previous radiation therapy methods. Metaphorically speaking, instead of intentionally setting off a nuclear bomb inside my body (overly strong image for dramatic purposes), high-powered ‘phasers’ (for you Star Trek fans) will be directed at these two busybodies hanging out in my lung by Messrs. Spock, Sulu and Chekov (not really, but I like the visual).

From Memorial Sloan Kettering: Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, is a cancer treatment that delivers extremely precise, very intense doses of radiation to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. SBRT involves the use of sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact three-dimensional location of a tumor so that the radiation can be more precisely delivered to cancer cells.

Sky Ridge Medical Center where I will be going for a consult on December 18th has recently acquired a SBRT device.  The radiation oncologist I will be seeing gained lots of experience in this modality while at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He received his under-grad at DU and completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany before getting his MD/PhD at Baylor. I looked him up on the internet and his picture makes him look like a child genius. Considering the length of his impressive resume, one would assume he’s at least half my age.  As long as he’s old enough to order a glass of wine at dinner without being carded, has steady hands and a well trained eye my level of comfort with him aiming phasers into my lung improves. These details are important. I didn’t see any mention of doing time at Star Fleet Academy but he is a Colorado native and that counts in my book.

Thirdly, my super-ninja-most-excellent oncologist and I haven’t decided whether to continue with a systemic treatment along with SBRT.  I know of some lung cancer survivors who have reached a similar (but not exact because no one has the exact cancer as anyone else) cross roads in treatment and SBRT alone has proven extremely effective even years later. There are also studies that show adding a systemic treatment such as chemotherapy, TKI’s or immunotherapy with SBRT have produced amazing results for many others. My super-ninja-most-excellent oncologist is pulling together options, ideas and resources for all of us to discuss and of course, I’m busy doing my own research because that’s just how I roll.

Do I think this could be a blessing in disguise?   YES.

SBRT has been likened to non-invasive surgery. The past two plus years have been about shrinking and stopping the cancer from growing and spreading and now that it’s small and seemingly contained, let’s get it gone. I’m also not burying my head in the sand. There are risks but I see this as a calculated risk with a potentially high degree of success. That, and my gut telling me to explore this avenue gives me continued enthusiasm and hope. There’s still so much more to learn and do and the love I receive and give continues to create an extraordinary life worth living. We ALL have the means inside us to experience an extraordinary life… just be you!

 

P.S. I’ve been asked by Foundation Medicine (they did my genomic testing) to be on their Patient Community Council. I’ll be going to Cambridge, MA for a couple of days of meetings and I’m excited to see where my tissue samples were analyzed and honored to be able to collaborate with others and share my views. 

I also have something else to share with you at a later date…stay tuned!

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